Our beginnings

In 2013 happeningupnorth’s director, Kate Holt, had realised that although she had lived in Rothbury for almost 10 years, she knew almost nobody beyond her immediate neighbours and the businesses she used in the village. Wondering how this could be, Kate realised that for those women who were not part of the school gate gang or a church congregation and too young to benefit from all the activities offered by U3A, there was no overarching organisation to belong to.

Furthermore special interest groups – and Rothbury has plenty of those – tended to start their activities too early for people working outside of the valley to be able to attend. As a result there was a sizeable group of women: energetic, competent, skilled, interesting, professional, women, who were not meeting each other or able to make a contribution to their neighbourhood. She decided to change that.

The resulting club – a new WI group – launched in November 2013 with 60 members and soon there were over 80 women attending events such as star gazing at Keilder Observatory, cocktail demonstrations, cookery competitions (of course!), singing, walking, cycling, running, gardening and reading groups, dance classes, art classes and crafting workshops. At a stroke, the social dynamic of the Rothbury community shifted – women who had never met each other were making friends, sharing ideas and beginning to collaborate.

So when Kate was approached by the North East Ambulance Service to raise money to buy a public access defibrillator for Rothbury she turned to this new group and invited them to pool their collective know-how and energy to raise money for not just one defibrillator but enough for 10 – to make the whole valley the UK’s first ever HeartSafe valley.

For years, in a variety of roles and a wide range of public sector organisations, Kate had worked as a senior manager to change organisational narrative and raise ambitions through symbolic events and festivals. Organising the opening ceremony of a new FE college by the then PM, Tony Blair, reimagining and professionalising college open evenings, running a British Film Study Day for 500 students that included interviews with Directors, film censors, actors and writers, launching the UK’s largest ever Career Academy in Carlisle, creating Burns Night events for Cumbria’s Chamber of Commerce – the list goes on.

Never short of ambition for her events and clients, in Rothbury Kate found this ambition was met by the energy, skills and enthusiasm of her new collaborators. Under her energetic leadership the resultant project, Vintage Rothbury, attracted well over 1,000 visitors to the lovely Northumbrian village to the delight of the 25 local businesses, the 30 local organisations and more than 60 traders and exhibitors spread across 15 village venues that housed more than 20 activities. The event raised more than enough money to buy the target 10 defibrillators which are now installed throughout the length of the Coquet valley and went on the win a Pride of Northumberland Award in the community groups category.

Realising that there were plenty of other communities, companies and groups who would be interested in gathering this kind of enthusiastic and profitable support, around them, Kate set up happeningupnorth to replicate that success in other contexts.

Kate continues to live in Rothbury with her husband John and beloved springer spaniel Jess where she has been project managing the restoration of their traditional stone cottage. She is Chair of the local women’s enterprise network, manages publicity for the Alwinton summer concerts, writes for the local newspaper about Coquetdale and local enterprise and blogs on Northumbrian events. She is currently struggling to learn Italian and enjoying learning how to swing dance.