Saturday, 16 December 2017

The seat of government- why not visit in 2018?

Every year hundreds of Hexham constituents take the opportunity to come to Westminster and take a tour around Parliament, and you can too.  Constituents, families and school groups are all very welcome - the chance to see the historic buildings, including Westminster Hall, Central Lobby and, (when Parliament is not sitting) inside the Chamber, is something very special.  A tour of Parliament is something that is on many bucket lists and if you would like to take this opportunity next year, please get in touch with my office to arrange a visit - it's well worth a trip!

Friday, 15 December 2017

What a card!

My 2017 Christmas card is currently being sent out around the constituency, and last week I was joined by my competition winner Brooke Foster, a pupil at Prudhoe Castle First School who designed the Christmas card, and her family to see the decorated Kielder Christmas tree in place in Westminster. We were also joined by representatives of the Forestry Commission who have allowed us to be part of the Kielder tree's journey this year and one of the competition sponsors, Alan Ferguson of Ferguson Removals. Well done Brooke and I am looking forward to next year's competition already!

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Success keeps on coming for the Rat Inn and chef Kevin MacLean

I am so pleased that my nominee for Parliamentary Pub Chef of the Year, Kevin MacLean of The Rat Inn, Anick, has been shortlisted as one of four national finalists. The competition is searching for the country's most talented pub chefs and Kevin is now down to the final four after a panel of judges selected the best entries from more than 130 nominations. Kevin will next take part in a cook-off event in London in January and the winner will be announced the following month. The competition is run by the British Beer and Pub Association and the All Party Parliamentary Beer Group in partnership with Nestle Professional.

Pubs are an incredibly important part of the local economy and community, and The Rat Inn is a particular favourite of mine. I am delighted that Kevin has been recognised for the wonderful food that the Rat Inn is famous for. I wish Kevin the best of luck at the cook-off and have no doubt that he will do himself, The Rat Inn and the Hexham constituency proud.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Start sculpting your career as an artist

If you're 18-25 years old, Cheeseburn Sculpture want you to apply for the third Gillian Dickinson North East Young Sculptor of the Year competition. The award is an annual award of £6500 to encourage new talent and to support the early careers of young North East artists, providing a professional showcase at Cheeseburn and helping them begin their professional career.

The deadline for applying has now been extended to Friday 15th December 2017, and to apply you must be 18-25 years old, from the North East or studying and committed to establishing an artistic practice in the North East, or already be a practicing artist in the North East. Ten artists will be shortlisted and will be awarded £300 each to develop a proposal for a sculpture of an installation at Cheeseburn. The winning artist will be announced in summer 2018, receiving a bursary of £1500 and a production budget of £5000 to produce the work which will be unveiled at Cheeseburn in 2019. To apply, complete the application form found here - -

and email it to along with up to six images of your current work. 

Arts and culture are vital parts of any community, and I hope that any aspiring young artists in Tynedale and Ponteland will take this brilliant opportunity. You never know, your work might be on show at Cheeseburn in the future! 

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Showcasing the North East

There is fantastic news for the North East as VisitBritain, Newcastle Airport and NewcastleGateshead Initiative have announced a partnership to promote the region to overseas visitors. The aim of the partnership is to encourage more visitors to come to the North East and explore our culture and heritage over the course of three years. The initiative will target visitors from Germany in its first year, with direct flights from Berlin to Newcastle making the North East an attractive destination. Northumberland Tourism are one of several organisations involved with the project, which will hopefully showcase the North East as a great destination for international tourists, improving the economy and the tourism industry in the area. Next year’s Great Exhibition of the North will also play a significant role in encouraging international tourists to visit the region, with exhibits, performances, culture and much more hopefully promoting the North East to a wider audience. We know that the North East is a wonderful place to live and visit- this partnership will make sure everyone else knows too!

