Inspired upcycling by Festival of Thrift partners shows sustainable living in action

Workshops with Annie Sloan at the Festival

Unwanted furniture has been given a new lease of life thanks to some thrifty thinking by three of Festival of Thrift’s sponsors of this year’s hugely popular celebration of sustainable living in Billingham. 

Ahead of the festival in late September, recycling company SUEZ saved furniture and small household items from its Tees Valley waste and recycling centre. These were then donated to interior decorating pioneer Annie Sloan CBE who was running workshops at the 2023 event. 

Annie, who was appointed as Festival of Thrift’s first Patron of Thrift earlier this year and is widely considered as one of the world’s leading authorities in paint, colour and style, painted and decorated the donated items as part of her festival workshops, transforming them. 

The revitalised items were then handed on to another Festival of Thrift partner, housing association Thirteen, to gift to tenants in desperate need of items of furniture. 

Thirteen’s recycling centre manager Helen Beaman said: “Our furniture upcycling scheme, which we run from our recycling centre in Billingham, was launched just over a year ago, to support our customers who need a little extra help. 

“We’re incredibly grateful for the furniture donations from this partnership, which we know our customers will appreciate. Every piece of furniture that’s left our warehouse has made a difference to someone’s life, with the added benefit of it not ending up in landfill.” 

Annie Sloan and Wayne Hemingway in conversation

Annie Sloan said: “I created my Chalk Paint™ for people who want to upcycle and refresh furniture they already own or have bought second-hand furniture. Doing this instead of buying new saves perfectly salvageable furniture from landfill and is also a wonderful creative outlet.  

“Painting old furniture with Chalk Paint is good for your health, good for the environment and good for your pocket. I was so excited to see my vision come to life at the Festival of Thrift. We look forward to forging partnerships with some of the wonderful people we met there.” 

Festival of Thrift’s Executive Director, Emma Whitenstall, said: “What a wonderful way to showcase the circular economy in action with this collaboration between three of our partners. We are delighted to be working with organisations that have such a such forward-thinking commitment to sustainability which not only minimise our impact on the planet but contribute to our local community.  

“We would love to hear from other businesses looking for a platform to highlight their sustainable credentials to thousands of thrifty festivalgoers at next year’s event.” 

SUEZ, Annie Sloan and Thirteen were part of a line-up of Festival of Thrift partners doing their bit for the environment. They were joined by Newcastle-based Ingram AV which supplied battery and solar generators that powered half the site entirely on renewable energy, global manufacturer and local employer Quorn which gave away samples of their vegetarian and vegan products to encourage more plant based, sustainable food choices and the Education Training Collective which was on site promoting its specialist clean and renewable industry courses. 

Thousands enjoyed Festival of Thrift’s celebration of creativity, sustainability and community which took over Billingham town centre for the first time in 2023. 

Thirteen Housing sponsored the popular line-up of hands-on workshops showcasing sustainable skills and creative crafts, enabling them to be free of charge for the very first time.  Over 2000 Thrifters of all ages got involved to try something new in workshops on the Saturday of the festival, more than double the number of participants of previous years. 

Festival of Thrift will return to Billingham, Tees Valley on Saturday 21 and Sunday 22 September 2024. 

To find out more about Festival of Thrift, sponsor or partner, volunteer and get involved sign up at or follow the festival’s social media feeds @festivalofthrift on Facebook and Instagram and @FestoThrift on Twitter. 

Festival of Thrift is funded thanks to generous support from Arts Council England, Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council and the Tees Valley Mayor and Combined Authority. 


more you might find interesting...


Festival of thrift welcomes you

Login to your trader account