A VIKING invasion is heading for Morpeth, but this time the Nordic visitors are more interested in building bridges than burning them.
A group of 24 young people from Norway will spend 10 days in the town later this month as part of a 1,000-strong contingent visiting the North East.
The trip has been organised by Norwegian church groups and the More Than Gold scheme, which helps UK churches to make the most of the London 2012 Olympic Games through festivals and events.
There will be plenty of sporting activities to keep the visitors amused, and they will be heavily involved in a number of community initiatives as they say a special thank you to the region for the part it played in helping to spread Christianity to their country.
New Life Christian Centre Minister Mike Willis, who is part of the team organising the Morpeth activities, said: “There are about 1,000 young people coming to the North East in all. The reason they are coming to the North East is because around 1,000 years ago Christianity spread to Norway through the raids on Northumberland monasteries and so these young people are coming in a way to say thank you to the North East for their Christian heritage.”
The visitors will complete various projects during their stay, including carrying out community and environmental work, but by far their biggest task will be helping to run a major family fun day in Carlisle Park.
The event, which is organised by Morpeth Churches Together in conjunction with the Greater Morpeth Development Trust, Blyth Valley Arts and Leisure, the Riverside Leisure Centre, Barnabas Safe and Sound and Morpeth Bowling Club, will form part of an extended Picnic In The Park weekend that promises sport, entertainment, crafts and even a free barbecue.
There will be free kayak sessions on the Wansbeck, led by experienced coaches, free tennis and football coaching and free access to the swimming pool.
People will be encouraged to join in a modern version of the Morpeth Olympics, with traditional events for parents and children such as egg and spoon races, tug of war and three-legged races.
For the less sporty, there will be craft sessions and face painting, or the chance to simply sit and soak in the atmosphere in quiet areas of the park.
The highlight of the day will be extraordinary shows of strength by the Extreme Vikings. The Norwegian muscle men have all recovered from problems such as drug addiction after finding faith and turning their lives around.
Mr Willis said: “This is going to be a big festival in the park. We really want families to come down and take part.
“It is a brilliant thing to be able to do to offer the free sport sessions, you don’t often get a chance to do something like that for free, but there will be other things happening too. We will be doing our own sporting events for the Morpeth Olympics and there will be a free barbecue.
“We are also going to have some quiet spaces for people just to come along and sit down. We’ll make them comfortable and it will almost be like a spiritual zone, somewhere people can sit and chill, and there’ll be some candles and things too.”
The Scandinavian visitors will form part of a team of about 60 volunteers from local churches who will help to make the event run smoothly, trying out their face painting skills, stewarding, running sporting activities and serving food.
Mr Willis said: “I’m excited and scared at the same time because this is the biggest thing we have ever done. I’m a bit apprehensive, but it will be great because it’s about working together with so many different people. Hopefully, we will have a really good day that will showcase Morpeth and what we can do and continue the things we do in the community.”
The visitors are due to arrive in Morpeth on Friday, July 20.
The park activities will take place on Saturday, July 28, from 10am to 4pm. Book places for the kayak, football and tennis coaching in advance at Morpeth Riverside Leisure Centre on 01670 514665.