COMMUNITY: Traditions are alive

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As a native of Newbiggin by the Sea, I count myself lucky to live in a place where community spirit is still thriving and many of our traditions still play an important part in our everyday lives.

You just need to browse through the church magazine, The Point, to see that there are numerous traditional activities taking place in our town, too many to list here.

As for traditional music such as carol singing, we perform the Living Nativity every year on the Quay Wall, thanks to Peter Sinclair, who was a great traditional influence in his time as vicar in Newbiggin.

Due to inclement weather this year, it was held in St Bartholomew’s Church Hall, followed by a feast fit for a king.

The Grace Darling Choir has also performed on the Quay Wall, together with our very own Steel by the Sea.

The switching-on of the Christmas Tree lights on the Quay Wall is also a well established tradition.

The bonfire and fireworks display on the beach, organised by the Traders’ Association, was watched and enjoyed by hundreds, if not thousands, of spectators, and what a sight it was when the celestial display joined in by supplying a beautiful moonrise over St Bartholomew’s Church.

To keep our traditions alive, we need to involve our children, particularly in music activities. There have been problems in this area, which are complex, but they have not been helped by government cuts, which have reduced the amount of musical tuition offered to the children in our schools.

About five years ago, Newbiggin by the Sea Partnership Ltd took action to address this problem.

We applied to various charitable organisations for funding to enable us to employ peripatetic music teachers so that children from all backgrounds could be given the chance to learn a musical instrument or join a choir.

Our fundraising was extremely successful and the project was started at Grace Darling Academy. Since then, we have had further funding so our project is ongoing.

It has been acknowledged as a resounding success by the headmistress and head of music, and has had a knock-on effect in the Josephine Butler School.

A large number of children are now involved in musical performances. On a recent visit to Grace Darling’s traditional Christmas festivities, I was amazed at the number of children singing and playing along to Christmas carols competently with much joy on their faces.

There is a lot of talk by politicians about social mobility. Becoming a competent musician is one of the greatest social levellers, something I have experienced over many years.

Tradition is alive and well in Newbiggin by the Sea, but we must nurture it to make sure that it continues for future generations.

Keith Shirley

Trustee of Newbiggin by the Sea Partnership Ltd