HUNDREDS of shoppers turned out to sample the first ever Morpeth Food and Drink Festival.
Both the Market Place and Town Hall were packed throughout the day on Saturday as people flocked to the event, which was organised as part of the relaunch of the Morpeth markets.
The monthly farmers’ market saw a wide variety of stalls set up as usual, but joining the mix this time were cooking demonstrations, competitions, and even an appearance by a pair of stilt-walkers.
Local food and drink businesses displayed their produce and gave away samples, while Morpeth eateries and food retailers organised special offers.
Star of BBC’s The Apprentice programme Adam Corbally, who started his working life as a market trader, helped to open the event, kicking off the cooking demonstrations, and he hosted the Market Place kitchen throughout the day as local chefs gave away some of the secrets of their favourite dishes.
The relaunch was organised to mark a new public-private management partnership for both the weekly Wednesday market and monthly farmers’ market, including Sanderson Arcade, Northumberland County Council, Morpeth Town Council and Morpeth Town Team.
Mr Corbally said: “It really is a breath of fresh air to see an initiative like this and to see everyone working together and realising that High Street shopping isn’t just about one thing or the other, it’s about the whole town coming together and the community working together, making it an ideal place to shop. It’s great to be part of a project like this and fantastic to see what has been achieved in Morpeth.”
The event was officially opened by Morpeth Mayor Joan Tebbutt, who reminded shoppers about the heritage of the town’s market.
She read from the original Market Charter, which was granted to Roger de Merley in 1199 for the cost of 13 pounds, six shillings and eight pence.
Coun Tebbutt said: “There has been a market held on this spot for all those years and it’s fantastic to see the new market.
“We’ve had a number of changes over the years in the town — the Sanderson Arcade development, the new supermarket on the edge of the town centre rather than on the edge of the town itself, and now this fantastic new market, which we hope will bring many more people into the town and help to keep the town centre viable.”
Improvements to the markets include new stalls and branding, the introduction of anchor points and power supplies, and a promotional campaign.
Sanderson Arcade Manager Medi Parry said: “Everyone has really worked together to make this a fantastic celebration of what can be achieved when everyone works together. The town was really buzzing on Saturday.
“We are delighted to be involved with the new market in Morpeth and are confident it will continue to grow and thrive. We are already planning on making the Food and Drink Festival an annual event in the town.”