INTERVIEW: Thriftfest Upcycled | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: Postcards by METIS

The annual Festival of Thrift usually takes place in Kirkleatham, Redcar and offers a range of brilliant experiences to get us thinking about sustainability. While a physical festival isn’t on the cards this year, in true thrifty fashion the organisers have repurposed and upcycled the event into an online celebration, taking place on Saturday 12th September.

This year’s theme is ‘energy’, and despite operating on a much-reduced budget with considerable challenges, the festival promises heaps of vibrant thrifty fun. I caught up with festival director Stella Hall who explains how she’s been managing her team and bringing the event together despite the restrictions of COVID-19.

The Festival of Thrift team are all freelance and we are working together from Edinburgh down to Saltburn and also calling in via Zoom from as far away as New Zealand. It’s our hope that the spirit of thrift can be replicated in multiple places simultaneously and we are looking forward to seeing the ripple effect through different people in their communities.”

We talked about how COVID-19 had given us renewed energy to grow veggies, chat more with neighbours and embed in our communities in new ways; for lots of us, our commuting time was cut to mere minutes as we walked into a different room to switch on our laptops, and it’s this shift in our lives that has provided inspiration for the festival.

The line-up is as creative as ever, with something for everyone, and is designed to make us slow down and think about our impact on the planet and how we use our time here. Visitors are encouraged to ‘Thrift Your Place’ on the run-up to the festival, using activity packs and fun-filled ideas to inspire all ages, available to download from the website.

Highlights of the programme include Diane Watson’s Garden of the Deep, an installation of 3,500 plastic flowers created from the bottles and debris found washed up on our beaches, with the aim of raising awareness of the consumption of single use plastics. Festival goers can download instructions online to create their own plastic bottle flower.

North East gem Fixit Cafe make a welcome return with a ‘live fix’ streamed on the day, as Gateshead-based artist duo Lindsay Duncanson and Marek Gabrysh invite people to write to them for advice on fixing broken items and giving them a new lease of life. On the festival website they provide top tips on ways you can get more out of your stuff by using less. Contact them on Facebook (search Fixit Cafe) to get involved.

It’s our hope that the spirit of thrift can be replicated in multiple places simultaneously and we are looking forward to seeing the ripple effect through different people in their communities

Levilab have created the first workshop kit of its kind which enables participants to become ‘architects of air’; their Building With Air workshop kit contains instructions, tools and materials to build several inflatable creations, order in advance of the festival and share your designs on the day using #levilab on social media.

Plan a make-over for the day with the help of Newcastle-based dancer and choreographer Patrick Ziza, whose in-depth guide on how to become a dandy is informative and fun. Patrick’s tips cover how to dress, pose and walk, while providing a history of the 18th Century form of rebellious self-expression. Patrick will also host a livestreamed dance workshop on the day. Also on a fashion tip, The Secret Stuff of Life invites participants to design, make and move in wearable sculptures with dance artists Jennifer Essex and Lorraine Smith who, along with Dutch costume designer Daphne Karstens, use man-made materials to create wearable sculptures. Join tutorials on the festival webpage.

On the day itself, poetry readings will be given by Tees Women Poets, a performance poetry collective who seek to empower women in the Tees Valley area. There’s more performance from London-based interdisciplinary performing arts company METIS, who create A Brilliant Day to be broadcast as part of the festival; having invited participants to imagine their perfect day via a series of instruction-filed postcards sent out in advance of the festival, METIS will weave responses into a script for their performance, which will also help them create their spring show, Love Letters To A Liveable Future.

Gobbledegook Theatre encourage moments of reflection with their downloadable tips on cloudgazing, which will teach you how to identify the main types of clouds while also demonstrating how cloudgazing can have a positive impact on mental health, and on Saturday 12th they’ll present a Cloudscapes at Home podcast. Also on a weather theme, Whippet Up’s fun info pack on creating your own sun and wind faces will keep kids and adults alike amused!

As always, a series of talks will provide further food for thought, with topics including Thrift Youth and Feeding The Community. Another highlight of the physical festival has been given an exciting online makeover – the virtual festival marketplace will be online until Christmas, and features a range of sustainably-focused businesses offering upcycled and recycled goods and ethically produced products.

Stella added: “It’s really been a coming together of people and it feels a very exciting moment of its time this year; we are hoping thousands of people join in. 2020 has offered a brand new way of working for the festival and we are waiting in anticipation of what will play out in your homes and communities!”

Thriftfest Upcycled takes place on Saturday 12th September via their website

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