A YEAR of celebrations has been launched to mark the 50th anniversary of one of the North-East’s best-loved visitor attractions.

It is half a century since the region’s modern mining history was brought alive at Beamish Museum, near Stanley.

The ‘Golden Jubilee’ celebrations will begin with the Happy Birthday Beamish! event during the February half term holidays, which starts on Saturday.

Visitors will be able to join in with birthday parties, games and activities across the museum’s open-air site and the celebrations will continue throughout 2020, with events, exhibitions, competitions and special souvenirs.

Deputy director Rhiannon Hiles said: “We are so excited to be celebrating our 50th anniversary with all of our visitors, staff, volunteers and supporters and what a year we have in store.

“With record visitor numbers of over 800,000 last year, we are looking forward to a year to remember with activities and celebrations to mark our very special Golden Jubilee.”

Visitors are being asked to share their own memories of Beamish, from family days out to school trips.

Ms Hiles said: “Beamish is everyone’s museum and we are honoured to be part of the region’s heritage, it is the stories and memories of the people of the region that make Beamish what it is.

“I’ve worked at Beamish for 25 years this year and will be celebrating my own 50th birthday in style with the museum during our joint golden year.

“l am very proud to be part of the museum’s history and we are looking forward to hearing more stories and memories, so get in touch and let us know yours.”

Beamish was founded in 1970 by Frank Atkinson to preserve the region’s everyday ways of life for future generations to experience, including customs, traditions and dialect.

He had observed dramatic change, with industries such as coal mining, shipbuilding and manufacturing disappearing, along with the communities that served them.

The museum’s costumed staff and volunteers bring this history to life, with buildings and objects donated from across the region, at 1820s Pockerley, The 1900s Town, The 1900s Pit Village, The 1940s Farm and the 1950s welfare hall.

Durham County Councillor Ossie Johnson, the museum’s chairman, said: “Beamish is truly a living museum belonging to our communities which has allowed us, over the last 50 years, to enhance our visitor experience and we will continue to do this in future years.

“I am looking forward to celebrating our achievements with the trustees, staff and visitors.”

Beamish welcomes visitors from around the world and has more than 500 staff and 500 volunteers.

Dr Linda Garbutt, chairwoman of the museum’s access panel, said: “Beamish has grown and developed with many changes over the years, with the devotion, commitment and enthusiasm of all staff and volunteers remaining central and as strong as ever. This expertise is at the heart of Beamish and, as it has contributed to this first 50 years, I feel that it will continue to do so into the future.”