As preparations continue for this year’s National Festival of Thrift on 23 and 24 September a north east business is reflecting on the success it has enjoyed since taking part in last year’s event.
In the past eight months, Light Up North, a producer of one-off neon wall hangings, has gone from testing its ideas and designs with some of the Festival’s 35,000 visitors to exporting its creations across the world and employing four people.
The Saltburn-based company was a first-time stallholder at last year’s national celebration of stylish and sustainable living at Kirkleatham, having just taken the plunge to launch as a business.
Emma Krause, Light Up North’s co-owner, explained that the idea for the business came about when she and her now business partner Dave Freeney met after she moved to the area and needed her house re-wiring.
“We were discussing neon alternatives for my house and it emerged that Dave’s background was in theatre and high end retail lighting; he’d worked on the production of Cats and for Karen Millen before setting up as an electrician back in the north east.
“What we were discussing for my house wasn’t quite right but as we talked we came up with another creative use for the wiring and things have taken off from there.”
Light Up North’s creations use electroluminescent neon wire that was originally designed for use in car dashboards. Developed in the past five years it is very flexible and uses very little power, making it very sustainable.
Emma added: “We were thinking about launching when I met Alex from the Festival of Thrift team who persuaded me to take a stall at the event but I had to take a deep breath and take the plunge as I really wasn’t sure I could do it!
“The event was an amazing showcase for us as we spent two days talking to people and creating new ideas for how to develop the business.”
Since the event Light Up North’s neon creations have been showcased in Milan, Sydney and at Fortnum & Mason and have pride of place in stylish homes across the globe with commissions including personal messages re-created as wall hangings using extracts of handwriting.
In the past couple of months the business has launched a limited edition graphic design range which will be on display in the Stables at this year’s event.
Festival Director, Stella Hall said that Light Up North’s success illustrates one of the aims of the event; to support creative small businesses being set up in the region and enabling them to be sustainable.
“There’s a notable shift away from people working to live and choosing a better work-life balance instead and we are committed to helping people to achieve that.
“It’s also proof that cultural festivals can work very effectively as an economic force for good. One of our themes in 2017 is growth and nurture and we are supporting many other small businesses at the event too to help them show and sell their wonderful, unique and desirable upcycled objects.”
Councillor Dale Quigley, cabinet member for culture, tourism and communications, said: “I’m thrilled Emma and Dave have taken the idea they tested at last year’s Festival of Thrift and run with it. Creating a fully-fledged business, with an international profile in such a short period of time is a huge testament to their skill and commitment.
“The Festival of Thrift is a terrific event for imaginative entrepreneurs like Emma and Dave and I wish them every success in the future. I also hope it inspires people to give their creative business idea a try-out at this year’s Festival of Thrift.”
Last year’s Festival attracted over 35,000 visitors and figures after the event revealed that it boosted the local economy to the tune of £1/2M with this expenditure by visitors supporting 10 full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs.
All stalls have now been allocated for the 2017 event and stallholders are busy working on creating their wares for the weekend. A range of workshops at the Festival will be announced closer to the event for people looking to learn a new skill or discover a hidden talent. Further details about the Festival of Thrift are available at www.festivalofthrift.co.uk