DOZENS of artists and community groups are preparing for a popular annual Christmas Tree Festival at a growing regional arts hub.

The Ushaw Christmas Tree Festival, held at Ushaw Historic House, started last year with 30 Christmas trees.

This year’s event at the historic venue, near Durham, is set to eclipse that number, with around 100 entries expected.

Many of the contributions will come from some of the area’s finest artists who have taken up residence at Ushaw.

The collection of buildings is now home to several professional artists, including Susan Warlock and Jo-Anne Bolton, both of whom are working on submissions for the Christmas Tree Festival.

Ms Warlock, who is a sculptor as well as working in other mediums, has constructed an elegant mosaic Christmas tree for the festival.

She said: “I’ve only been at Ushaw since February, and this is the first big thing I’ve been able to get involved with. I thought this was a great opportunity to showcase what I do, and to contribute to a marvellous event.

“Using lovely sparkling tiles for a mosaic really lends itself well to creating a beautiful sparkly Christmas tree. By using recycled material in the piece, it’s been a really nice way to combine my medium with the theme of the festival and create something eye-catching.”

Jo-Anne Bolton is a craftsperson who grows her own willow in the Deerness Valley and weaves it into eco-friendly items, including baskets, backpacks, and purses. For the festival, she’s creating a willow Christmas tree, complete with angels and star decorations.

She said: “I think it’s amazing what’s happening at Ushaw and with the Festival. The place is buzzing with new life and there are so many things going on. I’ve only been here since October, but I’m loving it.”

The Ushaw Christmas Tree Festival will launch today and runs until Saturday, December 21, opening until 7pm on Thursdays and Fridays.

Ushaw’s curator, Claire Marsland, said: “The response has been tremendous, particularly since the festival is only in its second year.”