Monday, 11 December 2017

Stay warm this winter

Winter is well and truly under way, meaning that it's now more important than ever to prepare your home for the cold months ahead. This week my sixth annual Energy Guide, produced in association with Calor, will be posted out to thousands of homes across the constituency, giving you advice on how to make your home more energy efficient and to get the best deal from your energy supplier to keep your energy bills as low as possible. I was pleased to meet with Reverend Canon Doctor Dagmar Winter to launch it this week. We get so much confusing advice about how to make our homes energy efficient whilst keeping energy bills down so I hope that my Energy Guide will be useful to you this winter, giving you all the advice you need about preparing your home for winter. If you haven't got your free copy of the Energy Guide and would like to get hold of one, please contact my constituency office.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

A cheque from a champion

It was great to join the Hexham Constituency Community Champion of the Year, Alicia Armstrong, to present her chosen charity, Josie's Dragonfly Trust, with a cheque for £100. The donation was part of Alicia's prize and will help to support young cancer patients and their families. Thank you to Gareth Jones of RedHot Property who kindly sponsor the awards for joining us yesterday- Josie's Dragonfly Trust are a wonderful charity and I am delighted that Alicia chose to give her donation to them. Well done to Alicia and Josie's Dragonfly Trust, who both make such fantastic contributions to our community.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Tynedale is Dementia Friendly

I was pleased to meet with Corbridge Parish Councillor Melvyn Stone and County Councillor Nick Oliver recently to discuss the formation of Tynedale Dementia Action Alliance and the launch in January of Dementia Friendly Hexham, and to offer my full support. 

Tynedale Dementia Action Alliance exists to transform the quality of life for people living with dementia and for their families and friends across Tynedale.  Amongst many others, objectives include raising awareness of the needs of those living with dementia, to encourage commitment from organisations to become Dementia Friendly and to develop a successful Regional Alliance for Tynedale.  

Melvyn was the driving force over a number of years in turning Corbridge into the County’s first Dementia Friendly Village, with more than 400 ‘dementia friends’ trained to recognise those living with dementia and help them to live full lives.  Many Corbridge businesses display ‘dementia friendly’signs in their windows, and there is a regular ‘Memory Cafe’ at Corbridge Village Hall, as well as organised activities.  Not content with his success in Corbridge, Melvyn and others are now rolling out the programme across Tynedale - with the Hexham Courant pledging their support and committing to become a ‘Dementia Friendly’ newspaper.  

I’m grateful to Melvyn and all those who help and support him in his work to improve the quality of life for dementia sufferers and their families.  Thank you Melvyn.

Friday, 8 December 2017

Hexham's Oscar nominees

The Countryside Alliance Awards, nicknamed the 'Rural Oscars', honour the skills, produce, tradition, enterprise and people who do outstanding work and make a difference in their local community, and I'm delighted to hear that two finalists at this years awards are based in the Hexham Constituency. The Blagdon Farm Shop in Seaton Burn is nominated in the local food/drink category, and in the butcher category WMH Farm Fresh Meats in Haydon Bridge is nominated. It's great to see local businesses recognised at a national level for the invaluable role they play in our rural community and I wish both businesses the best of luck when the winner of each category is announced in March.

Thursday, 7 December 2017

An Inspirational Community Champion

Yesterday I had the pleasure of welcoming my Hexham Constituency Community Champion of the Year Alicia Armstrong and her mother Maria to Westminster Hall, together with Gareth and Fiona Jones of RedHot Property who so kindly sponsor the awards. Alicia is a leukaemia survivor who has since set world records at swimming in the World Transplant Games. She is also an ambassador for organ donation and her achievements are truly inspirational. Part of Alicia's prize was a donation to her chosen charity, Josie's Dragonfly Trust which supports young cancer patients and their families. Congratulations to Alicia- a very worthy winner and a wonderful member of our community.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Protecting our pollinators

Protecting the environment is one of the most important issues facing us today, and so I welcome the Environment Secretary Michael Gove’s announcement last month that he is backing new restrictions on pesticides that have been shown to be harmful to bees. Scientific evidence continues to show that neonicotinoid pesticides are harmful to bees and other pollinators and consequently they endanger the whole ecological system of our planet, so it is great news that the government is taking action to save our pollinators. The move has been praised by Friends of the Earth and I am pleased to see the government listen to experts to ensure that we protect the planet for future generations- it is our responsibility.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Brewing success

