Traders are planning a festive season to remember
Whisper it '” unless you are under the age of ten and you are allowed to shout it out aloud '” there are only 44 days left until Christmas as you read this column.
If you are an excited under-ten-year-old that means just 44 sleeps before the old man with the white beard and his reindeer dash to get his sleigh laden with everything he has been asked to leave under Christmas trees around every home.
However, if you are a busy Mum contemplating just how to get all the presents bought and wrapped, the turkey and all the trimmings ordered, and the house decked out, those 44 days will disappear in a flash.
Times and shopping habits have changed out of all recognition from the days when my generation of young lads and lasses were eagerly anticipating Christmas. In our day there were no out-of-town retail parks and the thought of buying presents from a catalogue or the internet would have still been in the realms of pure fantasy, if anyone even had the imagination to dream about doing that.
Our local high streets were the places where everything was bought for Christmas, apart from the rare trip into Newcastle to marvel at the Yuletide wonders in Fenwick’s windows.
I have no idea what will be topping every child’s wish-list this year, or what will be the ‘must-have’ piece of electronic or digital wizardry. What I do know is that my colleagues on Morpeth Town Team, from Morpeth Town Council, the Greater Morpeth Development Trust (GMDT), the Chamber of Trade and Sanderson Arcade, would love you to think about doing a little more of your Christmas shopping in the town this year.
It’s a fact that the Great British high street is under threat like never before from the internet and retail parks, but it is equally undeniable that those same high streets have been at the heart of our British way of life for generations, and must remain so.
Morpeth is a classic example. The centre of town has long been, and remains so, the heartbeat of Morpeth, and most would agree that we are blessed with having a town centre that is the envy of so many. Morpeth is a magnet for visitors and day-trippers because of the unique shopping experience it offers, and they are always very welcome to spend their time and money in the town.
The mix of big high street names trading alongside the many wonderful, independent, niche businesses goes a long way towards giving Morpeth that certain charm that sets it apart and makes it such an attractive shopping destination.
However, it is just as important for Morpeth that local residents are persuaded to spend a decent proportion of their money locally.
Our shops are here for us 52 weeks of the year, but Christmas is a crucial time for them, so the traders and all of us on the Town Team will be going all out to make sure that this festive season will be one to remember.
The festivities get under way on Saturday, November 19 when Sanderson Arcade will switch-on its glittering
Christmas displays during an afternoon of entertainment, starting at 2.30pm.
Mr and Mrs Claus will be there, along with Heart Radio presenters Justin and Kelly and 2015 X Factor finalist Kiera Weathers, to keep the fun going until the tree’s lights are switched on at 5pm.
For many, the Fenwick’s windows signal that Christmas is just round the corner, but Rutherford’s displays are always a highlight of Morpeth’s festive celebrations. This year insiders tell us that Rutherford’s windows will be as eye-catching as ever, and they will be ready in time for the arcade lights switch-on.
On Saturday, November 26, the main town lights, which are always among the most dazzling in the region, will be switched on by Mayor Andrew Tebbutt at 4.55pm after some carol singing that begins at 4.15pm.
The same day the Mistletoe Fair will be held in the Town Hall, from 9am.
For the second year running the Town Team is planning a Christmas late-night shopping evening, with many shops staying open until 8pm, offering special bargains. Entertainment will also be arranged.
The Farmers’ Christmas Market will be full of stalls manned by local producers with some great present ideas, as well as tempting food and drink to buy, on Saturday, December 3.
And a week later, the real reindeer will be back by popular demand for children to pet and feed, from 10am until 4pm, in Sanderson Arcade.
Don’t forget, when you need a break from the shopping expeditions there are plenty of homely cafes and restaurants to visit.
Add a host of other events, concerts and carol services that are being planned in Morpeth up until Christmas Day and it will be a great place to spend some time.
Details of these can be found in a leaflet available around town that is being published by the Morpeth Town Team.
David Lodge, who chairs the team, said: “We are almost spoilt for choice in Morpeth because we have so many top stores trading alongside our wonderful independent shops and businesses, which means there really is little need to go outside of the town for the bulk of your Christmas shopping.
“Of course, we need visitors coming into Morpeth, but we also want to urge local people to think about doing more of their shopping in the town this Christmas.
“If everyone spends just a few pounds more on Christmas in Morpeth than out-of-town or on the internet it will make such a big difference to local shops and businesses.”