Volunteers are lifeblood of community

Morpeth Gathering 2016'Picture by Jane Coltman
Morpeth Gathering 2016'Picture by Jane Coltman

Any town, city or village with volunteer organisations or individuals prepared to work on behalf of their community is fortunate indeed, and Morpeth falls heavily into that category.

Take the busy social and entertainment side of life, for example. When you look into the staging of local events many would simply not be happening without the input of dedicated volunteers who give up so much time for the benefit of others.

Next month Kim Bibby-Wilson and her team of volunteers will stage the Morpeth Northumbrian Gathering, which annually brings people together to celebrate all that’s best in local music, song, dance, dialect verse, stories and crafts that are part of our heritage.

The Gathering, now in its 52nd year, might be a headline event, but so much happens in Morpeth throughout the year, such as the concerts staged by Morpeth Music Society, which brings classical performers of international status to the town.

The Mid Northumberland Chorus attracts performers of national repute and has a performance of Handel’s Messiah in April, as well as giving people the chance to try choral singing, while at St George’s United Reformed Church volunteers organise concerts, dances and talks, with its am-dram enthusiasts entertaining sell-out audiences.

Recently, cinema-goers enjoyed nine films during a Movie Weekend organised by the Greater Morpeth Development Trust, which built on the monthly screenings at its Community Cinema in the Town Hall, and the trust’s Picnic in the Park event gets the summer holidays off to a flying start in Carlisle Park.

Morpeth Chamber of Trade’s Fair Day in June brings some 30,000 people into the town, and in September the chamber is planning Morpeth’s first book festival. Organisers are drawing up a short-list of authors to give talks and readings, which they hope will be well received by local people, as well as visitors.

A few weeks later Morpeth’s Food and Drink Festival will attract more people, and Morpeth Rugby Club will be staging a Beer Festival in April.

Another exciting new event is the Party in the Park at Morpeth Town football club’s Craik Park ground over the Bank Holiday in May. Around 20 bands are taking part.

I am sure I will have omitted other groups doing great work presenting events around the town and if I have, I apologise.

What I have tried to outline is that without the efforts of so many volunteers organising such a diversity of events, Morpeth would not be such an exciting place to live and work.

It is also interesting that Morpeth events take place in such a variety of venues. It doesn’t have a theatre or arts centre so many events take place in alternative venues, such as halls and churches, which shows an imaginative use of making the most of what space is available.

But it is not just social and entertainment activities that volunteers are so active in supporting and protecting community life in Morpeth.

Recently a campaign has been fronted by volunteers concerned, like I am, about the move of the NHS 30-bed Whalton Unit out of Morpeth to Wansbeck Hospital in Ashington.

The move has been described as ‘temporary’, but healthcare facilities in Rothbury, Berwick and Blyth have been closed or downgraded and there is a real concern that Morpeth could also permanently lose a valuable recovery unit.

That’s why I am giving my support to campaigners requesting an immediate public consultation giving local people the chance to state their preferences for the location of the unit.

The decision will, I am told, be reviewed next month, but hopefully that consultation will take place before a final decision is made.