We all love a cup of tea, and so it is great news that Northumberland Tea has agreed a deal with the Co-op to sell the product in sixty of its stores across the North East. Northumberland Tea was only launched four years ago by Corbridge-based Bill and Helen Logan, so this is a fantastic achievement and a huge development for the company. A donation from every pack of Northumberland Tea sold also goes to the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, meaning that not only is the deal brilliant news for the company, but it is also a wonderful way to raise money for a great charity. Northumberland Tea celebrated the deal earlier this week along with World Cup winner and honorary ambassador for Northumberland Tea Jack Charlton, and with Northumberland tea now being sold in stores all over Northumberland, there certainly is a lot to celebrate! I look forward to seeing Northumberland Tea in Co-op stores very soon- it’s good to see local products on sale in major stores in the area. 

Monday, 4 December 2017

A magical night in Corbridge

Tonight is the biggest shopping event of the year in Corbridge, with all the shops, pubs and cafes staying open until late to give you the perfect chance to get your Christmas shopping done. Not only that, there will be some fantastic entertainment around the village including a brass band, steel pan band and street food traders all coming together for a fabulous and magical evening. The event is on from 6pm-9pm tonight (Monday 4th December)- 4000/5000 people are expected to attend and extra parking has been organised along with a shuttle bus from the rugby club car park. While you're there, make sure to visit the church to see 85 beautiful Christmas trees decorated by local businesses and community groups. It's going to be a wonderful evening!

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Scooting his way to the top

I recently met nine-year-old Josh Newton, a winner of one of my Hexham Constituency Community Champion Awards. 

Josh, who is a pupil at Prudhoe West Academy and rides for Override Indoor Skatepark in South Shields, was crowned Under 8 Champion at the Scoot Sport GB National Finals as part of Scoot Fest, riding so well that he would have come third in the under 12 class had he qualified for that category. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting Josh and hearing all about his experiences at the tournament- his enthusiasm and dedication to scooter competition is brilliant! Josh only began riding his scooter two years ago, so to have become the national under 8s champion already is an incredible achievement. Well done Josh! 

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Shop Local!

Today is Small Business Saturday, a day to highlight small businesses and to encourage people to support them by shopping local. This is the fifth Small Business Saturday, and previous years have been a great success- last year customers spent £717 million at small businesses on Small Business Saturday, and hopefully this year will be even better yet for our region’s small businesses!

Tynedale and Ponteland is home to countless brilliant small businesses that form such an important part of our community, and to showcase these businesses I launched my Small Business Awards scheme to celebrate the best of the Hexham constituency’s small businesses. I was delighted to see so many nominations coming in for a huge range of small businesses across the region, and last week I travelled across the constituency some of the businesses that received the most nominations, including Railway Hotel, Haydon Bridge, Shorts of Corbridge and Tea and Tipple, Corbridge. It was great to meet owners and staff and to thank them for the vital role they play in our community.

Just some of the businesses that received certificates of excellence, from a wide range of sectors, include:

  • ·      Tea and Tipple, Corbridge
  • ·      Dingle Dell, Heddon-on-the-Wall
  • ·      Kielder Birds of Prey Centre
  • ·      Langley Furniture Works
  • ·      Debbie Young Photography, Prudhoe
  • ·      The Crown Inn, Humshaugh
  • ·      Behind the Scenes, Ponteland
  • ·      Heritage Accountacy, Ponteland
  • ·      What a Clip, Prudhoe
  • ·      JA Stobo and Son, Wylam
  • ·      Bellingham News and Post Office

And many, many more!

Of course, small businesses are open and serving the community all year round, not just on Small Business Saturday, and so please do continue to let me know about the local businesses that you value most. And make sure to go out and support the local businesses in your community this weekend- they really are invaluable to our region!