SPECIAL events are proving popular with visitors to Berwick and attracting more people to the historic town.
The findings of a visitor survey carried out in September showed that over 50 per cent of people visited the town specifically to attend events and more than 90 per cent of those surveyed rated the events as excellent or good.
Over 220 people took part in the survey, which was conducted by volunteers over the weekend of September 8-9 at events including the Antiques & Collectors Fair, Heritage Open Days and the Berwick Food Festival.
John Lord, Arch’s project director in Berwick who devised the survey, said: “It’s extremely encouraging for Berwick’s visitor economy that people had such positive experiences here.
“Most people said that they would attend something similar in the future and that is greatly to the credit of the local groups and volunteers who made all the events that weekend such a success.”
“People are responding well to quality events and there is a shared interest among visitors in food, the arts, culture, heritage and the natural environment – which is very much the agenda of the Cittaslow movement and groups like Mouth of the Tweed.
“These are all valuable insights we can build on as we work to develop a new kind of visitor economy in the next few years. At the same time, the survey suggests that we need to use other events like the Film & Media Arts Festival to attract younger visitors in their 20s and 30s.”
Bernard Shaw, who organises Berwick’s successful Antiques & Collectors Fairs and is chairman of Cittaslow Berwick, said: “We all know that Berwick is a very special place, and this survey confirms that visitors will respond if the product is right.
“This weekend of events really showed Berwick at its best, and it is very encouraging that the survey has confirmed our belief that discerning visitors want quality events and experiences that celebrate the history, culture and food of our town.”
The survey showed the events are a significant attraction in their own right: 54 per cent of the people surveyed said they were the main reason for their visit to Berwick that weekend; a significant number (27 per cent) were holidaying in the town or visiting family and friends. Almost half (48 per cent) attended at least two events over the weekend.
Visitors were also very enthusiastic about the events: 45 per cent rated their visit as excellent, and 46 per cent as good.
Many visitors to the events said they spent money on other activities in Berwick: 47 per cent went shopping, 48 per cent had coffee or a drink, 23 per cent had a meal and 32 per cent visited local attractions
A large majority (70 per cent) said they would definitely attend a similar event in the future, and another 24 per cent said they would probably attend again.
A large majority (83 per cent) of those interviewed were aged 40 and over.
Four-fifths (80 per cent) attended with at least one other person; in total interviewees were accompanied by more than 500 people, half of them children
Visitors were asked about their leisure interests: the most popular responses were local food and drink (61 per cent), historic buildings (61 per cent), walking (55 per cent), antiques/collectibles (44 per cent), nature/wildlife (43 per cent) and arts/culture (41 per cent).
Hundreds of visitors attend the annual food and drink festival, held in the magnificent surroundings of the town’s historic barracks.
Visitors were treated to an array of produce from over 40 stallholders brimming with hand-crafted cheeses, locally caught fish and seafood, home baked bread, pies and preserves, cakes and chocolates, sauces and seasonings and locally grown vegetables.
Scores of visitors also take in the opportunity to see places normally hidden from public view as part of Heritage Open Days.
More than a dozen sites in and around Berwick take part in the event, including Berwick Castle, the Elizabethan ramparts and the Old Gaol at Wallace Green.
Similarly, the Antiques and Collectors Fair is always a popular draw.
Arch has been established by Northumberland County Council as an arms-length development company to drive capital economic development, physical regeneration projects and business growth.
It brings together four subsidiary companies delivering services in housing, commercial enterprise facilities and physical regeneration and aims to help the county develop credible sites and propositions to win new jobs and businesses for the area.