Billingham welcomes a spectacular weekend of sustainability, creativity, and community spirit

Festival of Thrift, the renowned celebration of sustainability, creativity, and community spirit, is set to captivate Billingham on Saturday, September 23, and Sunday, September 24, 2023, from 10am to 5pm.  

This marks a momentous occasion as the Festival of Thrift makes its debut in Billingham, promising an unforgettable weekend of free festivities.  

The heart of Billingham, along with the picturesque John Whitehead Park, will transform into a vibrant tapestry of colours and an atmosphere brimming with infectious energy. Festivalgoers will be treated to thought-provoking performances, complemented by the festival’s unique blend of hands-on activities, culinary delights, live music and shared community experiences. 

This year’s event boasts a diverse and captivating schedule that showcases the Festival of Thrift’s signature mix of outdoor arts performances, live music, enlightening talks, and an array of stalls featuring ethically sourced food, beverages, and goods.  

What sets this year’s Festival of Thrift apart is its unwavering commitment to accessibility when people are still impacted by the cost-of-living challenges. Thanks to a partnership with housing association Thirteen, nearly all workshops throughout the weekend will be entirely free. This initiative allows visitors to immerse themselves in sustainable living, acquire valuable tips and tricks, and indulge in creative experiences without any cost barriers. 

Tanya Steinhauser, Festival of Thrift Co-Creative Director, expressed her enthusiasm for the event’s relocation to Billingham, marking the start of an exciting new chapter for the Festival of Thrift. 

“We are so excited to be bringing the festival to Billingham. It’s going to be a joyous weekend. People will get to explore new themed areas at the festival including the Allotment Patch, Slow Fashion Alley, Electric Avenue, Camp Thrift and The Imagined Meadow.  

“We will also have Wayne and Gerardine Hemingway awarding Best in Show rosettes to those people that have the greatest thrifty fashion style then inviting them to join them on the catwalk. So, get you best glad rags on and shine at this year’s festival.” she exclaimed. 


Don’t miss this exceptional weekend celebrating sustainability, creativity, and community spirit. Festival of Thrift’s debut in Billingham promises to be an unforgettable experience for both newcomers and long-term Thrifties alike.   

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: “Festival of Thrift is a real highlight in our events calendar and will see visitors flocking to Billingham during the weekend. Its important message of sustainability is showing how everyone can take small steps towards cleaner living, while also highlighting huge priorities in our area, such as hydrogen and net zero. This packed line-up has something for everyone, so I’d encourage families from across the region to check it out.” 

Councillor Steve Nelson, Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Health, Leisure and Culture, said: “We’re delighted to be working in partnership with Festival of Thrift and are looking forward to welcoming thousands of visitors to Billingham later this month. The nationally renowned festival spreads an important environmental message, celebrating sustainable living – and it’s free to attend too.  

“For our residents and visitors alike there will be so much to see and do over the two day programme so put the date in your diary and visit the festival’s website to plan your day out. 

 “And remember the site is easily accessible by foot, bike and public transport. Parking is available including a park and ride option from Stockton town centre too. Pre-book your ticket via the festival’s website.” 

Highlights of the packed programme planned for the weekend include: 

The Imagined Meadow area John Whitehead Park) – performances and free workshops including: 

  • Wild, a daring dance-circus production exploring our relationship with the natural environment, by Motionhouse 
  • Dance, movement and masterful puppeteering, Out of the Deep Blue by Autin Dance Theatre 
  • A giant mobile, kinetic sculpture, The Wheel, on a seemingly endless journey towards an unknown destination, by IOU Theatre 
  • Small green acts of kindness for the planet and each other by the Festival’s very own Institute of Thrifty Ideas 
  • Music and dance from Neil Massey and his guest vinyl DJs, Balkan melodies, ska and Latin brass from The Baghdaddies, solo jazz, soul and R&B-influenced artist Marina Josephina, Massive Thrifty Dance Battle (with Extra Bad Dancing) – a battle that’s all about getting the audience to move – and brass band on stilts act Fat Cat Brass. 

