Plea to support the Gathering

Concertina player Alistair Anderson, who will play at the Morpeth Northumbrian Gathering Fund-raising Concert.
Concertina player Alistair Anderson, who will play at the Morpeth Northumbrian Gathering Fund-raising Concert.
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Organisers of Northumberland’s premier cultural festival are pleading for public support to help secure its long-term future.

The Morpeth Northumbrian Gathering will go ahead as planned this April, providing three days of music, dance, craft, dialect and heritage entertainment, with a War and Peace theme.

But the festival committee has warned that grant sources are drying up and unless more support can be found, events in future years could be in jeopardy.

Chairman Kim Bibby-Wilson said: “We have got a funding shortfall this year. The Gathering is going ahead, but some grant applications were unsuccessful. There are a couple of applications in the pipeline, but we won’t know the outcome until nearer the time of the Gathering so we have to go ahead and hope that we get extra funding. We used a lot of our resources last year so we haven’t got much of a buffer.

“We can’t make any savings on insurance, music licences or health and safety measures so we are having to cut one or two of our regular performers and we are sorry that we won’t be able to have them this year. We also might not be able to put up the bunting because of the cost of erecting it.

“It is a challenging funding environment. Money for the voluntary sector is much reduced, and with the Northern Rock Foundation going there are a lot of charities going to the same dwindling number of funders.

“We have got to manage this year, but we need a different approach in the future to fund the Gathering because we want to see it continue. It will be the 50th one in a few years’ time.”

There will be a price increase for concerts and small charges for some workshops this year to help plug the gap, but competition entry fees will be kept low and there is no charge for outdoor events.

The committee has launched two patron schemes as a new revenue source.

In return for a donation of £40 people will receive tickets for several Gathering events. Alternatively, for £12 they could sponsor a competition plaque.

Mrs Bibby-Wilson said: “All of the classes have plaques, but they are getting quite costly so we are asking if people will give £12 towards the cost. There are something like 80 competitions so it is quite an expense.”

Gift aid donations are also welcome, an annual fund-raising concert will take place next month, and a Gathering CD is being produced, featuring specially-commissioned compositions from previous festivals and traditional Morpeth songs.

“We are waiting for one or two people to perform songs to complete the recording, but it has been on the cards for a while and a number of people are waiting for the CD,” said Mrs Bibby-Wilson.

“We really hope that people will help us to keep going, and any donations over and beyond the patron schemes we would be happy to receive as one-off gifts.”

To find out more about the patron schemes see www.northumbriana.org.uk

For other donations contact Mrs Bibby-Wilson on 01670 513308.

Tickets for the Morpeth Northumbrian Gathering, which runs from April 10 to 12, will be on sale from March 1 at Morpeth Chantry.