ALTHOUGH not the biggest of buildings, the Forum has dominated the skyline for more than 30 years and is one of the most recognised facilities in Billingham.

Opened by the Queen on October 19, 1967, it was heralded as a showcase leisure complex that would attract people from around the region to Billingham.

As well as the theatre, its amenities include an ice rink, swimming pool and facilities for indoor games.

In 1979, it was described as both a first-class leisure centre and an expensive monument to earlier Billingham thinking.

During its 33-year history, there have been numerous rumours that the theatre would close down due to financial difficulties.

In 1984, bosses were forced to axe top TV comics who charged up to £2,000 a night, after it was left to a small green duck to save a season of flops.

Top-of-the-bill performers such as Tommy Cooper, Charlie Williams and the Baron Knights played to rows of empty stalls.

Williams pulled only 139 people, Cooper a disappointing 200, and Stan Boardman only 126.

Instead it was left to Keith Harris and Orville, who won rave reviews, to fill every seat - a feat matched by pop group Showaddywady.

In 1983, the biggest audience was for the great nuclear waste dump debate, on November 1.

Speaking at the time, Forum chairman John Dyson said: "These big-time comics charge up to £2,000 a night, but some of their shows were really poor.

"They think because they are big name stars all they have to do is turn up."

Other famous names to have appeared at the theatre include Bruce Forsyth, Nigel Davenport and Kate O'Mara, who all played to full audiences.

Speaking on the tenth anniversary of the Forum, Les Jobson, director, said: "Every time we have done a show, I am aware that I have not achieved anything like what I am after.

"I am getting more and more critical all the time, even if audiences like the shows more and more.

"But it's all worth it for that strange feeling when you come out of the theatre, knowing it has all been worthwhile - the audience is bubbling even if I have my own reservations.

"I want audiences to know that Billingham means quality not just star names. You've got to have goodwill and a loyal following - if you haven't got that you've got nothing at all.