Festival will be full of Medieval gannins-on

The activities in the Town Hall on the Friday will include a maypole dance workshop.
The activities in the Town Hall on the Friday will include a maypole dance workshop.

Morpeth Gathering preview: Three days of traditional fun from Friday, April 1, to Sunday, April 3

Did he or didn’t he? Was it King John who set fire to Morpeth town and its first castle 800 years ago, or was it the locals themselves?

Did they take such a drastic step to stop him looting the town as he swept through the region, punishing the rebel barons who had forced him to sign the Magna Carta?

For this year’s Fires, Fools and Fuddling! theme, family art workshops will create jesters’ costumes on April Fool’s Day, a fire-eater will entertain over the weekend and drinking songs will feature throughout, inspired by the number of alehouses that grew up in the town after King John granted its market charter.

Even if we can’t be sure exactly what happened in the year 1216, the anniversary of the devastating fire is a good excuse for the organisers to provide a Medieval feel to Morpeth’s annual festival of Northumbrian traditions.

You can find out what local historian and popular writer Bridget Gubbins thinks as she reveals her findings about the fire and other fascinating aspects of the town’s past during Friday afternoon’s dramatic presentation, Marvellous Medieval Morpeth.

Events happen across all the central halls and public spaces, with this year the Landmark Trust opening the doors of Morpeth Castle to the public.

Here, Gathering artists will perform Medieval music and give some armed combat displays.

In addition, local cafes have stepped forward to offer their services as extra new venues to host storytelling and piping sessions following successful debut events last year.

Upstairs in the Town Hall Ballroom during the daytime on Friday, expert tutors will guide workshops in circle dance, early dance, maypole and clogging and in the afternoon, the Chantry Bagpipe Museum will host a workshop on drinking songs.

In the Corn Exchange of the Town Hall, the crafts exhibition will feature stalls and demonstrations of needlecrafts, photography, instrument making, proggy mat-making and other skills, along with a huge variety of pieces entered for the Gathering’s crafts competitions.

Anyone interested in taking part can bring their entries to the Town Hall on the evening of Thursday, March 31.