Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Christmas comes to Wylam

Christmas is coming, and what better way to get into the Christmas spirit than to attend the Wylam Community Christmas Fair this Saturday. The Fair is at the Wylam Institute from 10am-2pm with all proceeds going to the Wylam Institute. With local crafts, jewellery, glass, candles, wreaths, charity Christmas cards, toys, soft furnishings, refreshments, a raffle and much, much more, it will be the perfect opportunity to start your Christmas shopping whilst also supporting the local community. It should be a fantastic day and I hope there will be a great turnout!

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Sharing our skills

Technology has become such an important part of our day-to-day lives, and so I was really interested to hear about the partnership between Wellburn House Care Home in Ovingham and pupils at Ovingham Middle School as part of the care home's 30th birthday celebrations. Residents have been taking part in workshops at the school organised by Year 8 pupils, to teach them how to use specific areas of technology, including emails, news apps and audio books for residents struggling to read because of poor eyesight. The partnership has been such a success that there are plans for the pupils to go to Wellburn House soon to meet with residents with limited mobility.

It is fantastic to see pupils at Ovingham Middle School share their technology skills with residents at Wellburn House. Partnerships like this are so important and are a great example of members of the community working together to help each other. Well done to everyone involved- what a great idea!

Monday, 20 November 2017

Hexham Art Fair- this weekend!

This Saturday (25th November), the Hexham Art Fair will be taking place, with original artwork by local artists on show. The fair takes place from 10.30am-4pm at Trinity Methodist Church, Beaumont Street, Hexham, and there will be a wide range of affordable painting, prints and cards by local artists and crafters, including members of Hexham Art Clubs and the Beaumont Street Art Group. There will also be a selection of fine art by artists working in Northumberland in the 19th and 20th Centuries, and refreshments are also available. It is hoped that the Hexham Art Fair will be a monthly event, with the next exhibition taking place on Saturday 27th January 2018.

I am sure the exhibition will be a great success- it is fantastic to see an event celebrating the work of local artists. Entry is free, so please do go along this Saturday and support our local Northumberland artists!

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Singing for Syrians!

I am delighted to hear that there will be a Singing for Syrians event on Friday 8th December in the constituency - Community Carols at Acomb Pant at 6pm. Singing for Syrians is a fantastic initiative designed to raise money by holding singing events across the UK. The initiative is part of the Hands Up Foundation which supports organisations working in and around Syria, often implemented by Syrians and monitored by the UK. So far Singing for Syrians has raised over £180,000 to help establish a nursery in Idlib, fund a prosthetic limb clinic on the Turkish border and more.

It's great to see an event like this  take place in the constituency to raise money for aid for some of the people affected by the humanitarian crisis in Syria. I hope that the event is a great success and I would encourage you all to go along and support it, or hold an event of your own.

For more information-

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Protecting their memory

Last week was Remembrance Day and I was honoured to lay a wreath to pay my respects to our servicemen and women who have shown incredible bravery and sacrifice in armed conflicts, both past and present. Northumberland has played a huge role in armed conflicts for our country, and that is why I am so pleased to hear that ten war memorials across Tynedale have been given listed status by Historic England. The war memorials in Heddon-on-the-Wall, Broomhaugh and Riding Mill, Ovingham, Wylam and Whitfield are just some of the Tynedale war memorials to have been listed as part of a pledge to protect 2,500 war memorials by 2018, the centenary of the end of the First World War.

War memorials are such important parts of our local communities, reminding us of the sacrifices of the generations before us in armed conflicts, and I am delighted that these memorials will be protected and maintained for generations to come. Heritage England are encouraging members of the public to put their war memorials forward for listing as part of the project- please do so!

Friday, 17 November 2017

Community Champion- a worthy winner

My Hexham Constituency Community Champion Awards were launched earlier this year to recognise the people making a difference in the local area. Last week I met recent winner Alan Bland,  who has raised £700 in aid of the Great North Air Ambulance by taking part in car rallies, most recently on the Isle of Mull. I really enjoyed meeting Alan and his wife Elizabeth, who has also raised money for the Great North Air Ambulance in the past doing parachute jumps, and I particularly enjoyed visiting the fantastic bar in their home! Alan is a very worthy winner, and just one of many people who are doing great things to help their communities.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Announcing my Christmas card design winners...

