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Posted by Pat Edwards


This is an edited account of the full report which is available via the Northumberland National Park website. The report contained photographs which at this stage owing to the format cannot be uploaded. However it is hoped they will be avaiable to uploaded soon.



Working in partnership with Kirknewton Village


The 2014 Kirknewton Festival took place between Friday 15th August and Friday 5th September. It was a two part event, consisting of an Archaeology Weekend [Friday 15th August to Sunday 17th August] and a Walking Week which provided six days of walking, beginning on Sunday 31st August 2014.

The Archaeology Weekend was based at Kirknewton Village Hall (see left) where there were exhibits from the Gefrin Trust and Northumberland National Park providing information about the past in this part of Northumberland, the Northern Heritage bookstall run by Northumberland National Park volunteers as well as Coquetdale Community Archaeology and Tillvas stalls and an area of tables and chairs for the light refreshments provided by the Village Hall Committee.

There were also showings of the recently produced virtual tour of the local church dedicated to St Gregory the Great. Outside, in the grounds behind the Village Hall, there were demonstrations during all three days of heritage crafts by Graham Taylor [pottery], Paula Constantine [textiles], David Constantine [horn carving] and Lance Robson [woodworking].

In addition there was a visit to the Gefrin site led by Roger Miket each day and also a walk to an archaeological site on each of the three days [West Hill (see right) on Friday and Sunday and Yeavering Bell on Saturday] led by Chris Jones, Chris Burgess and Krissy Moore.

On the Friday and Saturday evenings talks were given on the history and archaeology of the area in St Gregory the Great and on the Saturday afternoon a literature course “Border Ballads” took place in Cheviot View. The Sunday was also the day of the annual sheepdog trials and, associated with this, the local archery club offered the public the opportunity to try out the sport.

The Walking Week began on Sunday 31st August and provided two walks per day for six days with starting points between Wooler and Hethpool. .

The objectives of the 2014 Kirknewton Festival were to build on the success of the initial 2012 Kirknewton Festival and, while providing continuity with what was valued in 2012, to develop the event and provide greater variety of activity. In 2012 the driving force for the two voluntary rangers, Ann Logan and Brian Rogers who initiated the event, was a desire to help raise the profile of the northern edge of Northumberland National Park, to provide an event for visitors and local people which showcased the archaeology of this part of Northumberland National Park and offered the opportunity to explore the area on foot and also to work co-operatively with local people to provide an income generating opportunity for the local community. These continued to be key aspirations for 2014.

The Team who developed and delivered the event consisted of Northumberland National Park staff and volunteers and would not have been possible without close partnership working with Kirknewton, and the Gefrin Trust.

Funding for the 2014 Kirknewton Festival came from a successful bid to the Action Areas Budget for £2,130 and from donations from The NNP Volunteer Liaison Committee of £1,000 and from the Gefrin Trust of £100. In addition to this many people gave substantial amounts of time to make the Kirknewton Festival a success. Members of the NNP volunteer Service contributed a total of more than 97 days to the 2014 Kirknewton Festival [Archaeology Weekend delivery 25 days; Walking Week reconnoitres and delivery 45 days; organisation and associated activities 27 days]. For these purposes a day is considered to be seven hours long and the totals include travelling time. This equates to a financial contribution of £4850.00. It does not include the volunteer time involved in designing the leaflet, nor does it include the time, expertise, commitment and support provided by Northumberland National Park staff, in particular Ruth Dickinson and Chris Jones.

Since 2012 The NNP Guided Walks programme, run by fellow NNP Voluntary Rangers, has become a successful and well known annual feature for the local walking community and, with good publicity coverage, is also accessed by visitors to the area. It was agreed that the 2014 Guided Walks programme would carry information about the walks available during the Kirknewton Walking Week.

During the Archaeology Weekend it is estimated that more than seventy people attended on each of the Friday and the Saturday and that there were in excess of one hundred visitors on the Sunday. 

The talks in the church  in the evening were also well supported with seventy to eighty turning out on the Friday evening to hear a talk given by Max Adams on “King Oswald’s Northumbria” and forty to fifty on the Saturday evening to listen to Colm O’Brien on “Cows, books and estate organisation in early Northumbrian monasteries”. The “BorderBallads” course [the only activity during the Festival for which a charge was made to members of the public] had nine bookings.

The ancient craft demonstrators expressed overall satisfaction with how the event had gone although there was concern at the small number coming out to visit them on the Saturday [a concern shared by the organisers] and useful suggestions were made regarding having specific time slots. The Gefrin Project suggested having large banners in places such as in the High street in Wooler and perhaps in Berwick and the organisers are aware of the need for improvement and differentiation in the publicity strategy.

The Village Hall group worked very hard in providing refreshments during the three days of the Festival and also cheese and wine on two of the evenings. A pleasing profit was made but it was hard work for the small group involved. The enthusiasm and willingness to support the Festival and help solve the problems which arise on the part of Kirknewton residents is key to the success of the Festival and the organisers would be loath to try and deliver an event such as this without that support.

Visitors also appreciated the presence of two local archaeology societies – Till Valley and Coquetdale who brought the opportunity to look at finds, read local research, buy books and find out more about how to get involved.


What Next?

It is clear that the Kirknewton Festival has once again been a success. The people who came to the Archaeology Weekend and the Walking Week all enjoyed themselves and the activities offered were well supported and this has encouraged the team to commit to organising a third Kirknewton Festival in 2016.

The objectives are very similar to those of 2012 and 2014 in seeking to help showcase and promote the scenery and archaeology of the north end of Northumberland National Park and to work cooperatively with the local community to develop and diversify the range of what can be delivered. Funding the 2016 Kirknewton Festival will be a key challenge but the positive feedback received from visitors during the course of the 2014 Kirknewton Festival has encouraged the team to commit to continuing to develop this event.

The 2016 Kirknewton Festival will be launched with a concert on the evening of Thursday 11th August 2016. The Kirknewton Walking Week will commence the next morning and there will be seven days [Friday 12th August – Thursday 18th August] of exploring the area on foot culminating in the Festival Weekend [Friday 19th August – Sunday 21st August].

Ann Logan November 2014 

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