Music, dancing and a laser show helped see in this year’s Houghton Feast celebrations at its opening ceremony.
The feast, which began in the 12th Century, was revived by the community in 1967 and has become an increasingly popular annual event now stretching over 10 days.
Celebrating its 50th anniversary, this year’s community celebrations have a time travelling theme reflecting the area’s heritage including one of its most historically significant residents - Bernard Gilpin.
The Rector of Houghton 1557 to 1583, Gilpin is thought to have helped launched Houghton Feast either as an extension of the annual Michaelmass services at the Parish Church of St Michael & All Angels, or as a celebration of his safe return to Houghton after his arrest for heresy when the country was under the rule of Mary I.
Whatever the historic fact, it is well known that he would welcome and feed his parishioners and their families each Sunday from Michaelmas to Easter.
He would regularly give a bullock or hog for roasting to feed the Parish’s poor, which is the origins of the annual Roasting of the Ox, which takes place on Monday.
As part of opening night, a parade led by Houghton Area Youth Brass Band with schools carrying Doctor Who-themed lanterns behind large dancing puppets of characters took place, while music was provided by Hetton Lyons Primary School Choir and Tom Mouse-Smith, 13, a pupil at Houghton’s Kepier Academy,
The Mayor of Sunderland, Coun Doris MacKnight, performed the Feast lights switch on and said afterwards: “I’ve been delighted to be here tonight for the opening of the Feast.
“It’s 50 years since the modern Feast was revived and it’s great to see so many people turn out for a traditional event like this.”
The Feast runs until Sunday, October 15, with various events taking place each day in the town.