THE founder of a flourishing food festival has been named as the Queen’s first female representative for the North-East.

Sue Snowdon will succeed Sir Paul Nicholson as Lord Lieutenant of County Durham, covering County Durham, Darlington, Hartlepool and Stockton, in March.

Mrs Snowdon who lives near Crook, County Durham, was one of the founder organisers of the Wear Valley Food Festival eight years ago.

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In April the annual festival held at Auckland Castle attracted more than 20,000 visitors to Bishop Auckland.

She has also played a big part in the Butterwick Hospice’s attachment to Bishop Auckland and was a magistrate, a position she will have to leave to take on her new role.

Mrs Snowdon, who lives near High Grange with her farmer husband Keith, has been a deputy lieutenant since 2006 and will succeed Sir Paul Nicholson when he retires on March 7.

She said: “It is humbling and such a privilege to be appointed.

“It’s even more incredible to think I am the first lady to be appointed to the role.

“Sir Paul has played a vital role in the growth of County Durham and I want to carry on his excellent work.”

There are 98 Lord Lieutenants covering regions of the United Kingdom who act as the monarch’s representatives.

They are responsible for arranging royal visits to the area and for keeping the royal household up to date with local issues.

The first Lord Lieutenants were appointed by Henry VIII with the job of raising an army when needed.

Sir Paul Nicholson has been County Durham’s Lord Lieutenant since 1996 and said he was sad to be leaving the role.

He added: “I am delighted that my successor is Susan Snowdon, who is a wonderful person and will be a very worthy successor.

“I am very pleased that she has been appointed.”

Mrs Snowdon was born in Spennymoor the daughter of a butcher and spent 18 years teaching in Ferryhill and Chilton before retiring in 1989.

She said: “I will spend the next few months learning everything I can from Sir Paul.”