The curtain has come up on this year’s Alnwick International Music Festival and the groups have been wowing the crowds.
The eight-day showcase started on Saturday and has filled the town with colour, culture and tradition.
Overseas groups have come from Sicily, USA, Romania, Poland and Taiwan to take part in the annual celebration of music, song and dance from around the globe.
Those from closer to home, including Andrew Lobb, Rhythm Stix, Tribe Zuza and Pauline Vallance, have also played their part.
Even the sun has shone most of the time, apart from a rain-affected first day, which led to the cancellation of the opening parade and a delayed start to the programme.
But with the festival in full swing and with crowds turning out to support the event, chairman Alan Symmonds admits he is delighted with how things are going so far.
He said: “We are extremely pleased. The groups are proving very popular with the audience and they are all working extremely hard. Their performances are outstanding.”
Some of the overseas groups have certainly gone the extra mile to be at the festival, which runs until this Saturday. Between them, the Poles and Romanians spent around five days of travelling to get to the town by coach.
Alan believes it not only shows the commitment of the acts, but also demonstrates the quality of the event itself.
He told the Gazette: “What it says is that the international groups regard Alnwick International Music Festival as a prestige event. It is highly rated because of its folk music and integrity, but also because the people of Alnwick are so welcoming.
“The performers have also been well looked after by the Duchess’s Community High School, where they are staying.”
The groups are delighted to be in the town.
Piotr Sarnik, a dancer from Polish group Lodz, said: “It is great. The audiences have been fantastic and it is a delight to perform in front of them, creating a lot of joy and a lot of smiles on faces.
“Alnwick is a beautiful town, with a lot of history and character.”
It isn’t only the performers who are pleased to be in Alnwick for the festival. Fan Colin Hierde, 82, from Sheffield, is back for the 33rd time. He said he is enjoying this year’s event and Romanian group Doinita are his favourite.
Another pleasing aspect of the festival is the bond created between the groups.
Piotr added: “We are staying together, talking about our cultures and experiences and making friends – friendships that will last.”
Alnwick Working Men’s Club has provided the venue for the so-called international club, where each act takes turns to share its culture, traditions and dances with the other performers from around the globe.
On Monday, a poignant commemoration was held at the venue to mark the centenary of Britain’s entry into the First World War.
The festival committee, as well as the groups, took part in the national Lights Out campaign of remembrance. They lit a candle and a minute’s silence was observed.
The main festival stage is in Alnwick Market Place, with performances taking place daily.
The performers have also showcased their talents at the Alnwick Garden and Castle.
Children’s workshops have been running in the Town Hall, while the Alnwick Playhouse is staging music festival-themed performances tonight, tomorrow and Saturday.
St Paul’s Church, on Prudhoe Street, is holding a flower festival from today to Sunday, 10.30am to 4pm. A songs of praise service takes place on Sunday at at 6pm.
For more information about the festival, visit www.alnwickmusicfestival.com. For details about the Playhouse performances, visit www.alnwickplayhouse.co.uk