Yesterday I announced the winner of my annual Christmas card competition in Westminster. There were many entries from primary and first schools all across the constituency, but after a lot of consideration the winner was Brooke Foster from Prudhoe Castle First School who designed a fantastic Christmas snowglobe for her entry.  The runners-up were Lily Macaulay from Ovingham Church of England School for her brilliant number 10 door design, and Freya Villiers-Stuart of Whitfield Church of England First School which featured a great ice-skating penguin.

The winning design will be featured on the front of my Christmas card which will be sent all around the constituency, as well as to the Prime Minister. Brooke, Lily and Freya have been invited to Kielder Forest next week where they will see the Kielder tree being felled, and Brooke will also be invited to Westminster in December where we will see the Christmas tree completely decorated in place in College Green.

Thank you so much to everyone for their entries and to all the teachers for their help. I really enjoyed looking through them all- every single design was brilliant! Congratulations to Brooke, Lily and Freya, and I look forward to seeing the finished card and to meeting Brooke next month.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Top nomination for Hexham Auction Mart

Congratulations to Hexham Auction Mart which has been shortlisted for the 2017 Achates Philanthropy Prize for staging Northumberland musical Beyond the End of the Road in June along with theatre company the November Club. Directed by Cinzia Hardy with music and lyrics by Blanchland's Katie Doherty, the musical was made possible by an £85,000 grant from Arts Council England, as well as support from other groups. Opening night was held at the Mart before the musical went on tour in seven villages.

The Achates Philanthropy Prize is awarded by the Achates Philanthropy Foundation which aims to support innovation in the cultural sector. The winner will be announced on 27th November. This nomination is fantastic recognition for the arts in Northumberland and I am delighted for everyone involved.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Northumberland Knowledge- Haydon Bridge's John Martin

We all know that Northumberland is home to some incredibly talented people, but this isn’t a recent development. The painter and engraver John Martin was born in Haydon Bridge in 1789, before he became an apprentice coachbuilder in Newcastle and then moved onto London in 1806.

Martin’s career as a painter in oils brought him huge popularity with the public, with most of his income coming from selling prints and engravings of his paintings. Some of his most famous works include ‘The Fall of Babylon’ in 1819 and ‘Belshazzar’s Feast’ in 1821, and he exhibited works at the Royal Academy and at the British Institution. Martin was principally known for religious paintings and vast landscapes and cityscapes with minute figures. He also achieved fame and success overseas- he was made a member of the Belgian Academy and was created a Knight of the Order of Leopold.

Martin’s influence is still felt in Haydon Bridge today- John Martin Street is named in his honour. I find it fascinating to learn about famous Northumbrians of the past- let me know if your town has any famous sons!  

Monday, 13 November 2017

Getting away from it all with Hideaway Huts

I recently visited Mr and Mrs Rudge at Hideaway Huts, two fantastic Shepherd's huts located not far from Vindolanda, The Sill and some of the most impressive parts of Hadrian's Wall that provide cosy and rustic accommodation for visitors to this beautiful part of Northumberland. I really enjoyed looking around the huts- they are a great place to spend a peaceful few days in the Northumberland countryside and I would definitely recommend them to any visitors to the area or any local residents looking for a relaxing break! The huts are also the perfect place to explore Northumberland's dark skies, with a viewing platform for telescopes and binoculars.

Tourism is a vital part of the community and economy in Northumberland, and I really enjoyed meeting Mr and Mrs Rudge and seeing the wonderful accommodation they offer- next time you are considering getting away for a few days, remember Hideaway Huts!

Sunday, 12 November 2017

We will remember them

As remembrance services take place all around the country today, I would like to pay tribute to the sacrifice and bravery of servicemen and women both past and present in armed conflicts for our country. I will be paying my respects at one of many services in the constituency today; we will remember them.

Saturday, 11 November 2017

No place for lynx in Kielder

I have been very vocal about my opposition to plans to release lynx into Kielder Forest, and I am very concerned by reports that the lynx that escaped from a zoo in Wales last week has killed seven sheep. I have had extensive discussions with Kielder residents and the National Sheep Association who have expressed their concerns about the agricultural and economic damage lynx in Kielder could inflict on farmers, and these reports now give even more weight to those arguments. The fact that this lynx has killed seven sheep in days shows that the release of lynx would be disastrous for farmers in Kielder. There is no place for lynx in Kielder.

