Have you ever been to a muckle fligarishon? Or had some gowld a gowpens? Well, this weekend at the fiftieth Northumbrian Gathering in Morpeth, Northumberland you can lowp till ye cowp (or at least find out what that means). The whole town will be taking part in the muckle fligarishon (big party) as dancers, writers, musicians, performers, artists and storytellers gather to celebrate the richness of Northumberland’s traditions and their gowld a gowpens (overflowing gold riches).
Since its inception fifty years ago, the festival has aimed to “continue Northumberland’s traditions”, which it does through a variety of lectures, workshops and performances. Traditional arts and crafts competition entries are displayed in the Town Hall all weekend, with an emphasis on Easter customs, alongside stalls and shepherd’s stick dressing displays. If you’re intrigued by the language above, Northumbrian dialect recitations take place on the Saturday, along with competition for the “Hoafy Trophy”, for the best tall tale or shaggy dog story. And in addition to all this you can lowp till ye cowp (dance till you drop) at the Saturday night barn dance.
To mark the big birthday, the weekend aims to showcase fifty singers, fifty pipers, fifty poets, fifty dancers, and so on. Plenty of previous performers will be returning from previous years, including the York Waites early music group, Seal Knot civil war re-enactors, and the Bottle Bank Band, featuring master fiddler Stewart Hardy – who will also be running this year’s community band workshops. Morris, rapper, and clog dance teams will be performing on the streets (and clogging up the pubs as well) while many local musicians will take up residence in some of the town’s pubs for all-day music sessions.
There’s an emphasis on community involvement and family fun, with craft workshops where children can make crowns, treasure maps and banners for the main event – the Saturday morning parade. With Gathering Sunday falling this year on St George’s Day and also Shakespeare’s birthday, the festival has a chance to celebrate Englishness and Morpeth’s Tudor links with mummers and both morris and maypole dancing. Renowned team the Newcastle Kingsmen will be running a workshop on rapper dancing: a traditional dance with bendy swords that grew up in the pit villages of the North East.
The popular festival began as a single evening’s concert in 1968 and has since expanded to three days of celebrating dance, craft, writing and composing, dialect, street events, battles, talks, displays, workshops, school and care home visits and publications; and all this is achieved in an event still run by volunteers. It really is a whole town festival, having become a tradition itself of which many locals are fiercely proud. If you have an interest in the northern counties’ heritage and culture, or seek a weekend to fill with lots of different events, then this festival is well worth a look.
Morpeth, 14 miles north of Newcastle, is easily accessible on the East Coast main line and A1. The Morpeth Northumbrian Gathering runs from the 21st-23rd of April, more information about the can be found here.