Easter as it used to be

Swing Ball dancers for Vintage Newbiggin event.
Swing Ball dancers for Vintage Newbiggin event.
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Vintage Newbiggin — Easter by the Sea will celebrate bank holidays as they used to be.

There will be activities on the beach, a Saturday night vintage ball, pop up beauty salons, swing dance workshops, music, children’s competitions, an Easter bonnet parade, food stalls, a vintage market, a vintage car rally, fair rides, and much more.

And the town will be simultaneously be hosting its annual kite festival.

Lynn Burns, who chairs Newbiggin’s Portas Town Team, said “It’s going to be a fun filled weekend with something for everybody: shopping, entertainment, heritage, activities, sports, lovely old cars and a truly glamorous night out at the vintage ball.

“We want to remind everyone of just how much fun can be gained from a day at the seaside and Newbiggin is the perfect place to do that.

“Visitors are very welcome for a day, an evening or for the whole weekend.”

The Easter celebration stems from Newbiggin’s Town Team project.

In 2012 Local Government Minister Grant Shapps selected Newbiggin by the Sea, along with 11 other UK towns from 371 applicants, to become a Portas Pilot Town to try to reinvigorate the high street.

As the three-year pilot draws to a close, Newbiggin by the Sea’s Town Team is one of the successes of the national project.

In partnership with Newbiggin Town Council and Northumberland County Council, it offers free parking, which has been an enormous boost to shops, residents and visitors.

And the Town Team has worked with traders and landlords to keep shops open, with occupancy rates up from 63 per cent in 2012 to more than 90 per cent now. Empty shops have been filled with vibrant local businesses, and new ones are arriving all the time.

Grants worth £50,000 to improve premises in the historic Victorian High Street have created attractive traditional shop fronts adorning the length of the town’s conservation area.

Businesses have received free training to optimise the opportunities that the internet offers, and the town has benefitted from a suite of marketing materials to promote the retail, hospitality and catering sectors.

Visitors have been drawn to the town through a series of events, including the annual triathlon, beach festivals, a music festival and Christmas celebrations, which have brought many Newbiggin groups together, including churches, arts groups, bands and the Traders’ Association.

The three-day Easter festival will celebrate the heyday of the Great British Seaside.

And an evening of dance and glamour, run by the region’s foremost swing dancer and teacher, will take place on Easter Saturday.

Joo-Lee Stock, of Lindy-Jazz, will create a Black and Gold Ball.

Her partner, specialist swing MC Andy Lewis, will keep the music coming all night, and experienced dancers will be on hand to help newbies take their first steps on the dance floor.

The band Strictly Speakeasy is led by clarinetist Gavin Lee and has played leading swing dance festival DJam in Durham so knows what makes a ball go with a swing.

The ballroom will be created by local designer Carli Coulson of Sitting Pretty, and the evening will start with a drinks reception. Ball goers can have their photographs taken at the reception and there will be prizes for the best vintage outfits.

The swing dance craze started in the USA and is now popular all over the world. Thanks to Joo-Lee and Andy, the North East scene is a second only to London. Recent Lindy–Jazz events have taken place in the Lit & Phil and at Beamish Hall.

Now vintage, dance and music fans in Northumberland can experience the fun of their glamorous nights out.

Joo-Lee, who regularly teaches at Newcastle’s Dance City and runs weekly social dances in Gosforth Parish Hall, said: “We’re very excited to bring dancers from Lindy-Jazz to share the wonderful dances of the vintage era with everyone.

“There will be workshops during the afternoon for anyone wanting to get one step ahead and the ball will begin with a short, warm up session.”

She added: “If you can walk and you are open to having a go, you’re on to a winner. We explain everything step by step and in about an hour, you’ll be able to dance.”

Ms Burns said: “We are thrilled to have attracted someone of Joo-Lee’s calibre and are all now actively developing our vintage evening looks. A pop-up vintage beauty parlour will be in the town on Saturday and I am really looking forward to seeing everyone in their finery.”

The Ball takes place on Saturday, April 4, from 7.30pm.

Tickets for the event are already selling fast. A quarter of them were pre-ordered before the box office opened last Monday.

Information and tickets for workshops and the Ball are available from the festival’s Facebook page Vintage-Newbiggin, or from the town’s Central Co-op.

A full schedule of the weekend’s activities can be found on the facebook page or follow @NewbigginEaster on Twitter.