A FIFTY-foot-high ferris wheel, hot air balloon rides, sporting contests, parades and live music are being lined up for Alnwick’s summer celebration to coincide with the arrival of the Olympic Torch on June 14.
Community-led plans for the Festival of Alnwick, in celebration of London 2012, are gathering pace following an intense series of meetings between local groups and partners including the town and county councils, Alnwick Castle and Garden, and RAF Boulmer.
The aim is to showcase the town and its surrounding area when the world’s media descends during the week-long event, which will begin on Saturday, June 9 and culminate on Friday, June 15 – the day the torch leaves Alnwick for Newcastle.
As well as celebrating the sporting achievements of local people, the festival organisers also want to give all clubs, societies, community groups, schools and organisations a chance to shine and ultimately attract new members.
And in keeping with the spirit of the Olympics, it is hoped the extravaganza will establish a legacy of sporting activity in the district, while attracting tourists to join in the celebrations and boost local trade.
While the official Olympic Roadshow takes place in the Pastures on the Thursday evening, there are plans for a funfair on Bondgate Within, possibly including Alnwick’s own version of the London Eye, to run late into the night.
RAF Boulmer also hopes to bring in a hot air balloon for the day, offering four people a tethered ride into the skies above the town, where they will be able to get panoramic views of the torch celebrations.
And on the Friday night, following the Torch’s departure, a special closing event will be held at The Alnwick Garden, where all the winners of events held during the course of the week will be given specially-commissioned medals, culminating in a spectacular flame show.
Festival co-ordinator Karen Larkin said: “We’re hoping to make the Festival of Alnwick one of the biggest shows of its kind the area has ever seen, as the visit of the Olympic Torch is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us all.
“The only way for this to work, however, is for the whole town and surrounding district to get involved – we want anyone interested to come forward and take part. It doesn’t matter how big or small your group, club or activity is, it’s taking part that matters.
“It’s difficult to describe just how big this event is – this is our own community-led celebration, which will complement the official Olympic roadshow, which arrives on June 14. This festival is for every single organisation, whether it’s a school or sporting club, to jump on board and make the most of this golden opportunity. We’re waiting to hear from you so that we can give you your chance to shine.”
The festival has been split into four areas, made up of sport, community, schools and the arts, including dance, in a bid to cast the widest possible net and attract the greatest involvement.
In the sport section, perhaps the biggest event will be the rescheduled Les Allcorn Race organised by Alnwick Harriers, while Alnmouth and Lesbury Cricket Club will be hosting a cricket festival, alongside Alnwick’s club. Amble Sea Angling Club is planning to hold a competition, as are Alnwick’s golf, football, rugby, bowling and chess clubs.
At The Alnwick Garden, there will be fencing and archery displays, while in the town centre, combat fans will be able to witness the rare spectacle of an 18th century-style singlestick tournament, organised by the Alnwick-based Hotspur School of Defence. And Willowburn Sports Centre will be laying on taster sessions from April 16 to July 16, while the Alnwick area heats of Northumberland School Games will also take place.
On the community front, a version of the traditional Alnwick Fair looks set to be revived, with a competition to find a Fair Queen, Fair Princess and Junior Bellman at Blackmore’s on June 1, plus plans to stage an opening parade and events such as the popular strongman contest.
Smaller versions of the annual food festival, music festival and town criers’ competitions are also in the pipeline, while Alnwick Round Table is considering staging a mini beer festival. HospiceCare North Northumberland hopes to have a midnight charity walk, while the WI is planning a sand sculpture contest.
There are also plans for exhibitions by Alnwick Camera Club and the Bailiffgate Museum, ballroom dancing sessions in the Northumberland Hall and the creation of a special arch into the Market Place by Whittingham Scouts. Further support has come from Alnwick Friends of the Earth, with plans for a sunflower-growing contest and planters filled with edibles in and around the town.
Many of the area’s schools have jumped on board, with hopes to amalgamate choirs from Alnwick South, St Michael’s, Duke’s Middle and Duchess’s Community High School for a performance at the closing ceremony.
First schools are also planning to produce banners for a parade, while Alnwick South is staging an Olympic-themed sports day on Friday, June 15.
On the arts and dance side, Alnwick Playhouse is working on a programme of events, as is Dansformation’s Emma Dunn.
Local blacksmith Stephen Lunn has also been commissioned to make a special beacon for the town, which will be lit during the week. If anyone is interested in sponsoring it, or medals for competition winners, contact Karen on 07846 542929 or email email@example.com