An annual festival, which celebrates the unique history of a County Durham town, will return bigger and better this year by holding its festival in partnership with a neighbouring area.

Bishop Auckland Heritage Action Zone (HAZ) has teamed up with the Stockton and Darlington Railway HAZ to bring the History and Heritage Festival 2020.

Running from Friday, 23 October to Sunday, 1 November, the festival celebrates the wider history of the North East with a programme of around 50 events that will bring to life the rich heritage of Bishop Auckland and the birthplace of the railway.

This is the second annual festival for Bishop Auckland, and, by working in partnership with its neighbouring HAZ and the Friends of the Stockton & Darlington Railway, the event will not only celebrate the history of the area but also the 26 miles of the Stockton and Darlington Railway.

The theme for this year’s History and Heritage festival is ‘people and place’, with events and activities to celebrate the people who shaped the history of the region’s places while uncovering how those places have also been shaped over the years by their communities.

As part of the festival, Bishop Auckland and Stockton and Darlington Railway HAZ have been creating a “community museum” of pictures of memorabilia related to the town and railway.

Submissions for the museum include promotional material from baking powder company Lingford’s, a household name from Bishop Auckland, and memorabilia relating to the Mechanics’ Institute on Victoria Avenue in the town in 1909.

The Stockton and Darlington Railway HAZ has also been collecting submissions relating to the railway and its branch lines, with a particular emphasis on the celebrations for the 100th anniversary in 1925.

The community museum will be available to view online throughout the festival, either at the council’s HAZ web page or at Bishop Auckland HAZ’s Facebook page. Submissions are still open for those who wish to share any historical memorabilia. A photograph of items with some words describing the pieces can be sent to or, for the Stockton and Darlington Railway,

As well as the community museum, there is a host of activities taking place throughout the festival including recorded and live online talks, films and film clips, photography competitions, crafts, online galleries, and heritage attractions to visit across the HAZ areas.

Bishop Auckland Cine Secrets will take place on Facebook daily at 12pm from Monday, 26 October to Sunday, 1 November, bringing a slice of Bishop Auckland to life through video clips from the vaults of the North East Film Archive.

Budding photographers, aged up to 18, are being asked to take pictures linked to the Stockton and Darlington Railway on a walk, a museum visit or using imagination and interpretation. Entries for the competition should be sent before the closing date of Sunday, 1 November to Trish Pemberton, chair of Friends of the Stockton & Darlington Railway, at

Due to the coronavirus pandemic and to ensure the safety of those enjoying the festival, a large part of this year’s programme will be held online with a host of virtual content. Any activities which are being held in person will have social distancing and safety measures implemented at all times, in line with the current government guidance at the time.

Many of the events are free, some require booking and a lot can be accessed anytime online or via Facebook.

The festival has been made possible by working with a wide range of partners across the two Heritage Action Zones, including Bishop Auckland FM, Locomotion, The Auckland Project, Head of Steam Museum and many more.

Cllr Carl Marshal, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for economic regeneration, said: “Partnership is at the heart of the Heritage Action Zone programmes and this festival brings together two Heritage Action Zones, and many other local organisations, who are all passionate about Bishop Auckland’s and the Stockton & Darlington Railway heritage.

“We believe that sharing our history is a powerful tool to unlock the social and economic value of our places and, long term, will improve their future prosperity. This festival aims to share that history with the local community and even worldwide, through the host of great digital content which will be on offer for people to enjoy.”

Trish Pemberton, who is also a member of the Stockton and Darlington Railway Rail Heritage Board, said: ‘We are now only five years away from celebrating our 200th anniversary and we have really enjoyed working with the Bishop Auckland HAZ to organise our joint HAZ festival.

“This is a powerful example of what partnership working can achieve. We are excited to share fascinating stories of the development of the railway that ushered in the modern railway age and literally, ‘got the world on track’. We hope the festival will inspire as many people as possible to engage with our wonderful local heritage.”

Trevor Mitchell, Historic England’s regional director for North East and Yorkshire, said: “Heritage Action Zones are not just about regeneration and economic prosperity, but about involving everyone in discovery a place’s rich and varied past.

“The festival is a great way to bring people together and celebrate what Bishop Auckland and the area along the Stockton and Darlington Railway Line has to offer as a place to live, work and visit.”

To receive a full digital programme for the festival, email or

Many of the events can be access on Facebook at @BishopAucklandHAZ and @FriendsoftheStockton&DarlingtonRailway.

More information about the Bishop Auckland Heritage Action Zone can be found at

More information about the Friends of the Stockton & Darlington Railway can be found at