The Town Council presents itself as community leaders or community advocates for the town but Morpeth has a real wealth of organisations and groups that help “build community” and in the past couple of weeks I’ve seen a couple of very high profile and very different ones:
Fair Day on the second Sunday in June is a big event in Morpeth’s calendar bringing tens of thousands of people into the town. But how many know that it is entirely organised and run by the Chamber of Trade – sure they have input from the police and help from NCC with road closures on the day – but the whole thing, with planning meetings starting in November of the year before, is undertaken by Chamber volunteers. Money raised goes towards Chamber activities with particular support for In Bloom and the Christmas Lights.
The format was getting a bit stale but over the past couple of years, there’s been a deliberate move away from the “tombolas & burgers” image towards a more varied Fair which benefits the town and local traders a bit more. This year – the parade was the best for some years, the “Food Court” on Newgate was a success for a second year – and the Dog Show on the Stanners was very popular. If you want to be involved next year and/or have some ideas for further improvements – just contact the Chamber of Trade. They’ll be starting again in November!
Then by extreme contrast, I was invited to the 70th anniversary lunch of the Morpeth Antiquarian Society (MAS):
Communities are built when families are able to send their children to the same local schools, when residents are able to use the same local – small and personal – health and community facilities and are able to shop locally, preferably at independent shops. But for a community to be rooted, there must also be an awareness of the past. Morpeth has both an increasing number of Morpethians who have moved away but want to retain hold of their roots and more and more incomers who need to learn about where they’ve moved to. Awareness of history gives both sense of identity and sense of place.
Morpeth Antiquarian Society has the hugely important role of protecting and sharing local heritage and social history so that people are aware of and retain the identity, distinctiveness and character of Morpeth.
It has a role in helping ex-pat Morpethians keep in touch with their heritage and roots and it has a role helping incomers understand the place they are now living in.
They do this through i) annual programmes of informative talks and publication of well-researched local history books ii) through the Morpeth Northumbrian Gathering (which is an “offshoot” of the MAS) – retaining, refreshing and disseminating Northumbrian culture and distinctiveness and iii) as curators of the Collection – which is the core of the once and future Morpeth Museum – and organising regular exhibitions drawing on that Collection. The re-establishment of a Morpeth Museum – “bringing our history home” is a cherished dream of the Antiquarians, and I hope it’s realisation is not too far in the future.
A third great community-builder – the Greater Morpeth Development Trust – has its chance to show what it can do in the next couple of weeks, with their AGM on 13th July then that great family event, Picnic in the Park, on Sunday 16th July. The Deputy Mayor – young Jack Gebhard – will be going along to that, so please support him on his first “outing” in the chain.