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Annual Jesmond Community Festival is launched

Participants gathered at Jesmond Dene House for the launch of the annual Jesmond Community Festival

David Whinham Circus performers and town crier Marjorie Dodds launch the Jesmond Community Festival
Circus performers and town crier Marjorie Dodds launch the Jesmond Community Festival

Circus performers, a band and a town crier joined forces to say roll up to Jesmond Community Festival.

They were among many participants gathered at Jesmond Dene House for the launch of an annual festival which goes from strength to strength.

Event manager Chris Murtagh said: “It started off nine years ago as a two-day event.

“This year it’s taking place over three weeks with 92 events –and it’s only taking place because the community itself supports it.”

Chris said whereas other festivals had suffered eventually by booking top acts to target big audiences from far afield, the Jesmond version remained “a true community festival”.

He said: “Jesmond has a lot of students and so it’s a transient population. But there is still a core community there and this festival proves it.

“It is supported by the local schools and businesses and creates a lot of work for the local arts and craft industry.”

 

David Whinham Apu perform at the festival launch at Jesmond Dene House
Apu perform at the festival launch at Jesmond Dene House
 

Ellouise Hempstead, who runs a dance and fitness studio in Jesmond, was at the launch with her hula hoop.

“I live in High Heaton but I spend a lot of time in Jesmond and we are happy to support the festival,” she said.

“We teach freeform dance including the hoop. It started as a circus or cabaret skill but we teach it as a fitness exercise.

“We think dance and circus skills are part of the same medium. As long as people enjoy themselves.”

Ellouise and her staff, in circus gear, will be helping to lead the Festival Parade which leaves St George’s Church, Osborne Road, on Saturday at 12 noon.

Marjorie Dodds, who is actually the town crier for Chester-le-Street, has been a Jesmond resident all her life.

The festival, she said, had arisen from the discussions of the Jesmond Forum, representing churches, schools, businesses and other local organisations.

“This magnificent festival comes from everyone doing their little bit,” she said.

 

David Whinham Chris Murtagh, left, and town crier Marjorie Dodds with musicians and circus performers at the launch
Chris Murtagh, left, and town crier Marjorie Dodds with musicians and circus performers at the launch
 

Tony Durcan, of Newcastle City Council, said last year’s festival had exceeded its target with about 9,750 people taking part in events.

“If anyone is in any doubt about the continued existence of a community spirit in Jesmond, the festival demonstrates that it is flourishing for many residents,” he said.

The festival, targeted at all ages, features a Young Bands Night at the cricket club on Osborne Avenue and an “afternoon of fun and frivolity” for the over 50s at Central Newcastle High School including singing, dancing and a quiz.

Also scheduled are debates, walking tours and food events.

The festival runs from May 9-27. Find details on www.jesmondfestival.org.uk

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