It’s great to get involved say Festival of Thrift volunteers

A great sense of pride, growing in confidence, learning some useful new skills and experiencing being part of a friendly team are just some of the benefits of volunteering at the Festival of Thrift according to two previous participants.

In an interview to mark Volunteers Week 2019*, Kathryn Harker, 24, from Redcar and Alex McCabe, 21, from Newcastle shared some fond memories of their time volunteering at the event, which this year takes place on Saturday 14 and Sunday 15 September at Kirkleatham, near Redcar.

Kathryn, pictured right, who works in her local multiplex cinema, said it was her interest in arts administration that made her decide to volunteer at last year’s festival as she was “keen to find out what I could learn from the organisers at the Festival of Thrift.” Adding, “I’ve been going to the festival for years and love what they stand for and do for this community, so last year I decided it was time I got in touch to find out how I could get involved.

“I reported to the Artist Liaison Manager, assisting with the delivery of the artist programme of events over the festival weekend. This included supervising artist groups to ensure that they were well looked after and that they stick to time slots for scheduled performances in various locations throughout the festival. Other duties included assisting the Production Team, stewarding and the transportation of props.”

She is very enthusiastic about her experience. “For me personally, a highlight of volunteering comes from rewarding moments, such as, pausing to appreciate watching a huge crowd of people smile and join in with a performance from a group you’ve come to know.

“Getting to know the artists, you learn how much each performance means to them, so to watch them entertain and enjoy themselves doing so, knowing you solved any problems that occurred to get them there on time to perform in that moment, makes you feel a great sense of pride.”

Alex, pictured left,  is currently a part time student at Newcastle College in his final year of a BA Hons in Creative Enterprise having graduated from an FdA In Events Management in July 2018.

He was given the opportunity to volunteer for three days at the Festival of Thrift in 2017 as part of his work placement hours and commented that “this was the first large scale outdoor event that I had the opportunity to be involved with.”

Alex added that it was quite an experience: “The three days were jammed packed with lots of tasks and responsibilities. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know and working alongside the Event Team, they made me feel so welcome and were very accommodating. I immediately felt part of the team.”

Both of them highly recommend volunteering to others.

Kathryn, who is heading back to volunteer again at this year’s festival, urged people to not think twice about it: “I’d say why not give it a go? Everyone involved in the festival is friendly and passionate about what they do, so if you’re interested the Festival of Thrift already, or simply just interested in helping at festivals in general, the Festival of Thrift is a wonderful place to start. If you’re interested in a specific area of volunteering let them know, you never know what it could lead to.”

For Alex, his stint as a volunteer led to him not only confirming his career choice but also resulted in some paid work. “I have found my love and passion in the event industry is definitely outdoor festivals especially working and liaising with artists.

“The Festival of Thrift has opened up so many opportunities for me and since being involved with it I have already started to build a good reputation for myself within the industry which has led to me a number of opportunities to work on a variety of different outdoor events within the North East.

“In 2018 I was given the opportunity for paid employment with the Festival of Thrift as Assistant Artist Liaison. I was overwhelmed by the opportunity and didn’t think twice about accepting the offer.”

Festival of Thrift director, Stella Hall, said “We are so lucky, our volunteers are fabulous. They really help to make the festival weekend the memorable event it is and we couldn’t be without them as part of our team.

“As Alex and Kathryn have said, it’s a great way to get involved and learn some useful skills or simply meet new people and have an enjoyable weekend being part of our much-loved event.

Stella added: “There are so many ways to get involved; from providing information to our lovely visitors, to helping with the hugely popular Oxglam fashion show as a model, hairdresser and/or make-up artist, and  everything in between. We are looking for volunteers of all ages, backgrounds and abilities, and will provide support and training too.”

As an added bonus Kathryn and Alex have both felt inspired to live more sustainably following their involvement with the festival.

Alex McCabe, the Festival’s Alicia Carroll and Kathryn Harker at the 2018 Festival of Thrift

Kathryn said: “Through ideas and tips I’ve picked up from the festival, I have become more aware of the ways in which I can personally help contribute to a more sustainable lifestyle – be that through their online and social media presence, or from attending the festival and seeing these ways in effect for myself.

To live a greener lifestyle I carry a tote bag everywhere I go and I’ve started eating and shopping locally in independent stores – this way I know the money is going back into the community and when the goods are sourced or made locally. I recycle whenever possible and use a reusable bottle to drink tap water, with the aim to reduce my plastic waste. Also, I make good use of public transportation or walk when I can.

Alex agreed: “The Festival has had a really positive impact on my views of sustainability. I have changed and developed my approach and have implemented small but effective changes in my life such as recycling and reusing old and unwanted clothing, I have also purchased a reusable cup and metal straw.

Kathryn and Alex’s interview about their experiences as Festival of Thrift volunteers, which is one of the Festival of Thrift’s ‘Our Voice’ series of sustainability-focused articles, can be found here

To find out more about volunteering at the Festival of Thrift and to register your interest visit

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