A very successful Golden Gathering

Darlington Mummers are pictured during the parade. They performed the traditional mummers play involving St George at a few different town centre locations on Sunday. Picture by Doug Harrison.
Darlington Mummers are pictured during the parade. They performed the traditional mummers play involving St George at a few different town centre locations on Sunday. Picture by Doug Harrison.

Thousands of people flocked to the town to enjoy the events, activities and parade as the Morpeth Northumbrian Gathering reached a special milestone.

The annual event invites musicians, artists and a wealth of entertainers and experts to the town to share their enjoyment of the treasures of local music, craft and heritage.

Morpeth Highland Pipe Band. Picture by Doug Harrison.

Morpeth Highland Pipe Band. Picture by Doug Harrison.

And from Friday to Sunday, people of all ages witnessed some of the finest talent that the region has to offer in these fields.

It was called the Golden Gathering this year as this was the town’s 50th festival of Northumberland’s traditions.

As ever, the Saturday parade – known as the Border Cavalcade and Pageant – saw Lord and Lady Greystoke lead the procession of performers, costumed groups, dance teams and local organisations and individuals.

It was greeted at the Town Hall by civic VIPs.

The York Waits musical group. Picture by Doug Harrison.

The York Waits musical group. Picture by Doug Harrison.

As Sunday, April 23, was St George’s Day and the day William Shakespeare’s birth is celebrated, the Gathering incorporated Englishness and Morpeth’s Tudor links.

The William Turner Herb Garden in Carlisle Park was the venue for a Rent a Peasant costumed historical interpreter, Archaeosoup’s interactive living history displays and Tudor music from The York Waits.

Darlington Mummers popped up around the town centre on the Sunday to act out the traditional mummers’ play involving St George, and patriotic songs were sung by early music duo Hautbois from their covered cart in the Market Place on Friday.

A varied programme of activities in the park included music and dance, orienteering, traditional children’s games and special circus tent shows by Astral Circus, which put on an even bigger show this year thanks to funds from Active Northumberland.

From left on the platform, Coun Alan Sambrook, civic head of Northumberland County Council, Rev Ron Forster in his William Turner botanist costume, Morpeth Mayor Coun Andrew Tebbutt and Mayoress Coun Joan Tebbutt. Picture by Doug Harrison.

From left on the platform, Coun Alan Sambrook, civic head of Northumberland County Council, Rev Ron Forster in his William Turner botanist costume, Morpeth Mayor Coun Andrew Tebbutt and Mayoress Coun Joan Tebbutt. Picture by Doug Harrison.

The event also included competitions and exhibitions.

The raffle bag, which has been used at every Morpeth Gathering, made an appearance at the Sunday evening concert that concluded the festival as it also contained gifts for Janet Brown, who is retiring from the treasurer role.

Kim Bibby-Wilson, Morpeth Northumbrian Gathering committee chairman, said: “We’re delighted that the festival went very well despite the challenges we had to deal with in the run-up to the event. We had visitors from the USA, Canada and Germany and they came from across the UK, including the Scottish Highlands, Kent, Devon and Cornwall.

“Thankfully, the weather held good for the parade. We were anxious about numbers beforehand, but there was a strong turnout from local groups such as Morpeth Rainbows, Brownies and Guides, Beavers, Cubs and Scouts and the Twisting Ducks performing arts group.

Markmark Productions' PC Gone Mad act entertained the crowds. Picture by Doug Harrison.

Markmark Productions' PC Gone Mad act entertained the crowds. Picture by Doug Harrison.

“One of the light-hearted moments was when musician David Oliver played the tune he composed to commemorate Grannie’s Gansey – the woolly jumper he wore when he was a member of the winning student folk group at one of the very first Gatherings.

“He put on the jumper, even though it has shrunk over the years.”

She added: “We’re grateful to all those who supported the event, including people now living in other parts of the country who came to Morpeth to help over the weekend, and it was nice to see that the police were very visible during the festival.”

The challenges she referred to included illness. Among those missing was Alex Swailes, who has entertained the Gathering crowds as the Morpeth Gadgy since 1997.

Six people took on the different roles he usually does. Rev Ron Forster, dressed in a William Turner botanist costume and calling himself Stan Din, did the speech of welcome to greet the pageant.

He usually plays the part of Lord Greystoke, but Jared Johnson, of St George’s Community Players, took his place. Lady Greystoke was once again played by Shirley Forster.

The Meze Mundo band. Picture by Doug Harrison.

The Meze Mundo band. Picture by Doug Harrison.

Storytellers Sedayne and Rapunzel were also ill. Jim Grant filled in at Morpeth Castle and Taffy Thomas did an extra session at the Ice Bar to compensate.

Among the extra matters to deal with was a sign stating road resurfacing work would take place on the Sunday in Newmarket that Mrs Bibby-Wilson saw on Thursday.

However, after calling a member of Northumberland County Council’s traffic management team, the work was immediately rescheduled.

As well as the county council, Morpeth Town Council and other local groups, she thanked the Morpeth Boundary Ride trustees and the National Lottery’s Big Lottery Fund for providing funds for the event and Morrisons for donating all the prizes for the barn dance raffle.