Sunday, 8 June 2014

Mayor: Heritage, History & Traditions

Fair Day weekend and my first busy weekend as mayor. Morpeth is clearly a special place, but what makes it so special?

Obviously there’s an awful lot of history – so much that there seems to be a special anniversary on every year. So, as well as being the 100th anniversary of World War I, and the 30th anniversary of Morpeth Town Council – it is also the 300th anniversary of the original Town Hall, designed by Vanbrugh. The Town Hall anniversary was the focus of the Morpeth Antiquarian Society exhibition over the two days of the weekend: it was also featured at the Morpeth Gathering – and will be celebrated at the Picnic in the Park in July and the Heritage Open Days in September. The Antiquarian Society are guardians of the town’s history but have to keep their collections in storerooms at the back of Newbiggin Library. We really should have a proper town museum or heritage centre. Our history shapes us, as Bob Marley sang: “If you knew your history, then you’ll know where you are coming from”

The garden fete on Saturday (7th) was a great showcase for the Millennium Green, which if you don’t know (shame on you!) is off Old Bakehouse Yard on the west side of Newgate St. It was set up in 2001 and has been expanded and developed almost continuously since winning several awards in the process – much to the credit of the hardworking committee. Although relatively recent, it is clearly part of Morpeth’s heritage of greenery, woodland and water in the centre of the town (inter silvas at flumina habitans?). Look out for ‘Music on the Green’ in August and ‘Carols on the Green’ in December – or just pop in there at any time in daylight hours for a spot of peace and quiet.

Fair Day may not be part of the town’s history or heritage yet – but it is definitely a town tradition and part of generations of childhood memories. Despite the absence of the parade, motorbikes and classic cars for a second year due to the flood works on the High Stanners (they’ll be back next year) – the Fair was a success again this year, at least as far as videos posted on Morpeth News TV and elsewhere suggest, with the rides being particularly popular. Of course the weather helped, including the downpour at 5pm which led to the quickest clearing up process on record.

The Chamber of Trade deserve tremendous credit for organising Fair Day year after year – and arguably Alderman John Beynon, the austere and dignified master of ceremonies at every Fair Day is shaping up well to succeed Alex Swailes as the Morpeth Gadgey.

And finally – here’s an idea: Fair Day is always on the 2nd Sunday in June (what do you mean you hadn’t noticed?) so it will always fall in the week following the feast day (7th June) of Morpeth’s very own saint - St Robert of Newminster – so why not rename it “St Robert’s Fair”?

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