Former Miners’ Picnic venue to get new lease of life

A former venue in Bedlington for the Northumberland Miners’ Picnic is set to be transformed into a performing arts venue and outdoor amphitheatre

Northumberland miners march to Attlee Park in 1963
Northumberland miners march to Attlee Park in 1963
 

A park which once hosted the annual celebration of Northumberland’s mighty coal industry is to be given a new lease of life as a focal point for its local community.

Thousands of people used to flock to Attlee Park in Bedlington between the 1960s and 1980s when it was the venue for the Northumberland Miners’ Picnic.

Speeches by leading political and trade union figures such as Arthur Scargill, Michael Foot and John Prescott were made to the crowds from the park’s iconic bandstand during the heyday of mining .

Now local charity, Leading Link, has secured £60,000 to help transform the bandstand and surrounding land into a performing arts venue and outdoor amphitheatre.

Working in partnership with the county council, Leading Link is involving local young people in the project, which is being funded by the SITA Trust’s enhancing communities programme.

To start the transformation, about 60 young people aged 16 and 17 have already been involved in designing and painting a mural on the bandstand, which depicts Bedlington’s history.

Future plans include a new pedestrian entrance archway to the park, reshaping the bandstand to make it more aesthetically pleasing and landscaping the surrounding area into an extended stage.

Lyn Horton, manager of Leading Link, said: “We have spent a lot of time this year looking at the heritage that surrounds this area, and because of the miners’ picnic Attlee Park is probably one of the most famous landmarks in Bedlington.

“When we looked at the bandstand, and its significance to the town’s history, we thought there was no way we could knock it down. That was where the idea came to work with the county council to help rejuvenate it.”

Leading Link has had backing for its project from local residents, plus Wansbeck MP and former National Union of Mineworkers’ leader Ian Lavery.

Lyn said: ”When we initially wrote the bid to the SITA Trust we were inundated with letters from local people, businesses and schools lending their support to what they see as a vital project.

“We have even had travelling theatre companies who want to write Bedlington into their plans because of what we intend to do to the bandstand and its surrounding area.”

Earlier this year Leading Link held a family fun day event in Attlee Park which attracted more than 2,000 people. People can keep up to date on the Attlee Park development at www.leadinglink.co.uk .

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