A Northumberland community is preparing for the launch of its first maritime festival.
The Blyth Maritime Festival is taking place this weekend and is being launched by the Blyth Community Rowing Club to showcase the town’s proud history as Northumberland’s premier port with a wide range of attractions and displays.
The group behind the festival have built a special rowing boat for the weekend which will be paraded through the centre of Blyth on Saturday to the Quayside where it will be launched on its arrival.
It will be accompanied by a marching Jazz band and the children of Croftway Academy - who designed its colour scheme and named the boat Crofton.
The boat, which will be blessed by the Vicar of St Cuthbert’s Church, Revd. Steve McMahon, was built within the Keel Row Shopping Centre by members of the Blyth Community Rowing Club, who will take it for its maiden voyage on the river.
Organisers said it will be a fitting way to begin the festival as it has been 50 years since a rowing boat was last built in the town.
Steve Bradley, chairman of the Blyth Town Team who have helped organise the festival, said: “The idea behind the project was to bring together the people of Blyth to build a boat and form a community rowing club for the town.
“Funding has come from Olympic Legacy money and with the guidance of Blyth Town Council, the Royal Northumberland Yacht club and the Port of Blyth we are sure that the club and overall Maritime Festival will be a huge success. It’s been an amazing project to be involved with and personally I can’t thank the Keel Row Shopping Centre enough for allowing us to build it in full view of the public.
“To know that future generations will now be able to take part in a sport that hasn’t been present on the river for several decades is really impressive.
“The fact that it’s been built by the community and all the hard work will culminate in a parade down to the river as the highlight of the Maritime event will be something that the whole town can be proud of.”
Other activities will also take place on the river including boat and kayak races in addition to a yacht and dinghy parade of sail which has been organised by the Royal Northumberland Yacht Club.
Mike Wade, vice commodore of Royal Northumberland Yacht Club, said: “RNYC has been really pleased to support this community initiative funded by Blyth Council and we have been amazed at both the enthusiasm of the club members who had not previously ever built a boat but also the enthusiasm of the public whose visits to the unit have been increasing week on week.
“We are sure that this club will grow and grow and will be a significant part of the community bringing rowing back onto the river after such a long absence.”
From 10am to 4pm on Saturday and Sunday there will be a vast array of stalls and performances for people to enjoy in Blyth town centre and on the Quayside. Among the many attractions there will be an art and crafts fair, medieval riverside village, street dancing, martial arts displays, laser quest, live music, fairground amusements, a fortune teller and a continental market.