A Weekend At Festival of Thrift

Where can you find a whole host of people promoting recycling and upcycling, groups of arts performers, tons of food to suit all tastes and dietary requirements, and some of the weirdest things you'll ever see? Festival of Thrift, of course! This is one of my favourite events of the year and luckily for me, it's in the North East, just a 15 minute drive from my house. I got to visit on both the Saturday and Sunday this year (22nd and 23rd September) - one day with Alex at The Southernist, and one day with my mum and sister.

The festival is now in its sixth year after starting out at Lingfield Point in Darlington. It made a big impact regionally and nationally, with 27,000 visitors, 17,000 more than expected! Since then, the festival grew massively in popularity and so had to move to a larger venue. In 2016, it was announced that it would now be held at Kirkleatham Hall in Redcar, continuing to promote the message of living sustainably, being creative and bigging up the Tees Valley. Despite the terrible weather warnings, I was just one of over 45,000 people that attended Festival of Thrift this year and I can only predict that the number will continue to grow over the years. With a huge variety of live performances, entertainment and activities that focus on ways of upcycling, recycling and stylish ways to save the planet to appeal to kids and adults alike, this is a family-friendly festival that we're so lucky to have in the area. There's also always a ton of stalls (190 this year) selling homemade foods, crafts, homewares and hobby items, so it's pretty difficult not to come home with at least one purchase!

This year, the theme centred around sustainable transport and "the programme included performances inside a giant wheel, Wheelhouse by Acrojou, a musical adventure with Bicycle Boy where the audience pedalled to keep the show going, and a lively outdoor performance celebrating women, cycling and fashion from Bicycle Ballet." And so, in the spirit of the festival, Alex and I caught the bus there instead of driving.
It's definitely easy to get a bit overwhelmed by the amount of food choices at Festival of Thrift, but they make sure to cater to as many people as possible. With vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free choices across the 10 zones, there really is something for everyone. Not only are there suitable stalls for various dietary requirements, there's also a range of cuisines on offer. From Mexican to Indian, from Yorkshire pud wraps to Japanese sushi wraps, from Korean to wood-fired pizzas, there's just an endless amount to choose from! On Saturday, I opted to eat at The Little Indian, selecting a meal deal to sample their curry, samosas and pakoras. I must say, it was absolutely delectable, especially the curry which was ever so slightly spicy, but it didn't beat the lunch I had on Sunday. On this day, I had a scrumptious 12" burrito from Taco Bob's. This was filled with grilled Mexican chicken, rice, beans, cheese, salsa, soured cream and guacamole, and it was huge. I couldn't eat the whole thing, but I couldn't fault the taste and the value for money!

Not only were there the masses of eateries to choose from, but the festival also held its own unique event, The Town is the Menu meal and its Whole Hog project, to promote sustainable high-welfare farming. This involved the cooking and eating of a whole organic pig to show how waste can be reduced, and I know that that won't be appealing to everyone, but it's a pretty brilliant initiative. Visitors were also encouraged to bring their own bottles and re-fill them at the Northumbrian Water re-fill stations. 
As for entertainment, there were lots of workshops and performances scheduled across the whole weekend. On both days, we didn't pick any to see at a specific time, but we caught several in passing and enjoyed everything we saw - especially The Jukeboxes by Bootworks Theatre. This featured two performers inside jukeboxes that would pop out of the top and mime in character to the song that was playing. Check out Alex's video of them below!
We also enjoyed the cool sounds of Boom Bike Bourree, both as we walked about the festival (as they ride about playing music on bikes) and also on the Sabic stage. They played fabulous hurdy-gurdy music, with a trombonist, guitarist, accordion player and beat boxer. They really were a sight to behold! For people that wanted a little bit of culture and history while they dined, a group performed as the suffragettes, singing the women's rights group's anthems and shouting 'deeds not words.'
Festival of Thrift Director, Stella Hall, said: “It’s been another amazing year for the Festival. To see so many people having fun and enjoying the artists we have programmed and to get such a positive reaction from visitors about the importance of sustainability in everyday life, which underpins everything the Festival does, is wonderful.

“Our extended programme, enabled through Tees Valley Combined Authority, has allowed us to spread a year-round message about eco-friendly living. We are delighted to have maintained our huge popularity and visitor numbers, especially given the gloomy predictions for the weekend weather.

“As ever we are hugely grateful to our wonderful partners led by Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council and Arts Council England, whose support enables us to deliver the Festival and bring such a lot of enjoyment to so many people, whilst spreading the word about how to live a creative and fulfilling life in ways that protect our planet.”
Overall, I had the best weekend at the festival. Like I mentioned in the intro, it's one of my favourite events of the year and it's yet to disappoint me. I simply can't fault the amount of things to see, eat and do, and it's absolutely lovely to see everyone enjoying themselves. Seriously, it's so hard to be in a bad mood at Festival of Thrift because there's so much colour and everyone seems to be so happy and positive, so it's a little bit infectious. It's also lovely to see the amount of kids that get involved and it's definitely a great way to introduce them to sustainable living. Not only are there more gentle kid-friendly activities like story telling and silk painting, there are more active things to get involved with such as making go karts, den building and playing with noisy toys.
If you ever happen to find yourself looking for something to do in September in the North East, I highly recommend Festival of Thrift. Thousands flock to it each year from across the country and it only keeps getting popular, showing that the team are definitely doing something right. Even if you don't have any interest in learning about sustainable living or environmental issues, it's just such a happy event that is a feast for the senses!

To sign off this post, I'll leave you with a brilliant video made by Alex that really highlights my childlike curiosity of things and the amount of work that goes into the handmade crafts that are sold at the festival.

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  1. This looks like such a cool festival - I wish they did something similar here in Devon! Also how lush do those macarons look?!

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