Punters were spotted indulging in pints of beers while using headstones as seats and tables at a beer festival.

Pictures emerged showing people drinking pints atop graves at Norton Beer Festival in Norton Village has caused ripples of outrage to spread through the local community.

The behaviour has been labelled "disrespectful" and "disgusting", Gazette Live reported.

One person claimed they'd be "devastated" if it was their families' resting place.

Taking to social media, one shocked resident wrote: "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."

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The photos triggered fury among local residents (

Image:

TERRY BLACKBURN / BACKGRID)

Another wrote: "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.

In between is a path with the graveyard surrounding it.

According to the Brewery manager David Dodd: "There are lots of clear spaces within the graveyard which were used by people for seating with tables and chairs set out accordingly.

"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."

Festival organisers said signs warning people away from the graveyard would be put up (

Image:

TERRY BLACKBURN / BACKGRID)

He continued: "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.

"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, also responded to the criticism.

"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 purpose," he said.

"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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