Forum’s official opening given a royal touch

A LEISURE centre and theatre complex is set for a royal visit as it celebrates its £18.5m refurbishment.

Billingham Forum will welcome Sophie, Countess of Wessex (pictured) to officially open the new-look, state-of-the-art leisure and theatre facility tomorrow.

Billingham Forum re-opened in June after an 18-month closure for the multi-million refurbishment scheme.

More than 300,000 people have already been through its doors since the new look was unveiled.

The investment into the 1960s centre has transformed it into a 21st Century facility.

The original Forum was officially opened by The Queen, accompanied by The Duke of Edinburgh, in October 1967.

The Countess of Wessex will be greeted by the Mayor of Stockton, Councillor Paul Baker, and given a full tour of the complex, meeting many of the staff and sports and leisure groups who use it.

The Forum Theatre also benefited from structural improvements and enhanced entrance and hospitality areas. It has seen record bookings and advance sales, particularly for its pantomime Cinderella, with more than 33,000 tickets sold for various productions since the theatre opened its season in late August.

Stockton Borough Council and Tees Active run the Forum.

Councillor Ken Dixon, the council’s cabinet member for arts, leisure and culture, said: “This is a very proud day for Stockton and we are delighted to welcome the Countess of Wessex to Billingham Forum.

“The Forum facilities are second to none and the complex is not only a jewel in the crown for Stockton borough, but an important leisure destination for the wider region.”

Steve Chaytor, managing director of Tees Active, said: “This is a proud day for everyone associated with Billingham Forum.

The royal visitor will be seeing the north’s premier public leisure destination, a truly unique facility.

“I’m sure she will be impressed.”