The Allotment Patch area (John Whitehead Park) – performances, hands-on workshops, demos and insightful talks focused on the beauty and importance of the natural world, sustainable food production, biodiversity and the joy of nurturing nature’s bounty including: 

  • A honey-perfumed Bee Colony tended by ethereal beekeepers, The Bees by Artizani  
  • An augmented reality outdoor installation, The Hidden Music of Trees by Jason Singh 
  • The history and ritual of tea in an audio piece and live dance performance, Teabreak by Trigger 
  • Discover past Festival of Thrift talks, including Booker Prize winning author Ben Okri’s, at the Listening Post by The Institute of Thrifty Ideas 
  • Annie Sloan & Wayne Hemingway in conversation (BSL provided) on Saturday, 13:30 
  • The Long Table – a communal table hosting activities exploring growing, foraging, food, wildlife and ecology through a range of workshops, demos and talks 

Camp Thrift area (John Whitehead Park) – den building, music-making and storytelling including: 

  • Family friendly drop-in Den Building with Chris Harman 
  • Giant puppets and tales from the Tees Valley in ‘For the People, By the People’ by Whippet Up with Amelia Coburn 
  • Make instruments and music out of household rubbish with Billy, the TrashBang! Man 

Bandstand area (Billingham Town Centre) – brass on stilts, Balkan melodies, ska and disco, theatrical storytelling and poetry on the town centre stage including: 

  • A conversation between UK coastal communities and the world’s ocean in a dynamic physical theatre set to a sound installation in Flood by Theatre Temoin, a dynamic physical theatre set to a sound installation which depicts a conversation between UK coastal communities and the world’s ocean as both feel ‘seasick’ 
  • An all-ages disco from Lucky Dip Disco 
  • Poetry of nature, place and the environment from Tees Women Poets 
  • Music and dance including Balkan melodies, ska and Latin brass from The Baghdaddies and the Vinyl DJ and brass band on stilts act Fat Cat Brass 

Electric Avenue (Billingham Town Centre) – an interactive area for all the family to learn about the power of renewable energy, green technology and careers including: 

  • Workshops on powering a hydrogen car, making paper windmills, using VR to learn about the world of offshore wind, finding out how electric motorbike and bicycle hire can overcome transport barriers,  
  • Demonstrations of how calcium carbonate can be made from the humble eggshell with Teesside University Net Zero Centre  
  • Fixing anything from Flymos to iPads and teasmades to tape recorders at Festival of Thrift’s famous Fix It Café 

Slow Fashion Alley (Billingham Town Centre) – an area filled with sustainable and slow fashion, talks, swap shop, repairs and mending including: 

  • A series of future facing fashion shows, ‘Conscious Threads’ by Creative Producer Abigail Dennison with themes of ‘Style evolution with Lucy Jane Fashion’, ‘New and emerging designers’ and ‘A homage to trailblazer Vivienne Westwood’  
  • Charity Shop Supermarket Pop Up – A curated collection of fashion & accessories from the UK’s best charity retailers 
  • Panel talk with Wayne Hemingway and invited guests – explore the revolutionary Charity Shop Supermarket and delve into the essence of the slow fashion movement, Saturday, 15.15-15:45  
  • Best in Show Awards, by the festival teams throughout Saturday for those who have dressed to impress in their finest thrifty attire, vintage treasures, and sustainable gems 
  • Swapshop by Teesside Hospice – make thrifty swaps for any unwanted fashion items and accessories  
  • Handmade, second hand, upcycled and stylish shopping with a conscience from an eclectic mix of traders selling alternatives to fast fashion 
  • Ragtime! and highlights from the current ‘Thread Counts’ exhibition, by Tees Valley Arts 

Billingham Library, (Billingham Town Centre): 

  • Learn the ancient North East tradition of Hooky and Clippy Mat making and contribute to the community rag rug project at the free drop-in session 
  • Pop up of highlights from the current ‘Thread Counts’ exhibition by Tees Valley Arts 
  • Have a photographic portrait taken by acclaimed photographer Casey Orr wearing one of artist JJ Perangie’s upcycled garments 
  • Preloved Fashion sew station, breathing new life into preloved and second-hand clothing at the Teesside University Fashion department sew station 

A series of acts and artists will also be popping up around the site throughout the weekend including a promenade performance deriving from traditional practices of the Luo people by Alan Vaughan, Zinzi Marsh and Rapasa Otieno, routine inspections by Markmark Productions’ Sustainability Squad and their Team BGee celebratory street spectacular, WE Great Ladies’ enchanting fairies spreading magic and joy, Greener Lavelle’s magnificent seven metre, smoke-breathing green dragon RapSkallion, funky tunes from Apollo Street Band and a giant three metre tall Blue Deity created by  Tees Valley Festivals Volunteering. 

The festival’s alluring collection of stalls selling ethically-produced goods, food and drink will be located around the site for visitors to browse and buy from. 

Festival of Thrift takes place on Saturday 23 and Sunday 24 September 2023, 10am – 5pm, in Billingham, Tees Valley. Entry is free. The site is easily accessible by foot, bike and public transport. Parking is available including a park and ride option and a pre-bookable £10 ticket per car via the festival’s website (which includes a carbon offset contribution). 

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