A celebration of sport that was fit for a King

Morpeth Gathering 2012.
Morpeth Gathering 2012.

A CELEBRATION of sporting and cultural heritage drew big crowds for the Morpeth Northumbrian Gathering.

This year’s event, titled A Good Sport, had two themes, local sporting achievements and Charles II, who confirmed the town’s Coat of Arms 350 years ago.

Visitors from across the UK, Spain, Germany, Australia and the USA attended.

Numbers were up for the festival’s indoor activities, such as concerts, workshops and competitions, which played to full houses, and though the cold weather meant fewer people than usual attended the outdoor activities, they still attracted good crowds.

Highlights of the festival included appearances by former Morpeth athletes, such as Commonwealth Games gold medallist Jim Alder, who was a surprise guest on the platform for the Gathering pageant and gave commentary to a cine film of his 1966 victory.

There was also Munich Olympian Victoria Brown, Morpeth Olympic Games gold-medal sprinter Raymond Surtees and wrestling trophies from 1879 and 1904.

Gathering Committee Chairman Kim Bibby-Wilson said: “The two strands that we had – the sporting heritage and the Coat of Arms – both had successful outcomes.

“All of the sporting things were very much appreciated by the public and it was wonderful how it came together.”

Other successes included actor Ray Alexander’s portrayal of 17th Century MP Sir George Downing, mini melodeon classes with Ray Langton and Rachael Hales’ Dreams of Morpeth composition.

There was also the premiere of a song by Jez Lowe about the Morpeth Games, and the committee hopes to release it on CD to help raise funds for next year’s event.

Due to funding difficulties some activities had to be cut back, but the committee was determined that street performances and other attractions would still be seen.

And just before the event, organisers learnt that an Arts Council funding bid had been successful to allow further sessions to take place through the year.

Mrs Bibby-Wilson thanked the Morpeth and District Chamber of Trade for marshalling the event and Northumberland County Council for its support, particularly in providing new bunting, as well as the numerous individuals who helped out.

Surveys were carried out to assess how much money the Gathering brings into the town and find out people’s opinion of Morpeth.

“The Gathering is a chance for people to see that Morpeth is a lovely, friendly place and it helps the people of Morpeth because it shows that we are open for business after the trauma of the last few years from the flood and the roadworks,” said Mrs Bibby-Wilson.

Next year’s Gathering will celebrate the Lindisfarne Gospels’ visit to the region and its Anglo-Saxon heritage, as well as commemorate local Suffragette Emily Wilding Davison in the 100th year since her tragic death.