A singing bus and a visit from The Stig

Shepherd Graham Dick and pupils of Rothbury First School perform The Canny Shepherd Laddie.
Shepherd Graham Dick and pupils of Rothbury First School perform The Canny Shepherd Laddie.

A singing bus made its way around first schools in north Northumberland on Saturday as part of a history project.

Alnwick’s Bailiffgate Museum has been collecting people’s memories and stories about traditional songs and dialect as part of the BBC’s Great British Story.

As part of the work, six first schools have been working with traditional singer Avril Huntly to learn songs, which were then performed at the weekend as part of a singing bus that travelled around north Northumberland.

On Saturday morning, the red double-decker Dreadnought bus, complete with flags, musicians, singers and guests, was sent off royally by the Bailiffgate Choir, on an eight-hour musical tour taking in the Breamish, Aln and Coquet valleys.

In the weeks leading up to Saturday’s finale, singer and organiser Avril Huntley and musician Malcolm Bennett, paid visits to schools at Branton, Whittingham, Netherton, Harbottle, Thropton and Rothbury to encourage an exchange of ideas relating to traditional words, poetry and songs.

The outcome was an eager group of pupils at each stop proudly singing five songs for parents and guests.

The largest crowd of the day was at Whittingham, where the appearance coincided with the annual summer fair with a visit from Top Gear’s The Stig alongside stalls.

The final stop was Rothbury United Reformed Church, where the children’s performance was followed by a free ceilidh which had all ages dancing.

The project has been described as the museum’s best outreach work in its ten-year existence.

Tom Pattinson, chairman of trustees at the museum, said: “Imagine travelling along this scenic route in a suitably decorated, very special vehicle, surrounded by music, singing and banter.

“We revelled in the spontaneous waves from people tending their gardens or enjoying the sun, and the shepherd with his flock in a roadside sheep pen, smiling and waving in response to our sudden musical presence.

“As we sang and played our way back over Alnwick Moor, there was general agreement that the day would live long in more minds than ours. This was community outreach at its best, thanks to the efforts of a wonderful group of people.”