On Sunday 15 April, I’m giving a talk on the Morpeth Olympic Games as part of the Morpeth Northumbrian Gathering. The Morpeth Olympic Games started in the 1870s, and had taken on the name ‘Olympic’ by the early 1880s. They took place over two days each year in the Northumbrian town, with a programme of athletics, wrestling, and quoits, and their prize purses were the best in the north-east. They lasted until 1958, with breaks only during the two would wars. For me, they are a fascinating example of a sporting festival called the Olympic Games that had nothing to do with what the International Olympic Committee started in 1896. Unlike the Wenlock Olympian Games, they are not part of the British back story of the modern Olympic Games: their professionalism and prize money made sure of that. Yet they co-existed with the IOC’s Olympic Games for 62 years, and are a reminder that the name ‘Olympic’ has historically meant many different things.
My talk will take place at Morpeth Town Hall, starting at 6pm on Sunday 15 April. It will be followed by a rare screening of some archive film of the Morpeth Olympic Games and other scenes from local history, run by Keith Hartnell. These events are just part of a whole festival weekend.