A Northumberland town is flying the flag for the North Sea Tall Ships Regatta by putting up the first official decorations in a shopping centre.
The banners are now on display in Blyth and mark the start of decorations throughout the county.
The next phase will include street dressing in Blyth and plans are in place to inspire residents and businesses across the county to decorate their communities to welcome the Tall Ships to Northumberland.
The Keel Row Shopping Centre in Blyth commissioned Headway Arts to work with volunteer artists to create ‘banners of celebration’ for the coming of the Tall Ships to the town.
Twelve banners have been hand-painted on pure silk by people of all ages in a project supported by youth and community groups and local schools who have worked alongside professional artists from Headway Arts.
Northumberland County Council, in partnership with the Port of Blyth and Sail Training International, is hosting the prestigious Regatta with Fergusons of Blyth the principal sponsor.
The process of banner creation began with group discussions about the Tall Ships with the volunteer artists who were then guided by Headway’s team to turn the blank silks into a dozen three-metre long banners.
Lead artist Alison Walton-Robson, creative director at Headway Arts, said: “There was a surge of ideas from the groups including themes of waves and water, the great things about Blyth, imaginary undersea worlds, Tall Ships, sea creatures, and weather and route maps.
“We took all this inspiration into our drawings and built the designs working side-by-side and sometimes through each other arms to reach the larger areas of work on the banners!”
Part of the reason for choosing banners as the medium of expression was their importance in local mining heritage – a focus of community unity and something that can be ‘held up high’.
Leesa Harbottle, assistant head at The Dales School, Blyth, said: “The children really enjoyed the artistic challenge and came up with some fantastic ideas working with the Headway team to create a banner adorned with mermaids, jellyfish and crabs. We are very proud that the children’s work is being shown in the centre.”
Following the first phase of painting, the creative team at Headway Arts completed the production at Headway ArtSpace.
Trevor Gyllenspetz, centre manager, The Keel Row Shopping Centre, said: “Some two hundred people have been involved in making the banners and it has been a privilege to see them being created and to have them here on display.
“They are inspirational and it’s a wonderful way to make people aware that the Tall Ships are coming to Blyth and to offer a hearty welcome to all visitors to the Keel Row Centre, Tall Ships Regatta and our great town of Blyth.”
Also within the Keel Row, the council opens its Tall Ships Information Office on Wednesday as a contact centre for residents, businesses and visitors.
Local ward councillor, Kath Nisbet, said: “The banners are wonderful works of art that have been beautifully designed, painted and crafted and they show how proud, engaged and excited local residents are about the Tall Ships event.
“The Keel Row Centre and the artists have done a fantastic job and we are excited to be starting the decoration of Blyth and we hope that communities across the county will now be inspired to join in the celebrations as we move towards the event in August.”
For further information on the Tall Ships Regatta, visit www.tallshipsblyth2016.com