OKEHAMPTON is getting ready for a Gala Weekend to help people discover all that is happening in town as it emerges from Covid.

As part of the weekend, craftspeople, community groups and organisations promoting mental health and well-being will take part in a Craft and Community Day in Okehampton College's sports hall. The free event on Saturday, October 23 runs from 10am to 4pm.

There will also be a free concert on the Saturday evening in the hall, decorated as a marquee for the occasion. Starting at 7pm, there will be music from the Okehampton Community Orchestra, Sticklepath-based sea shanty singers Mariners Away, The Wreckords and the TNT Blues Collective.

Then on Sunday, October 24, from 11am to 5pm, there will be free sports taster sessions for youngsters organised by OCRA — ranging from zumba to sword fighting, walking football, hockey and netball. These will be in the sports hall and the college cricket field, with the MC for the day being Okehampton’s very own Rob Pudner

All these activities, organised by Everything Okehampton with Okehampton College, are being made possible by a grant of £6,500 from Okehampton United Charities.

The weekend gets going on the Friday evening, from 7.30pm, with a fundraising Gala Dinner Evening for the Okehampton Christmas Lights Appeal. This is a ticketed event (tickets from Donald’s Menswear on Fore Street) with prosecco on arrival and a two-course hot buffet followed by entertainment from one of Cornwall’s finest, Pirate FM DJ Johnny Cowling.

The event ends with a fundraising silent auction run by the Hatherleigh Pink Ladies, see www.galabid.com/pinkladies2021/items, with 49 fabulous lots, in aid of the Chestnut Appeal, Exeter Leukaemia Fund, Pancreatic Cancer UK, the Farming Community Network, Okehampton Rugby Club, and the Okehampton Christmas Lights Appeal.

Christine Marsh, of Everything Okehampton, said she had decided to join forces with Okehampton College after hearing that they were planning an event based around boosting mental health.

‘They were going to have an event to bring people together after the self-isolating and restrictions and lockdowns,’ she said. ‘We decided to work together to have something so organisations like Men in Sheds and the Okehampton Community Garden could come and explain to people what they do.’

She explained that she had originally hoped to hold the event in October last year, but had had to put it on hold due to Covid. She stressed that apart from the Gala Dinner on the Friday night, which is a fundraiser for Okehampton’s Christmas Lights, the whole weekend was free.

‘We just want to say to people, come and enjoy yourselves and see what Okehampton has to offer. Okehampton is a very positive place and there are lots of things to do. For those who need support, there are people out there to support and help them and there are places to go. There are people to help them if they are feeling a bit low. Come along and have a good time.’

The Saturday event includes a rural crafts fair, which is being organised under the Everything Okehampton umbrella by mayor of West Devon borough Caroline Mott. Caroline said: ‘If anyone is interested in having a stall locally we are more than happy to have them along. We said craft originally because we knew a lot of local people were unable to make the Okehampton Show. It is going to be a real mixture of things.’

All proceeds from the hiring the stalls, with some still available by emailing [email protected], will go to the mayor’s chosen charity of the year, the Farming Community Network, which provides support to the farming community in difficult times.

Caroline said: ‘I wanted it to be a community event focusing on mental health and because we were all heading that way anyway, we decided to join together. It is about getting people to reconnect after the various lockdowns and come out and rejoin the various groups that are around.

‘Some of them are help groups, so people are made aware that these groups are there to support them, if they want it. But there are also going to be community groups like Men in Sheds, so it is about getting people out and socialising and getting out to see what is there. People have got used to staying at home and not going out and it has been difficult for some groups. This is like a reminder for people that they are still there.’