The Ramsbottom Co-op Hall was built in 1876 when the Ramsbottom and Provident society built a three-storey extension alongside its existing 1863 building. Seating 800 people it was the chief theatrical and social venue in the town. The gallery together with decorative ironwork supporting columns still exists, as do the upper columns and other original features. It is a unique cultural and historical asset of national importance.
The owner of the building was kind enough to allow me to view the Theatre this week and it is an amazing, atmospheric space that links present-day Ramsbottom residents with their forebears from 145 years ago. The Theatre is in a dilapidated state, having not been used since at least 1944 but it exerts a magic that is indescribable.
As Joint-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Northern Culture, I am currently chairing our first enquiry which will produce a bespoke ‘ State of the North’ report on Northern Culture, providing a united voice on pan-Northern cultural asks and priorities to shape and influence future Government decision making and policy.
The sector has faced enormous challenges due to the pandemic but as we emerge out of restrictions both nationally and locally, we need to see our cultural assets as crucial to the social and economic recovery of every town in the country. This is why we must also ensure the long-term survival of the Elizabethan suite and Ramsbottom Civic Centre.
In Bury, Ramsbottom and Tottington the Met Theatre, Summerseat Players, Tottington Brass Band and every other local cultural organisation of any size need to be embraced by our community. Lockdown has taught us all that we should not take these buildings and groups, both professional and voluntary, for granted but must cherish and support their activities and incredible work.
Culture, however, can mean different things to different people and we should do everything possible to preserve and in some cases look to enhance those historic assets that are central to our area’s civic pride. Gigg Lane, one of the world’s oldest professional football stadiums, the East Lancs Railway, now on top of everything else training the rail engineers of the future and Bury Market. As part of a Levelling Up Fund bid, I am working with Bury MBC attempting to secure £10 million of funding to enhance the brilliant facility we have and power the regeneration of Bury Town Centre.
What a thing it would be if local politicians working together with residents and the voluntary sector could find a way to add a renovated Ramsbottom Co-Theatre to this list. It is politics encapsulated in a building, unifying, bringing visitors to the town, creating jobs, providing a venue to provide frontline services and creating those same rich cultural experiences so enjoyed by Ramsbottom residents in 1870.