Let’s Thrift Again

On 21 September Susie, MarketPlace’s Programme Director, and I headed to Billingham, Co Durham, for a weekend of ‘provoking performances and sustainable hands-on fun’ at the Festival of Thrift – and we weren’t disappointed…

This was the first time Billingham was host to this renowned national celebration of sustainability, creativity, and community spirit. We were delightfully entertained and inspired by an engaging mix of outdoor arts performances, live music, and an array of stalls featuring ethically sourced food (including the best scotch eggs ever), drinks and products.

We began our day on The Imagined Meadow being captivated by the masterful puppeteering performance ‘Out of the Blue’ by Autin Dance and the spectacular gravity-defying daring dance-circus production ‘Wild’ by Motionhouse, both of which explored our relationship with the natural environment – with water and in the air.

More at home with a camera in my hand than a needle, whilst Susie joined a sewing activity recycling fabric samples, I headed off to explore some of the other craft stalls where innovative artists were creating powerful messages of how we can collectively and individually make a difference and become more sustainable. Ellie Clewlow was inviting people to fold a module that becomes part of an origami quilt, while Yen from Paguro Upcycle was making jewellery from recycled skateboards – who’d have thought?

Stepping into The Allotment Patch everyone was captivated by the multi-sensory experience of the honey-perfumed Bee Colony tended by ethereal beekeepers from Artizani. Multiple hives each hid a unique, unexpected interior world.  Over the way, a long communal table hosted activities exploring growing and foraging.

Although we sadly missed Annie Sloan and Wayne Hemingway in conversation, we were able to hear from Annie’s colleagues’ tips about how to help reduce our carbon footprint by refreshing and restoring second hand furniture – which reminds me I have a bedside table and piano stool needing some TLC….

In Camp Thrift children of all ages were enjoying den building, music-making and storytelling.

At the Bandstand in the town centre, Tees Women Poetry were performing poems about nature, place and the environment. In Fashion Alley we watched a homage to trailblazer Vivienne Westwood, one of a series of future-facing fashion shows, spotted the Charity Shop Supermarket Pop Up and Teeside Hospice’s thrifty swap-shop, and enjoyed the eclectic mix of traders selling stylist handmade or second hand alternatives to fast fashion. 

In the library it was an unexpected delight to run into acclaimed photographer Casey Orr again. She was taking portraits of young people whilst wearing one of artists JJ Perangie’s upcycled garments.

At the end of the day we returned to Imagination Meadow where we joined others following IOU Theatre’s giant kinetic sculpture ‘The Wheel’. We left with a strong and joyous belief that we can consume thoughtfully and ethically in all aspects of our lives, and that our actions should benefit and not harm the planet.

Claire Sawford, Programme Manager