The Forum Theatre

Billingham, UK659 seats

The Forum Theatre, Billingham was opened in August 1967.  An exemplary building of its time, it was designed by the local architect Alan Ward of Elder Lester and Partners.

In 2019, the auditorium seats came to the end of their lives after 52 years’ faithful service. Stockton on Tees Borough Council engaged theatre consultant Chris Baldwin to help them find a replacement which would sit comfortably with the building’s classic interior, but also provide all the benefits of 21st century design.

The chosen chair was Icon, a spring-tip auditorium chair by Audience Systems. The chair is designed to be not only durable, but also customisable.  For this venue, features selected included a soft close seat tipping mechanism and a supportive pocket sprung seat. Finishes for the chair were also chosen with great care. Classic, durable Bute ‘Elgin’ fabric was selected to echo the appearance of the original seats. The wooden components were precisely specified to tone with the slatted timber of the building’s interior. Finally, the chair back was softly arched, and at the row ends, subtly rebated seat numbers provided an added touch of elegance.

The layout was deceptively complex; a digital survey of the auditorium revealed that the original chairs had three different seat centres and four different back angles. As the original tiering was being retained, these variations had to be meticulously worked into the new seating layout.

Chris Baldwin said, “We needed a chair which was contemporary but within character in what is now a listed building. We chose Icon because we were looking for that visual connection with what was there before, plus we wanted some of the features the Icon offered, such as the wooden panels and the pocket spring system." 

“The client is very happy with the end result, and it looks good. Audience Systems responded well to any concerns we had during the project. The fitting team were very good and easily met the challenge of completing the work within a three week window during the summer dark period.”