Great Northumberland festival launches tomorrow

Spark! will be performing at the Great Northumberland launch.
Spark! will be performing at the Great Northumberland launch.

Music and dance take centre-stage tomorrow as the Great Northumberland summer festival gets under way.

The eight-week long celebration of Northumberland’s attractions is being launched with a family-friendly day in Hexham.

Street theatre, folk bands, local singers and musicians will form the soundtrack to a celebratory day to mark the Great Northumberland launch, culminating in a huge public ceilidh.

The day is anchored around regional talent and sprinkled with some big names from the international performing arts scene in and around Hexham Abbey Grounds and The Sele.

Among the attractions will be Spark! Drummers, a North Shields-based international street theatre show, combining high-impact drumming with dynamic choreography.

At 1pm, they will lead a parade of performers and musicians to Sele Park, where the Great Northumberland showcase starts at 1.30pm.

This will give a snapshot of the whole Great Northumberland programme. Representatives from each Great Northumberland event will come together to showcase the events that are running right across the summer. Details will be animated via a giant screen and a map, highlighting the location of each show.

The day culminates in a public ceilidh by The Village Band.

Great Northumberland is being delivered by Northumberland County Council. Council leader, Coun Peter Jackson, said: “All of our host venues and Great Northumberland partner organisations will be there on the day, revealing for the first time some of the exciting events and activities they have planned for the 56-day long, fun-filled family-friendly programme.”

Great Northumberland is designed to encourage those visiting the region for the once-in-a-generation Great Exhibition of the North to venture further afield into England’s most northerly county.

Coun Jackson said: “It’s part of our core proposition that business in the North, and Northumberland specifically, benefit from this season of cultural events.

“We are working with regional organisations to deliver the programme, partnering with as many Northumberland businesses and venues as possible to make sure this county-wide initiative benefits everyone.

“The opening day of Great Northumberland promises to be a fun day out in the sun, (hopefully), with something for everyone.

“We’d invite residents and visitors to bring a picnic and enjoy the line-up of bands and musicians we have secured to perform – who are all rooted in Northumberland – and even join in themselves with some dancing.”  

Among those lined up to provide entertainment on Saturday include Northumbrian pipers, Hexham Live Jukebox Band and Dansi. Street theatre will include Swank – Girl Guides; The Wheel Nuts; Dan Fox’s Boom Bikes and Band; and Bruce Airhead, whose show involves a man climbing inside a huge balloon.

The day is being produced by Walk the Plank, one of the leading arts companies in the world, alongside Culture Creative an Alnwick-based firm who deliver global art, sport and tourism events.

Anyone wishing to attend the event this Saturday should simply turn up – it’s completely free and the fun begins at 11am with a community choir performance adjacent to the bandstand.

There will be a free park-and-ride at Hexham and Northern Marts, Tyne Green, Hexham, from 12.30pm to 5.45pm, which will take visitors directly to the Abbey grounds.

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Graeme Anderson, Local Democracy Reporting Service