A new organisation has been set up with the aim of safeguarding the future of a historic Wearside festival.
Houghton Feast has been supported by Sunderland Council since 1974, however backers argue that traditional funding sources are at risk of no longer being available during the current climate of cuts to public sector budgets.
As the 50th anniversary of the ‘Houghton Feast 1967 Revival’ is this week, the festival faces worrisome challenges, namely funding cuts which could jeopardise the current format of the event along with the feast traditions the public have all enjoyed for many years.
The celebration originated as the patronal festival of St Michael and All Angels Church, while the modern event took its format in 1967 after the community came together to revive the feast and typically features an ox roasting, fairground, carnival parade, fireworks and many heritage, community and church events.
Now, six residents have come together to set up the Houghton Feast Trust as a charitable incorporated organisation (foundation) to safeguard and promote the ancient event.
Members of the trust say it will work with Sunderland City Council and members of the community to ensure that Houghton Feast carries on for the next generation.
Trust chairman Kevin Reilly, a Scottish piper with Houghton Pipe Band, said: “Although I am not from Houghton, I made my home here in 1976 and realised very quickly what Houghton Feast meant to the local community.
“We are going to work tirelessly to keep the Feast as part of the community and will keep the Feast alive for the next generation of Houghtonians.”
Houghton Feast Trust Secretary and historian Paul Lanagan said: “Houghton Feast is very close to my heart and in this 50th anniversary year since the Great Feast Revival of 1967, it was important that steps were taken to safeguard our Houghton Feast traditions for future generations.
“The Feast is over 800-years-old and the efforts of the trust will help it to continue for generations to come.
“I am sure the public will offer their support to the trust in any way they can and I look forward to meeting them during Houghton Feast 50 where myself and the other trustees can answer any questions they may have.”
Chairman of the Coalfield Area Committee, Councillor Anne Lawson said: “The Coalfield Area Committee has provided funding and support to community partners including the Trust, to help explore all available options for external funding to ensure the future economic sustainability of Houghton Feast.
“This is a massively popular community event which we are always proud to support, but we also have to consider the financial pressures that the council has to operate under which limits the resources we now have available.
“We welcome the support of the Trust and all our local community and voluntary groups which helps make the staging of Houghton Feast possible.”
This year’s feast begins on Friday.
To help promote the formation of the trust, a small exhibition of Feast photographs plus the relaunch of the Big Houghton Feast Quiz will be taking place at this year’s event.
The exhibition will be on display at Houghton Blind Centre railings, in Thornhill Street, from 11am to 3pm on Saturday, October 7, and at Houghton Methodist Church railings, in Mautland Street, from 9.30am to 5pm, on Thursday, October 12.
The feast quiz night is being held on Sunday, October 15, the final day of the feast, at Houghton Rugby Club from 8pm to 10pm.
For more details go to www.houghtonfeasttrust.com.