DOZENS of North-East artists and community groups are preparing for a popular annual Christmas Tree Festival at a growing regional arts hub.

The Ushaw Christmas Tree Festival, held at Ushaw Historic House, started last year with 30 Christmas trees.

However, this year’s event at the historic venue, near Durham, is set to eclipse that number, with around 100 entries expected.

Many of the contributions will come from some of Durham’s finest artists who have taken up residence at Ushaw.

The collection of buildings is now home to several professional artists, including Susan Warlock and Jo-Anne Bolton, both of whom are working on submissions for the Christmas Tree Festival.

Susan, who is a sculptor as well as working in other mediums, has constructed an elegant mosaic Christmas tree for the festival.

She said: “I’ve only been at Ushaw since February, and this is the first big thing I’ve been able to get involved with. I thought this was a great opportunity to showcase what I do, and to contribute to a marvellous event.

“Using lovely sparkling tiles for a mosaic really lends itself well to creating a beautiful sparkly Christmas tree. By using recycled material in the piece, it’s been a really nice way to combine my medium with the theme of the festival and create something eye-catching.”

Jo-Anne Bolton is a craftsperson who grows her own willow in the Deerness Valley and weaves it into eco-friendly items, including baskets, backpacks, and purses. For the festival, she’s creating  a willow Christmas tree, complete with angels and star decorations.

She said: “I think it’s amazing what’s happening at Ushaw and with the Festival. The place is buzzing with new life and there are so many things going on. I’ve only been here since October, but I’m loving it.”

Ushaw’s curator, Claire Marsland, said: “Ushaw was once a completely self-sustaining estate, and we wanted to emulate that for the Christmas Tree Festival this year, so an eco-friendly theme seemed obvious.

“The response we’ve had has been tremendous, particularly since the festival is only in its second year.”

As well as the submissions from resident artists at Ushaw, community groups from throughout the area will also take part, including local Girlguiding troops, Age UK, County Durham schools, and members of staff from the venue.

The Ushaw Christmas Tree Festival will launch on Friday, November 29, at Ushaw Historic House and Gardens. It will run until Saturday, December 21, opening until 7pm on Thursdays and Fridays.

The highly-anticipated Inside Out light installation, by local artist Stuart Langley, which will turn the façade of the building into an illuminated advent calendar, and the Christmas Selling Exhibition, will also open on the same date.