Final festival round-up

Newcastle City Guide Bill Meikle had some surprises for those who turned up for the walking tour of Jesmond, as part of the Community Festival. As well as finding the homes and former homes of several famous footballers, walkers got to see the largest private house in Jesmond, the sites of several grand mansions, now long-gone, and the practice ground of a former Wimbledon Champion.

We learned with surprise that there had been at least 36 coal mines in Jesmond, including one on the green outside St George’s Church. We heard that Armstrong Bridge had been built at Lady Armstrong’s request to save the horses labouring up and down Benton Bank.

Older members of the party reminisced about finding a well under their floorboards, playing on the roof of the Banqueting Hall and hearing about how rough the inhabitants of Holly Avenue were in the 19th Century (no change there then).

The City Guides programme includes more Jesmond tours in the coming year, including the popular walk around Jesmond Old Cemetery on11th April, and one entitled “Armstrong’s Garden” on 11th July. City Guide and author Alan Morgan will be bringing out a book on Jesmond at the end of May, published by the City Library’s Tyne Bridge Publishing.

Elsewhere, Pizza Express celebrated the festival by hosting a junior Master Chef competition.

The final of the pizziolo competition took place on Thursday 25th March. Around 300 children from local schools and the community entered the competition but only a dozen lucky individuals were selected and invited to the final.

The afternoon began with head chef Martin Bardgett teaching the children how to prepare the base for their pizza designs. This seemed easier said than done as dough was torn apart and flour was thrown across the restaurant as the children attempted the task.

The children had support from parents and teachers who had come along to watch the final of the competition. Pizza Express head waiter Hayley Gowland also did a fantastic job of keeping everybody entertained, and assistant manager Ash Parker was there to oversee and judge the event.

The finalists were then given their original competition entry and a plate of their chosen ingredients and asked to recreate their unique designs. The judges were looking for the pizza which matched the children’s initial design and the one which they thought tasted the best.

After judges Ash Parker, Martin Bardgett and Hayley Gowland had sampled a slice of each pizza, the winner and runners up were announced.

Mahdieh Khatami was the overall winner of the competition and won a meal at Jesmond’s Pizza Express for her and her family. She was also awarded a small trophy for being the first Jesmond Junior Pizziolo Master Chef.

Ash Parker said: “I think all the children had fun this afternoon, hopefully the competition can become an annual event”.

Pizza Express provides kids parties and school visits. Children have the opportunity to learn about food and have fun making pizzas with the chefs. For more information contact Jesmond Pizza Express on 01912814767 or visit here.