MORPETH was sparkling with festive cheer on Saturday as the town celebrated the Christmas lights switch-on.
About 400 people crowded into the Market Place to see the display light up and take part in carol singing, led by Not the Three Tenors group and the acclaimed Northumbrian Water Ellington Colliery Band.
The area was buzzing with activity earlier in the day as there was a children’s carousel ride and festive music.
Meanwhile, adults enjoyed the Mistletoe Fair, held in the Town Hall, which had stalls of gifts and crafts. Refreshments were available in return for a donation to Morpeth Mayor Mark Horton’s designated good cause, Collingwood School and Media Arts College.
Morpeth Town Council Clerk Gillian Turner, who helped to organise the events, said: “The day went very well and we couldn’t have timed it better with the weather as it was awful for the next two days.
“There was a big crowd of families who got into the Christmas spirit and all the lights came on when they were supposed to — they look great and they lift your spirits when you see them.
“Not the Three Tenors were in superb form and got everyone to join in with them, and Morpeth Gadgy Alex Swailes did an excellent job as MC.
“Teachers and students from Collingwood came along to do shifts and talk to people about what goes on at the school. The donations for the mince pies, soup and mulled wine, and to go on the children’s ride, added up to £751, which was a fantastic amount.”
Following the Christmas Address by the Reverend Tony Curtis, Coun Horton invited Alfie Keech, winner of the Morpeth Fair Day Fancy Dress Competition, to join him in flicking the switch on the illuminations just before 5pm.
There was also some festive chimes courtesy of the Morpeth Clock Tower Bellringers, with Ding Dong Merrily On High pealed out as the lights were switched on.
Tower Captain Roger Dye said: “Five of the ringers were current or former curfew ringers, all under 25. Such a committed local band is a rarity these days; that the curfew is still tolled daily is nigh on unique.
“The same young people made a vital contribution in a more serious mode in ringing the muffled bells on Remembrance Sunday and in hosting visitors on Heritage Open Day, when there was an opportunity to try chiming Jingle Bells.
“Those who would like to try bellringing are welcome to visit our Wednesday practice session, which starts at 7.30pm.”
The Ellington Colliery Band is also keen for more would-be musicians to join its ranks.
Band Manager John Colvine said: “We have got a training band and quite a number of the members, about 12 of them, turned out with us for the first time to play with the senior band at the Christmas lights switch-on.
“We would love some more members for the training band. Anybody can come along — it is not just for kids and we have a granddaughter and grandmother in it together. It is for people who have never played before, or those who used to play and want to start again. It is also a stepping stone to help us because we want to continue as a brass band and need new members coming through.”
The band rehearses at Chantry Middle School on Wednesday evenings, from 6pm to 7.30pm. Membership costs £10 a term, including tuition and the loan of an instrument.
For more information contact Mr Colvine on 07734 437987, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.nwecband.org.uk
To delve further into the Christmas spirit, the Herald has set up a new website dedicated to the festive season.
There are features on the ideal gifts, Christmas cooking, quizzes and the perils of the festivities, as well as lots more. To find out more visit www.morpethherald.co.uk/christmas