AN annual town show will be transformed into a ten-day festival, bringing together schools and community groups of all ages.

Since the late 1970s, the Great Aycliffe Show has been the biggest and most popular community event in Newton Aycliffe, attracting thousands of families and individuals.

However, attendance has fallen significantly in recent years, often as a result of bad weather, which has led to the cancellation of main arena displays, often at considerable financial cost.

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Organisers, Great Aycliffe Town Council, has been looking at ways to revamp the show for months and, at a recent meeting, councillors decided to replace it with a more versatile event that is not restricted to two days.

This year, the show will go ahead as normal at the Oak Leaf Sports Complex on the Bank Holiday weekend of Saturday and Sunday, August 23 and 24.

But, from next year, it will be replaced by the Great Aycliffe Festival – a ten-day community carnival, encompassing two weekends.

Provisional dates have been set for Friday, July 3, to Sunday, July 12, and it is hoped schools and community organisations from across the area will get involved.

In its current form, the show costs the council £40,000.

An initial budget of £30,000 has been identified for the festival, but further funds are available if needed.

Councillor Bob Fleming, leader of Great Aycliffe Town Council, said: “It is not about saving money, it is about getting better value for money. The problem with the show is that if you get bad weather the event is a flop.

“We also spend thousands of pounds hiring marquees, but if we make use of community buildings and parks across the town we can invest this money into entertainment and also make the event more accessible.”

Cllr Fleming said many of the popular features of the show would be retained, such as the football tournament, dancing displays and some of the animal, craft and horticultural competitions.

These will be combined with a mixture of indoor and outdoor community-hosted events, such as fun days, open days, coffee mornings, concerts and sport competitions.

Any organisation that would like to hold an event during this time can apply for financial assistance.

Two open evenings will be held at Newton Aycliffe Youth and Community Centre on Burn Lane at 6pm on Monday, August 11, and Thursday, August 14, at 6pm.

For more information contact 01325-300700 or