A carnival of culture brought out the crowds at the 48th Morpeth Northumbrian Gathering.
Visitors flocked to Morpeth from across the globe, and closer to home, to soak up the three-day festival of traditional music, dance, arts, crafts and dialect.
The event, which this year had a War and Peace theme, began on Friday with various workshops and entertainment, before the Morpeth Gadgy Alex Swailes invited Mayor Nic Best to cut the ribbon at the official opening ceremony.
Attractions included a crafts exhibition, Punch and Judy shows, dance classes, bagpipe making, craft workshops, orienteering, storytelling, First World War drill and recruitment re-enactments and a variety of musical and dance entertainment, as well as the ever-popular Saturday morning Border Cavalcade and Community Pageant, featuring the Sheffield Giants’ War and Peace figures.
Gathering Director Kim Bibby-Wilson said: “A lot of people said there was a really good atmosphere in the town.
“We had people there from Australia, some from Belgium who have been for the past four years, people from Anglesey, various parts of Scotland, Lancashire, Yorkshire, Shropshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, and of course the Sheffield Giants, which were even better in the flesh than on the photographs we had seen.
“They were very impressive at the end of the procession and when they were in the Market Place they drew a large crowd. The Peace figure also joined the peace vigil on Saturday, which went down well, and when she came out of the Town Hall she was manoeuvred to look left and right before crossing the road.
“We had some new volunteers this year, who have been very helpful doing all sorts of jobs behind the scenes. We do need new blood so that was very good.”
Numbers generally were on a par with previous years, but some sessions proved more popular than others.
Mrs Bibby-Wilson said: “We had some interesting numbers. There was a very good turn-out for the barn dance and the winners’ concert with Bob Fox, and there were also good numbers at the craft workshops. We were very pleased to have the international SNAP group providing an extra workshop in the yurt and being part of the procession.
A lot of people said there was a really good atmosphere in the town.Kim Bibby-Wilson Director, Morpeth Northumbrian Gathering
“Some events weren’t quite so well attended so we have to try to work out why. For example, one of the library storytelling sessions was very popular, but another was not so well attended so we may need to re-time it.
“We had the Grand National and the boat races to contend with so they may have taken some of our audience away, and there was a big rapper sword dancing festival in the south of England, which took out some of our regular dance teams. The Sheffield Giants’ musicians helped to fill some of the performance spots to replace the dancers.
“The rain on Sunday morning didn’t help. We managed to move the outdoor events indoors, but because the rain was so bad it made the ground quite soggy and the Time Bandits weren’t able to do the drill re-enactment. We did send word out, but I hope people weren’t disappointed if they turned up for that.”
This year a number of new venues came on board to host music events.
“On Friday night the band with the Giants needed somewhere to rehearse so the people at the Black and Grey said they could use the new coach house they have refurbished. That was a very useful space,” said Mrs Bibby-Wilson.
“The Ice Bar hosted the early evening storytelling session, which was very well attended, and the Northumbrian pipers had a session in Bin 21’s upstairs lounge.
“It is nice to be welcomed into new places.”
More good news came in the form of fund-raising via collection boxes around the town. They will be put back into several local businesses soon to try to generate funds for the Gathering throughout the year.
Mrs Bibby-Wilson said: “We had a good response to the collection boxes that we had at different events. Many of the events were free, but we asked for donations and we covered the cost of the boxes and made money as well.
“We hope people will look out for the boxes in various shops and businesses around the town. We will be putting them out shortly to collect money during the year when we have a lower profile because we still need to raise money for next year’s Gathering.”