Real ale drinkers use headstones as seats and tables as they hold beer festival in graveyard
- Beer festival held at Grade 1 listed church in Norton Village, Stockton-on-Tees
- Local outrage after attendees seen using headstones as furniture while drinking
- Many seen seated around tombstones while smoking and swigging from cans
Beer festival goers have been branded ‘disgusting’ after being pictured sitting on cemetery gravestones and using them as tables while quaffing pints.
Residents were shocked by the behaviour of many attendees at the Norton Beer Festival this weekend – which was held at the Grade 1 listed church of St Mary the Virgin in Norton Village, near Stockton-on-Tees.
Seething church goers took to social media to label the antics ‘disrespectful’ and ‘appalling’ – after guests set up chairs around headstones and placed drinks and belongings atop of them.
Others were seen swigging from cans and smoking on the burial site – which includes the Grade Two listed Norton Memorial Cross, dedicated to villagers killed in both world wars.
Others said the real ale fans would be ‘devastated’ if it was their families’ final resting places that were being used as furniture.
Residents were shocked by the behaviour of several attendees at the Norton Beer Festival this weekend – which was held at the Grade 1 listed church of St Mary the Virgin in Norton Village, near Stockton-on-Tees
Seething church goers took to social media to label the antics ‘disrespectful’ and ‘appalling’ – after guests set up chairs around headstones and placed drinks and belongings atop of them
Attendees were seen swigging from cans and smoking on the burial site, enraging church goers and locals
Beer festival goers in Norton down cans of ale in a cemetery at event held in church
Festival attendees set up chairs and drink beers next to a monument dedicated to villagers who died in World Wars One and Two
Church goers said the real ale fans would be ‘devastated’ if it was their families’ final resting places that were being used as furniture
One resident said: ‘Why couldn’t they sit on the green, which is just outside, instead of on graves?
‘I think it’s appalling. Would they think it ok if it was young adults? What a total lack of respect for the deceased and their families.’
Another commenter said: ‘Fair enough holding a beer festival but come on, don’t have it centred around the cemetery.
‘There’s enough space around Norton for people to meet friends and have a few drinks without needing to sit on graves.’
The event, which returned after a two-and-a-half year absence, is hosted by the church in conjunction with The Three Brothers Brewing Company.
The three-day celebration is split between the car park where there is a mobile bar, food stalls and toilets, and the main festival inside the church
Running straight through the middle of the festival pitch is a path with the graveyard surrounding it.
Brewery manager David Dodd said: ‘There are lots of clear spaces within the graveyard which were used by people for seating with tables and chairs set out accordingly.
The event, which returned after a two-and-a-half year absence, is hosted by the church in conjunction with The Three Brothers Brewing Company (Pictured: Attendees seated among headstones in cemetery)
‘Given it was a lovely day many people were enjoying the weather and the opportunity to be together, which is what this festival is for.
‘At no point were chairs put around gravestones by staff and it was certainly not recommended for people to sit on them.
‘For future events there will be signage and taping off sections to make this clearer.
‘We will also have even more chairs available outside to give people an alternative.’
He added: ‘To put an event of this size coming out of Covid has been a massive undertaking for our tiny family team alongside our day job of running a brewery making and delivering beer around the North East.
‘It’s also a huge step in terms of logistics and infrastructure whilst making it a manageable and safe space for attendees.
‘The suggestion to spill out on to the green is not possible as the perimeter fence offers a great barrier from a licensing and security point of view.
‘Part of every entry ticket includes a donation to St Mary’s building maintenance raising some vital funds for this stunning church after the pandemic.
The three-day celebration is split between the car park where there is a mobile bar, food stalls and toilets, and the main festival inside the church (pictured)
Organisers said there will be better signage next year to avoid a repeat of headstones being used as seats or tables
‘It is also worth noting that we had a great local security firm supporting us at the event and we have not been made aware of any instances of antisocial behaviour, only positive feedback about how St Mary’s Beer Festival has been a truly unique event.’
Rev. Martin Anderson, who has worked at the church for the last eight years, added: ‘The village church of St Mary’s is a beautiful space in the heart of Norton – it’s wonderful that we have the opportunity to use the space for a variety of purposes.
‘On the whole, the people attending the festival have been respectful of the space and there has been a real sense of community and positivity.
‘However, like in all areas of life, there are sometimes a small group who don’t see or do things from the same perspective.
‘We didn’t want people to use tombstones as tables, and our security firm was working to make sure everything was kept calm in the church yard and the building itself.
‘As a parish church in Norton, we work really hard to support the community of Norton in times of celebration but also in times of bereavement.’
The festival took place over the weekend, from Friday 23 September to Sunday 26.
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