Ashington Festival organiser ‘surprise’ at New Year’s Honours inclusion

JPCT 301214 S14520053x New Year's Honours List, British Empire Medal, Margaret Alford organiser of Ashington Festival , Ashington -photo by Steve Cobb SUS-141230-160108001

JPCT 301214 S14520053x New Year's Honours List, British Empire Medal, Margaret Alford organiser of Ashington Festival , Ashington -photo by Steve Cobb SUS-141230-160108001

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An Ashington grandmother was ‘honoured and surprised’ to be recognised in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list for her volunteering work.

Margaret Alford, 64, who lives in The Sands with her husband Peter, has been awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) for services to the community in Ashington and was given the news shortly before Christmas.

She got the popular Ashington Festival off the ground in the 1990s and helped lead fundraising efforts for the new community centre which opened in 2003.

The grandmother of three, who also served on Ashington Parish Council from 2000 to 2003, said: “It was a great surprise and a real honour. It was fantastic news.”

Margaret, a registered child minder for 32 years until she retired, was born in the village and moved to Findon as a child before returning to Ashington when she married.

She added: “I just love Ashington and the people in the village and there’s so many people that all work voluntarily for good cases and good projects and I think they do so because they care like I do.

“It’s nice I have been selected but I wish everybody else could be selected as well.”

The Ashington Festival, in its current reincarnation, came about after the horticultural society asked Margaret to put on some entertainments outside its show.

It was such a success that she decided to try and revive the festival day with the help of Ashington businesses and organisations, the first of which was held in 1997.

The yearly event features a carnival procession, flower show, car boot sale, funfair, car show, fireworks display, live music, and charity stalls.

She added: “It’s a fantastic atmosphere. People are so grateful for the day. They come up to you and say thank you for doing this and say we how much enjoy they enjoy it. I get cards and emails and people stop me in the street. It’s not only me it’s a committee that works together.”

It has become hugely popular not just in the village, with visitors from America and Australia in recent years.

Margaret is currently chair of the festival committee as well as secretary and booking secretary at Ashington Community Centre, and was also involved in organising events celebrating the Millennium in Ashington.

Margaret is also a committee member of Ashington Residents Association, vice chair of housing association Saxon Weald’s Residents Action Panel, and chair of its Everyone Counts service group.