A TWO week festival celebrating Bishop Auckland’s rich and varied history will take place later this month.

The first Bishop Auckland History and Heritage Festival will explore the town’s past through an extensive programme of events and activities.

Organised by Bishop Auckland Heritage Action Zone (HAZ), the festival will run from Friday, September 13 to Saturday, September 28 and includes Heritage Open Day events taking place in the town.

Councillor Carl Marshall, Durham County Council’s cabinet member for economic regeneration, said: “This is a great opportunity for Bishop Auckland residents, as well as visitors from further afield, to find out more about the town’s fascinating past.

“There’s so much to unearth, with a wide and varied programme to choose from and, what’s more, the vast majority of events are free of charge.”

The opening weekend of the festival will include a hands-on exhibition of memorabilia relating to Bishop Auckland FC’s 1957 Wembley victory over Wycombe Wanderers.

Visitors can make their own rosettes, try out corncrake rattles and enjoy original Pathé film footage of the match.

Bishop Auckland College will celebrate 60 years of learning with a photographic exhibition featuring images of the site, a cine film looking back at the college in the 1960s and interactive cookery, art and beauty demonstrations.

There will also be a celluloid journey around the town, courtesy of the North East Film Archive, and a special history programme on local radio station Bishop FM.

Dr Bob McManners, chairman of the Bishop Auckland HAZ Advisory Group, said: “Thanks to the talent and commitment of many local people and organisations, we’ve been able to create a wonderful and varied festival programme.

“There’s something for everyone to enjoy, from talks and exhibitions to train rides and guided walks.”

Other highlights include the chance to explore Binchester Roman Fort, walk in the footsteps of the Prince Bishops in the deer park at Auckland Castle and find out about the history of the town’s main street in the company of architectural investigators from Historic England.

Jules Brown, historic places adviser for Historic England, said: I’m excited by the sheer breadth and ambition of the festival.

"I’m sure that it will be a big success and there’s great potential for it to become an annual event as part of the legacy of the Heritage Action Zone.”

A partnership between Historic England and Durham County Council, Bishop Auckland HAZ is a five-year project to revitalise the historic market town and regenerate it as a vibrant place for local people, businesses and visitors.

The full festival programme is available at durham.gov.uk/haz