A PERFORMING arts festival which is almost 90 years old is in need of sponsors and advertisers to help it continue into the future.

The Darlington Festival for Performing Arts, which has acclaimed writer and director star Mark Gatiss as President, was cancelled for the first time last year as the 'Beast from the East' hit the region just as its music leg was beginning.

Now, with the music, speech and drama sections of the festival coming up in March, secretary Ann Clark says help is needed to keep the festival going for future years.

The music and drama festivals, which see youngsters competing in different classes, take place in the first two weekends of March while the dance festival is in October.

Mrs Clark said: "It is a small charity and we rely on donations.

"We are asking for sponsorship for the festival, or sponsors of anyone competing, or if they want to donate to help the festival keep going.

"People can also advertise in our programme and that helps.

"Financially it can be difficult for us as we have overheads to keep the festival going.

"We have been all over Darlington in our time, in different venues, and at the moment we hold the festival at Longfield Academy.

"Our running costs include the professional adjudicators who come in, and they might come from right down south.

"We have a cafe which helps raise a bit of money and keeps everyone fed and watered.

"Last year our music festival was unfortunately cancelled because of the Beast from the East.

"That gave us a bit of a hit.

"We get a lot of entries every year, it could be a couple of hundred or so, and people come from all over Teesside and County Durham and elsewhere."

She said Mark Gatiss had accepted the presidency to help the festival encourage local talent in the performing arts.

"For all he is well known, he is still very interested in local arts and in local performing arts," she said.

Mr Gatiss was born in Sedgefield, grew up in School Aycliffe and attended Woodham Comprehensive School in Newton Aycliffe, and had his break after writing and starring in comedy series League of Gentleman.

The festival, which began in the 1931 and has proved popular since, traditionally takes place in three stages – music, speech and drama and dance – to showcase local talent.

Spectators are welcome to come along to the event to watch performers.

For more information about the festival call 01325-257515