Mary Portas, the woman the last Government chose to spearhead the revitalisation of failing high streets, has been quoted as saying that the most successful town centres are often places for more than shopping.
She is quite right. As well as trading during the day, a successful town centre enjoys a lively evening economy, with varied places for a night out, meal, or a relaxing social drink with friends.
All these events showcase just what Morpeth has to offer as perhaps the North’s leading modern market town.Ian Lavery MP
A good mix of entertainment appealing to all tastes and age groups, can be another successful attraction.
I was reminded of this recently when I had the pleasure of enjoying the annual Morpeth Town Fair. Goodness knows how many people defied the rain clouds, but I have since read estimates that the figure would easily have topped the 20,000 mark. That’s a phenomenal number of people drawn into the town and the organisers, Morpeth and District Chamber of Trade, must be wholeheartedly congratulated for putting on another fantastic show.
It forcibly struck me what an almost super-human effort must go into staging Fair Day by what is a relatively small team of volunteers, making sure everything works like clockwork. For most of the Fair Day team, the day began around 5am and many were still hard at work some 12 or 14 hours later.
What they do is not just confined to the day itself, but goes on throughout the year, and I have no doubt that the team has already started work on Fair Day 2016. In my opinion, Morpeth owes all those involved a huge debt of gratitude.
The chamber is one of the key partners in the Town Team that works to promote Morpeth not only to local residents, but as a visitor and shopping destination. Fair Day is just one of an ongoing series of activities, from the Morpeth Gathering in April to the switching on of the Christmas Lights in November.
Coming up, during the summer there will be open-air music in the Market Place every Saturday afternoon, followed by the Picnic in the Park in July. In October the successful Food and Drink Festival will be held, and I believe this year’s event will be bigger and better then ever.
All these events showcase just what Morpeth has to offer as perhaps the North’s leading modern market town. It is such an attractive place to visit and shop, thanks to the elegance of Sanderson Arcade mixed with the variety of independent retailers. The variety of places to eat has perhaps never been more cosmopolitan, with recent newcomers adding Turkish and Greek cuisine.
Morpeth is also looking to continue its success in the Northumbria and Britain in Bloom competitions, and I wish it well. Its well-earned reputation as the ‘bloom capital’ of Northumberland is another reason why people visit.
What it is most important to remember, is that all of these events have one thing in common — none would happen without the commitment, enthusiasm and dedication of local people, businesses and the authorities determined to work for the good of their town. They all deserve our thanks and support.
Finally, a word of good wishes to two parties of intrepid teenagers who will be taking part in what could be the experience of a lifetime.
Sixteen youngsters from Morpeth Boys Bridge will be heading to Mexico to build shelters for needy people. What they will encounter could be a life-changing experience.
Another party of 32 KEVI students will be doing volunteer work in Madagascar. That will be another eye-opening experience for them.
All the youngsters have raised a substantial part of their costs themselves, which is almost as praise-worthy as the work they will be doing.
I am sure everyone in the town will join me in thanking them for what they will do. They are all young people Morpeth can be truly proud of.