Friday, 10 November 2017

Bringing history to life in Stocksfield

With Remembrance Day this Sunday, The Stocksfield Players will be marking the occasion with a poignant play about the First World War. Written by Stocksfield resident and writer Rachel Cochrane, the play is set in the fictional village of Stockswell whose residents are brought together when the plaque in their village is stolen- an event which actually happened in Stocksfield a decade ago and which inspired Rachel to write the play. The play tells the story of two mothers living 100 years apart, with the Edwardian family dealing with their son being drafted into the war. The story is particularly moving as some of the names in the play are real names from Stocksfield’s memorial.

The Stocksfield Players have been rehearsing for months, and I am delighted that the play will be performed tonight and tomorrow as a wonderful way to honour the bravery and sacrifice of so many not only during World War One but in every armed conflict.

The play will be on at Stocksfield Community Centre tonight and Saturday at 7pm. Tickets are available from the SICA Office on 01661 842346. 

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Healthy Results for Northumberland NHS

It's no secret that I am a huge admirer of the NHS and the hard work and dedication of NHS staff is something that I am incredibly grateful for.  I was therefore delighted to see how this hard work has paid off for the Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust in a report I received recently from the Department for Health.

Despite the fact that over 14,000 more operations were carried out by the Trust in 2016/17 than in 2009/10, the Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust is rated overall as Outstanding, with 98% of General Practices rated as Good or Outstanding as of May 2017. There are also far more people visiting A&E than in 2009/10, but 94.3% of people coming to A&E were seen within four hours, and by September 2017 this figure had improved to 95.4%.  98% of people referred to the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies programme were seen within 6 weeks and 100% within 18 weeks, and these figures are significantly better than both the target and the national figures.

Funding for the NHS Northumberland CCG rose by 2% on the previous year in 2017/18 to £457.3 million, and next year it will receive £466.4 million, an increase of 1.99%. The Trust's workforce has also grown since 2010- there are now 128 more hospital doctors and 610 more nurses.

It is great to hear that the dedication  of our NHS staff is paying off and that our NHS services in the constituency are continuing to improve every year. I thank them all for their hard work.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Tynedale Community Chest makes first donations

I was pleased this week to learn of the success of many community groups and charities in Tynedale in this round of the new, improved Northumberland County Council Community Chest scheme. One of the key improvements to the new Community Chest Fund is a new grant aimed specifically at the under 18s. Under the new plans there will be a 'Help For You' scheme for young people where grants of up to £200 will be available to help individuals under 18 in the pursuit of a particular ambition, be it sporting, musical or academic.

Applicants for grants ranged from Village Halls, Holiday Clubs, Football and Cricket Clubs, Conservation Groups and Local History Societies.

Amongst the successful bidders were Friends of Bellingham Playground Development Project, Gateway into the Community, Hexham Community Centre, Higher Ground, Prudhoe Local History Society, The Hextol Society, Wylam Rockets FC and West Northumberland Food Bank.

The deadline for the next round of applications is 12th January 2018 and I would encourage local groups, charities and Under 18s to submit applications. There are some restrictions to what can be applied for but it's well worth putting in an application! Details of the scheme are available from the link below-

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Scheduled works for the winter months

I was pleased to hear about plans for the winter programme for the Central area, which includes the four Ponteland wards, which were discussed in a recent meeting with the Highways and Neighbourhood Services teams at Northumberland County Council. The winter programme will run up until around mid-March next year when the first grass cuts of the year commence.

There is plenty of work planned to be carried out over the course of the winter, including shrub maintenance, path clearance and low-level tree work in Darras Hall, Ponteland and Heddon-on-the-Wall.

The Council has done great work to get ride of a huge backlog of potholes in the county, and they will be continuing the work this winter. The definition of a pothole is a 40mm deep hole with an abrupt edge and 300mm wide in any direction, and it is these potholes that are actionable – please let me know about any in your area.

The county’s 86,000 gullies are inspected on an 18 month inspection cycle for ones that don’t have an environmental impact and on a red, amber and green system for those that pose risks. These are done either twice or three times per year to minimise potential flooding issues.

It’s good to hear about all the works that will be taking place in the next few months and the determination of Northumberland County Council to tackle these outstanding issues.