Tourism's top brass get out in the fun

Top brass from the world of tourism are changing places this week, to get closer to the North-East attractions they are helping to promote.

Mike Parker

Top brass from the world of tourism are changing places this week, to get closer to the North-East attractions they are helping to promote.

For Mike Parker, chairman of Northumberland Tourism, it was back to the shop floor at Alnwick Castle yesterday, where he was checking tickets, as well as doing a stint in the gift shop at the Duchess of Northumberland's showcase Alnwick Garden, next door.

And executive director Giles Ingram was also filling in as a visitor guide at the castle, which was recently voted one of the best tourist destinations in Britain.

They are just two of a number of Northumberland Tourism staff who have been working in everything from castles and gardens to hotels, tourist information centres and coastal boat trips, to fly the flag for the region's attractions.

Mr Ingram said: "It is a great opportunity for us all to get away from our desks and get a unique insight into what it is really like to be out there and working at the sharp end of everyday tourism.

"We are all really looking forward to it and I am sure it will be enjoyable and very interesting."

Mr Parker said: "We can often be too wrapped up in what we are doing and just take for granted what is happening on our doorstep. There are many dedicated and enthusiastic people working extremely hard to make Northumberland such a great place to visit.

"It will be good to get out there and be a real part of it."

Others changing places this week include Terri Harper, business relationship manager, who is helping out at Northumberland National Park Tourist Information Centre in Rothbury, marketing executive Tom Hopes, who has been on the Farne Islands, colleague Natalie Williams at Ford and Etal Estates, and marketing assistant Liz Askell, who is at Linden Hall Hotel today.

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Villagers get special call

Villages across Northumberland are being invited to highlight their special qualities - and bid for a national title and £7,000 prize.

Entries are wanted for the third Northumberland Village of the Year title from rural communities with fewer than 5,000 residents.

The winner qualifies for the regional final, which carries a first prize of £2,000 and a place in the national final where £7,000 goes to the winning village.

Organised by Community Action Northumberland as part of the nationwide Calor Village of the Year competition, the Northumberland section has a £400 first prize and the county title.

Communities will be judged on four aspects of rural village life - people, business, environment and communications - and can enter as many categories as they wish.

They also have to describe in up to 500 words what makes their village a special place. Northumberland's previous winners were Wingates in 2005 and Allendale last year - which used its prize money to help renovate its village hall.

Village hall secretaries, parish council clerks, community associations and development trusts in villages across Northumberland have until May 31 to enter and judging is in June and July.

Community Action Northumberland assistant director, Alan Hedley, said yesterday: "Working with fellow villagers on the entry can build up an excellent community spirit. It reminds residents, if they need reminding, of what a special place they live in.

"It is a good way to do an audit of all aspects of village life and to raise the profile of communities."

The contest is part of Calor's Rural Sponsorship programme, which has been going for 20 years.

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