Town should reap rewards of increasing festival fever

It is hoped that new festivals will attract people into Berwick, like the Dickensian Market did.

It is hoped that new festivals will attract people into Berwick, like the Dickensian Market did.

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One of Berwick’s key attractions is its growing reputation as a place to come and enjoy entertainment of all types in a festival atmosphere.

Fifteen thousand people attended the autumn festivals alone last year, and with even more on offer in 2014 Berwick is set to enjoy a varied and vibrant programme of events from April to October.

The Berwick Walking Festival, Berwick Festival Opera and the Berwick Book Festival are three new initiatives in Berwick’s busy calendar which are set to entertain and attract both locals and visitors in the coming months.

Having previously supported the Walking Festival – which steps out for the first time in April – Berwick Town Council’s events committee has provisionally agreed funding applications of £1,200 from the Berwick Festival Opera and £2,500 for the Berwick Book Festival.

The grants are set to be rubber stamped by the town council’s finance and resources committee at its meeting on March 17. If successful, these latest additions to the Berwick calendar will become annual events, which will hopefully attract more day-trippers and holidaymakers to the town.

Together with the Film and Media Arts Festival; the Food and Drink Festival; and the new-for-this-year Walking Festival, Berwick now boasts a rich and varied programme of events throughout the year.

Welcoming the success that saw some 15,000 visitors to the festivals held last autumn, the town mayor, Councillor Isobel Hunter, said: “It’s great to see that these events attract people from outside the immediate area, bringing valuable trade to the town’s shops, restaurants, cafes, pubs, hotels and B&Bs.

“Indeed, it’s not just these autumn festivals that attract people to the town – we recently had an enquiry from someone wanting to time their visit to coincide with the Spittal Seaside Festival.

“The new walking and opera festivals will complement the established events already organised by the likes of Mouth of the Tweed and Spittal Improvement Trust through the summer making us a festival town from April to October.”

With the traditional high street shopping struggling, it is imperative to find a way to breath life into the town.

Tourism agencies say that festivals provide benefits not only for individual businesses but for a community and tourism region. Research has found that local and regional events can increase visitation and expenditure, reduce seasonality, encourage repeat visits and heighten regional awareness. They can also provide the stimulus for development infrastructure in the local area and building community pride.

Town councillor Joe Lang, who was involved in helping to co-ordinate the joint marketing of last autumn’s festivals, said: “Selling Berwick as a festival town certainly benefitted each individual event and the planned book festival will be an added attraction, as will the summer opera festival.”

He added: “It’s worth remembering that the festivals are not just for visitors, but provide enjoyment for people in the town as well.”

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