'Dying' village alive and kicking


RIDSDALE villagers young and old sported their 1960s fashions in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Ridsdale Junior and Seniors Fund.

When, in the mid-1960s, Bellingham Rural District Council described Ridsdale as a ‘dying village’, the community got behind the pub landlord, David Murkett, to show that Ridsdale had a future.

They began raising money for activities for the village children, which was the start of the Ridsdale Junior and Seniors Fund in 1967.

The first fund-raiser, a donation bottle in the pub, which was then the Armstrong Arms and is now the Gun Inn, raised £42 18s 6d. It paid for a Christmas party with Santa Claus as the special guest, premium bonds for children who were to young to attend the party and a trip to the pantomime in Gateshead.

To this day, there remains an annual Christmas party for the children and a trip to the pantomime at Newcastle’s Theatre Royal, as well as a party in the village for seniors.

The fund runs a variety of events, including the annual summer barbecue, spring festival and Christmas Eve celebration; and holds fund-raising activities to pay for them.

To mark its 50 year anniversary, members of the fund held a Summer of Love celebration on Saturday, July 15 at the Gun Inn.

Those attending dressed up in 1960s outfits and took part in a variety of 1960s-themed games and quizzes, while there was a retro inspired tea party filled with 1960s treats.

Annabel Stanners, a member of the fund committee, said the events held by the fund helped her to get to know people in the village when she first moved to Ridsdale at the end of last year.

She said around 80 people turned up on Saturday.

“We had a great day on Saturday and it was lovely to see so many old and new members and kids and parents having fun,” she said.

“What also was nice was there was a young family who are moving to the village very soon - they were invited as well and I think things like this help people to integrate into the village.”

Old members attended the celebration, including one of the members of the original fund, John Sisterson, who made the trip back to Ridsdale for the first time in a number of years and helped judge the fancy dress competition.

Core chairwoman for the Ridsdale Junior and Seniors Fund, Carol Howman, said: “Back in the 60s, David Murkett told the Hexham Courant that, ‘Ridsdale is a young active village now… and we aim to keep it that way.’

“We think he would be pleased and proud to know that we are continuing to uphold that vision.”

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