IT’S been at the heart of Bolton’s cultural life for more than 50 years and the Octagon Theatre should have been raising the curtain on its new world class stage.

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Instead it is fighting for its future as it battles to survive the impact of the coronavirus — which will cost it half-a-million pounds in lost income.

Now rather than showcasing the Octagon's transformation, the theatre has been forced to launch its first crowdfunding campaign to see it through the pandemic.

And this week the theatre was told every donation made will be matched by the The Oglesby Charitable Trust.

Theatres across the country are facing a battle for survival, with some having already called in the administrators.

But Chief Executive Roddy Gauld believes that with the support of the people of Bolton, the theatre can come through the crisis.

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Stars of stage and screen have come on board to back the appeal.

They include Bolton's Amy Nuttall, who has performed at the theatre, as well as Denise Welsh, Sue Johnston, Matthew Kelly and more.

Amy, whose TV appearances include Emmerdale and Liar , said: "I love this theatre.

"It brings in the best directors, in my opinion, some of the best in the country ­— David Thacker being one.

"Sadly due to this horrible virus, covid-19, the reopening of its doors has been delayed and as it is a registered charity, this has a huge financial impact.

"I know the team are desperate to open their doors and will do as soon as they possibly can, however, they can't do that without your help.

"If you can spare as little or as much as you can and donate towards the Octagon future fund, please do so.

"I know this is really hard and I know it is a big ask, but Bolton really needs it, I need it, I want to see the theatre up and running and being amazing again.

"Please I am going to help, please say you will too."

Mr Gauld said: "We are fighting for the future of the Octagon using all the Government support available making savings, changing plans and never giving up hope.

"We are determined that we will be back stronger than ever but we need the support of those who believe in us now more than ever before.

"We are incredibly grateful to The Oglesby Charitable Trust for their generous support and to all of the people who have donated to the Octagon so far. We’re making savings, changes and fighting hard to secure the future of the Octagon and it’s fantastic that we can now double every donation we receive.

"Bolton has always stood by the Octagon ­— from individual donations to steadfast support from Bolton Council. The people of Bolton helped to build the Octagon 50 years ago and the theatre has been the cultural heart of the town ever since.

"We were poised to re-open this summer after a major redevelopment and instead we face our biggest ever challenge. I believe the Octagon has a vital role to play in Bolton’s recovery from Covid-19, not just for offering world-class theatre, but because we contribute over £6m to the local economy and bring people from far and wide to the town. There will be a time again when people will be ready to enjoy fantastic nights out and we want to be there for you.

"So I’m asking anyone who feels inspired and able to support us, to do so, knowing your donation will be doubled and will make a big difference to ensuring that we will be back.”

This year was set to be the biggest year in the theatre' history, as it was transformed into a modern world-class theatre over the last two years.

The theatre is hoping to raise £15,000 at least in donations by the end of June to help see it through this "most challenging time for the arts and the theatre".

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Artistic director Lotte Wakeham said: “We have recently launched our first ever crowdfunding campaign to support the theatre during the Covid-19 crisis. We have been absolutely overwhelmed by the response and generosity so far – thank you so much.

"We’ve already received thousands of pounds of donations and every penny really does make a difference and go a long way to help secure the future of the theatre. The new building is looking absolutely beautiful and is very nearly ready. We are determined that we will re-open as soon as it is safe to do so, and can’t wait to welcome the whole community into their new theatre. We have been uplifted by so many messages about how important the Octagon is to so many people and we’re very grateful for the support already given.

"The current Covid-19 crisis is a serious challenge to theatres across the country and we need your support now more than ever. The delay to our reopening is estimated to cost our organisation half a million pounds, and we’re doing everything we can to ensure the Octagon will be here for future generations.”

She added: "At this challenging time, we will continue to support our audiences, participants and community in every way we can, from online theatre clubs for the over 50s to digital youth theatre and storytelling sessions. As soon as it is safe to do so, we want to open our beautiful new building, and throw open the doors to welcome the whole community in.

"We will be back – with the magic of live theatre – and we’re grateful for everyone’s help and support in making it happen.”

Oglesby Charitable Trust Chair of Trustees Kate Vokes said: “The Oglesby Charitable Trust is delighted to provide match funding to this campaign. As a longstanding supporter of the Octagon, we hope that this Crowdfunder enables the organisation to deliver a truly communityled reopening of the theatre: a spectacular space which will be a wonderful resource for Bolton for years to come.”

To donate to the Octagon Future Fund visit crowdfunder.co.uk/octagon-future-fund or call the box office team on 01204 520 661.