A MAJOR arts festival is to be staged in Northallerton later this summer to mark the re-opening of Hambleton Community Centre after its £400,000 refurbishment.

Professional dance, theatre and music companies will mix with local talent during the week-long September festival, which may also see the announcement of a new name for the centre and the unveiling of a permanent piece of artwork to celebrate its relaunch.

The Hambleton District Council cabinet has agreed to guarantee the £4,500 cost of holding the festival.

Members heard that work on the improvement scheme, which began earlier this month, was progressing well. It will see a new roof, new floors and tiered theatre-style seating installed as well as new toilets and complete redecoration.

Council leader Coun June Imeson said: ''A festival will be a marvellous way of reopening the centre. 'It will involved not only professional artists but local people, many of whom we fund through our grants schemes. The festival will be a great platform for them to show off their talents.

''The improvements being made to the centre are the result of months of planning and consultation with user groups. They will make it better for both performers and audiences, sustaining it into the future.''

Members are to set up an independent panel to consider a new name for the centre. District and town councillors and user groups will be asked to look at suggestions already made by the public.

Further investigations are also to be made into a permanent piece of artwork, and possible grant aid to fund it.

Work on the centre is due to finish at the end of August, with the first user groups back on September 2.