THIS week, 15 years ago, North-East actor Richard Griffiths returned to his roots to repay the college that helped him on the road to success.

Griffiths, best known as the chef in TV's Pie in the Sky and for playing Vernon Dursley in the Harry Potter movies, was asked to open a new theatre at Stockton’s Riverside college.

Formerly Stockton and Billingham College, Griffiths enrolled to help him enter a management course at Littlewoods after leaving school with no qualifications. However, instead of maths lessons Griffiths chose drama.

The new theatre was named after the college’s principal, Margaret Armstrong, who was surprised by staff when they unveiled a plaque above the entrance door that read The Margaret Armstrong Theatre.

A spokesman said: "We decided to name the theatre after the principal, who retires in July, as a lasting tribute to her immense work on behalf of the college over the years.

"She was almost overcome with emotion with this surprise and said she felt honoured and delighted to have the theatre named after her."

From one Harry Potter star to another – six North-East pupils were chosen to meet JK Rowling at an exclusive London event.

The youngsters were chosen for the honour after their school, Witton Gilbert Primary, near Durham, won a competition run by the Times Educational Supplement.

They travelled to London with their teachers to attend an event at which the author read extracts from her latest book and answered questions.

Jane Davis, deputy headteacher at the school, said: "I spoke to the head thinking it would be a wonderful opportunity, but never dreaming we would be successful.

"It has generated considerable interest and excitement."

And a civil engineer who was involved in designing the M6 died aged 73.

Desmond Frederick Boon, who was born in Brompton and later lived in Northallerton and Scarborough, North Yorkshire worked as a civil engineer for the World Bank, designing many roads in Asia.

He worked in Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Ghana and was also heavily involved in the designing of the M6 and A174 in this country.