Award-Winning Celebration of Thrift Steams into Town

The UK’s national Festival of Thrift, a celebration of sustainable living, steamed into Darlington this weekend, welcoming 45,000 visitors keen to learn how to scrimp with style.

As thousands of people arrived at the Festival’s founding host site Lingfield Point in Darlington over the course of the weekend, festival-goers enjoyed performances, demonstrations, workshops, debates, food and craft stalls amongst much more.

The award-winning Festival, which won the Arts and Culture category of the Observer Ethical Awards 2015, showed visitors how reusing, recycling and upcycling can be fun, save money and benefit the environment.

This year’s Festival also formed part of a weekend of celebrations for Darlington and the region as the town marked the 190th anniversary of the world’s first passenger steam train, which travelled between Stockton and Darlington in 1825.

French artist Olivier Grossetête helped to celebrate the anniversary as he constructed a five-storey cardboard structure in the town’s historic centre, helped by 120 members of the local community on Friday (25 September 2015) to launch the Festival.

Inspired by Darlington’s railway station clock tower, its completion was followed by celebratory dancing from Folk Dance Remixed, climaxing in a ceremonious topple down to the sound of bells ringing from St Cuthbert’s Church.

Amongst the festivities over the weekend were thrifty workshops and demonstrations; Urban Playground’s Steam train based parkour, specially commissioned artworks and installations including Hannah Fox’s Darly; OxGlam Fashion Show, a journey through the last 190 years featuring outfits created by Oxfam Jesmond, Oxfam Durham Boutique and Bookshop, and Oxfam Darlington; and Swoolish Garage’s Vespaqua, a unique opportunity to take a relaxing journey in travelling bathtubs.

Festival director, Stella Hall said: “The national Festival of Thrift received a great reception and it was wonderful to see 45,000 people, nearly double the attendance in our first year, descend on Lingfield Point for a wonderful weekend of free, frugal family fun.

“2015 has been an extremely exciting year for the Festival as we linked with Darlington’s 1825 celebrations to mark the arrival of the first passenger steam train. It is a revolutionary milestone in the region’s history which inspired the theme of this year’s packed programme. A big thanks to all our partners for helping to make it a success!”

From food, fashion, regeneration and super scrimping, the Festival also focused on the importance of thrift during a series of Big Talks featuring the likes of Wayne Hemingway and Andrea Freeman on fashion; food guru Simon Preston; Pia Castleton, forager and Supper Club chef; Dr Duika Burges Watson, food policy specialist and self-confessed guerilla gardener; Beth Rawlins, co-director of Newcastle’s Magic Hat Café; money saving experts Ashleigh Money Saver and Jennifer Drew as well as Darlington Building Society’s Colin Fyfe; Alistair Hudson, director of mima; and Chiara Badiali of sustainability experts Julie’s Bicycle.

Festival co-founder Wayne Hemingway added: “Our thrifters are a community and the Festival is always a great opportunity for them to get together and share what they do, and the visitors to the event are certainly loving meeting the artists, makers and upcyclers and seeing the fruit of their efforts.”

“Thrift is more than a trend – it’s here to stay, it’s a culture and a set of values to live by. The Festival is certainly helping to get it engrained into the lives of people across the North East of England and beyond.”

The Festival team is now looking to the long term and, as well as actively planning for 2016, will be taking an active role with other partners in ensuring thrift and sustainability are a core part of the Tees Valley bid for UK Region of Culture 2025.


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