The Festival of Thrift

Jam making with Sam at the Festival of Thrift 2016.

Jam making with Sam at the Festival of Thrift 2016.


For the past six years, thousands of people have descended on Kirkleatham in Redcar to enjoy a free festival. Mayhem? Not really. Like Glastonbury for music lovers and Port Elliot for the literati, the Festival of Thrift has become a diary staple for people passionate about good living in sustainable ways. Two days of family-friendly activities blend ethics and creativity with fun, fun, fun. If you ever needed a brisk retort to the claim that being sustainable is all about guilt and asceticism, the Festival of Thrift is it.

Perhaps this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Co-founder Wayne Hemingway MBE, of Red or Dead and HemingwayDesign fame, has mileage in exuberance with social change at its heart. “The festival proved that ‘thrift’ isn’t just a flash in the pan. It’s a genuine response to the economy and the state of the world that is creaking under mass-consumption.”

For the second year running, the event will be bookended by VIEWPOINTS, which launches at venues across the Tees Valley on Thursday September 12 September ahead of the Festival’s return. Featured artworks, including a lung cleaning station, enormous painted canaries and a giant artwork created with ink made from exhaust fumes, all reflect one of the celebration of sustainability event’s key themes this year, the right to clean air.

Here are some highlights: Cabinet of Curiosity, whose striking paper-based artworks have been exhibited nationally and internationally, are exhibiting an extraordinary green house at Darlington Indoor Market. In the nineteenth century, green spaces within urban environments were identified as the ‘lungs of the city’ due to their air purifying qualities. This architectural installation will showcase contemporary fabrication techniques using materials that reduce toxicity in the home and will contain a living environment of plants that possess the most effective air cleaning properties. 

Sally Hogarth,whose stunning structures and artworks have been featured at high profile international exhibitions and festivals in London, is creating aseries of pavilions which invite visitors to mindfully reconnect with nature through simple observation. Sit, Stop on Redcar seafront, will offer a unique viewpoint to a fascinating area of the Tees Valley allowing people to “simply sit and observe the nature before you. Draw what you see watch and observe or simply take time to connect with the surroundings”.

At Middlesbrough railway station, Dawn Felicia Knox’sTranspire/Respire/Inspire installation will allow people to step inside a glowing cube filled with plants, light… and breathe! This bold and immersive installation will function as a lung cleaning station, a fresh air portal filled with plants that are actively cleaning the air and removing the toxins that are released from the modern built environment.

Peter J Evan’s unique work at Palace Arts in Redcarwill use Air-InkTM - ink created from recycled exhaust fumes, showcasing pollution in its physical form making a usually invisible environmental issue quite literally visible.

And the Cow-car, by sculptor and art-car-maker Andy Hazell, which the public took to their hearts when it featured as part of last year’s VIEWPOINTS project, is making a welcome return as part of the parade. The steel figure of a cow welded onto the roof of a VW car presciently aimed to make people aware of the fact that today’s burger habit means that intensively-farmed cows are producing methane in quantities that rival car emissions, and asks “perhaps we need to think about what we eat and its effect on our lovely planet”.

Another striking artwork that will feature as part of the parade is a large-scale, futuristic dance performance, Human Sensor, by Kasia Molga. Performing in data sensitive costumes that illuminate and showcase how human bodies can react to daily exposure to air pollution, the performance can be ‘utilised’ as a sensor informing other town and city dwellers about the air conditions. 

“Art is a powerful way to make people think about serious issues differently,” says director Stella Hall. “This year’s VIEWPOINTS artworks are designed to provoke thoughts about the importance of everyone’s right to enjoy clean air. We’re also celebrating the clean air we enjoy in the Tees Valley to challenge misconceptions of the area as a polluted industrial landscape.”

Cllr Shane Moore, Tees Valley Combined Authority Cabinet Lead for Culture and Leader of Hartlepool Borough Council, said “The Festival of Thrift is one of the region’s large-scale stand-out events, going from strength to strength every year and drawing in visitors from across the UK. The community event is key in building cultural vibrancy and developing our ideas of how to build a sustainable and environmentally friendly future.

“It just goes to prove that Tees Valley is bursting with things to do, places to see and stories to tell and that our region-wide events are evidently putting Tees Valley on the map as a fast-growing visitor destination.”

Further information about Viewpoints by Festival of Thrift is available at #ViewpointsTV


Ladies and Gentlemen by the Cholmondeleys returns. Picture: the Festival of Thrift.

The variety is extraordinary. Download the full programme here and choose for yourself. Happy thrifting.

The 2019 Festival of Thrift takes place on September 23 & 24, 2017, at the Kirkleatham Estate, Redcar, TS10 5NW.