Olympic theme kicks off town festival

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THE Olympic celebrations in Morpeth will kick-off next spring at the 2012 Northumbrian Gathering.

One of the themes for the three-day event in April is the Morpeth Olympics, which was one of the premier annual sporting events in the UK, particularly during the 1920s and 30s.

And organisers are asking for money and memories to help make it another great festival.

The other theme marks the return of the town’s Coat of Arms this year.

As 2012 will be the 350th anniversary of King Charles II re-granting the armorial bearings, much of the music and some of the performances will be from his era.

Head organiser Kim Bibby-Wilson said: “We will be calling for members of the public to come forward and share their stories of the Morpeth Olympics and lend us related items that could be put on display.

“We will be celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Blaydon Races and marking the Morpeth New Year’s Road Race.

“All the sports clubs will be welcome to get involved with this theme and supply us with interesting artefacts.

“As for the Coat of Arms, there will be music and a special concert relating to the period when Charles II was in power.

“Ray Alexander will play Sir George Downing, who was Morpeth’s MP at that time and gave the land at Downing Street to the Government so it could become the Prime Minister’s residence.

“There will also be an art project covering both themes, which we hope to involve families and disadvantaged young people working alongside the carnival club.”

Once again the event, which will be held between April 13 and 15, is facing funding pressures.

Although Mrs Bibby-Wilson said the Gathering will definitely go ahead, the number of activities will depend on the amount of successful grant applications and donations.

“The toughest challenge to meet is running costs and funding the professional performers,” she added.

“Therefore, any donations or sponsorship from members of the public, local organisations and businesses will be very welcome.

“It’s also very much appreciated when residents are able to organise some activities themselves, which helps to attract more people to the festival.”

To help raise funds, a CD is being put together which includes the Morpeth Rant, a William Turner jig, a piece about the siege of Morpeth Castle and a brass band arrangement of a piano waltz composed by Mary Hollon.

The AGM of the Northumbrian Gathering Committee will take place on Saturday in the Morpeth Chantry, Bridge Street, from 2.30pm.