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Monthly Focus On... September 2013

By Lucy Purdy:

Built to Last

Thriftiness may not have the most glamorous of reputations, but a new festival taking place this week promises to find the fun in sustainable living by encouraging reuse and recycling. 

Designers Wayne Hemingway and Gerardine Hemingway have compiled a “chic celebration of common-sense living” which opens its doors to the public on Saturday.

Lucy Purdy finds out more about the event which aims to turn the tide on our disposable society.

The Festival of Thrift takes place this September

Vintage-lovers marked September 21 in their diary after the launch of the first national Festival of Thrift, to be held at Lingfield Point in Darlington. Curated by award winning design duo Wayne and Gerardine Hemingway, the festival aims to celebrate the fun and satisfaction to be found in upcycling, recycling and reusing what may otherwise be thrown away.

Wayne Hemingway, who founded the fashion firm Red Or Dead from his market stall in north London around 30 years ago, decided to bring his vision to life after pondering the ways in which so much is discarded unnecessarily in today’s throwaway culture.

He said: “Thrift is very close to our hearts as we – along with many others – are concerned at the disposable nature of our society.

The festival is curated by Wayne and Gerardine Hemingway

“Gerardine and I have always had fun being thrifty and have always loved the challenge of turning a sow’s ear into a silk purse – from turning old curtains into cushion covers or skirts during our Camden market days in the 1980s, to our current home – turning an old broken boat into a sofa.

“We have been inventive in our thrift over the years and that’s been part of the fun. It’s also why it is great to be part of a festival celebrating sustainability and recognising it’s cool to be thrifty.”

Lingfield Point in the north east of England was selected as a venue due to its own evocative history. John Orchard of Marchday, the owners of Lingfield Point, explained why they decided to get involved.

He said: “Lingfield Point is itself upcycled from the old Patons and Baldwins wool factory, thrift is embedded in our buildings Instead of demolishing the old factory we’ve saved an immense amount of energy and resources by upcycling the buildings into magnificent workspaces instead.

“It’s wonderful that we’ve got the opportunity to hold this festival in our community at Lingfield Point. It supports the thrifty ideals that we hold close to our heart and gives people the opportunity to enjoy the wonderful buildings that many of their parents and grandparents worked and danced in before them.”

Wayne Hemingway agreed that the building was the “perfect place” to host the venue as it proves that “thrift and upcycling can move far beyond the home and can be at the heart of regeneration.”

Thrift is about re-using, upcycling, creating and making in a way that inspires and saves, not just people’s pennies but our whole planet – under threat from a whole raft of manmade pressures.

Taking place on September 21 and 22, festival organisers say it offers a wide range of hands-on activities, from innovations in art and technology to how everyone can unlock the magic potential stored in vintage items through upcycling. It will be held on both outdoor and indoor sites at Lingfield Point with pop-up artworks, allotments, performances, exhibitions, workshops, demonstrations, talks, market stalls and foraging tours.

Launched from Darlington town centre with a mass bike ride, arguably the thriftiest form of transport, the festival is being billed as “a must for everyone who knows or wants to learn new skills and have fun doing it”.

Among the attractions is the Alternative Village Fete, a bustling area featuring everything from specially commissioned live art stalls and performance, live music, communal dance, to stalls selling goods from vintage fashion to homemade food and drink. Roving street performers will stroll and stride right across the site with festival-goers being urged to keep their eyes peeled for the Vintage Tea Club ladies, Paul Henri’s Chapeau Magique making paper hats, and Theatre Hullabaloo’s show for under-fives, which promises to weave together stories old and new.

An all-weekend event, the Multi-Thrifty Swapshop, includes anything anybody may want to exchange, from the most glamorous of outfits to garden shears, and will be aided by the Charity Shop DJs.

Attending the festival will be Total Eclipse of The Head who can transform locks into retro styles.

The weekend will also feature upcycled fashion shows, exhibitions and a Museum of Thrift. And, for those wanting to know how to incorporate sustainable living practices into their everyday lives, an Ideal Thrifty Homes section will feature specially-designed rooms and furniture workshops, led by Teeside University and FRADE, where visitors can find out how to recreate swish interior looks on a budget – and in good conscience to boot.

Lingfield Point artist-in-residence Becky Sunter will lead a team of crafters in holding craft workshops on how to create your own fashions and accessories from leftovers.

Come lunchtime, street food stalls and food workshops will cover everything from home-smoking to pickling, plucking, sushi, sourdough and more. For those keen to find out about nature’s larder, there will be hourly foraging trips and a Thriftea Party which will feature self-made crockery and cake stands.

The festival will also feature so-called ‘pop-up allotments’: offering tips on beekeeping and animal husbandry, including how to build your own henhouse, and how to grow food in even the smallest of spaces. And for motoring fans, there will be lovingly restored vintage vehicles to pore over – and perhaps covet.

Festival director Stella Hall has previously worked on events from the Preston Guild 2012 Festival to Enchanted Parks and is former creative director of Culture 10, responsible for the North East’s EAT and Juice festivals. She is currently the creative producer for Media City, Salford.

She said: “This festival places creativity at the heart of our shared sustainable future. It positions artists and designers as inspirers to action and change through workshops, exhibitions and performances that will give all the family confidence to create while having fun on a budget.”

Food and drink will play a star role in the festival with Simon Preston, director of NewcastleGateshead’s EAT! Festival, curating pop-up restaurants and eateries in addition to sustainable production, allotment advice and a healthy serving of regional food and drink producers.

Simon said: “The Festival of Thrift food programme will be anything but frugal, as chefs, artisans, foragers and horticulturalists from around the region come together with a feast of foodie know-how and creativity.

“The festival reclaims the street food craze for those who’ve always known that gutsy peasant food and cheap cuts taste the best, especially when served from a parade of pimped vintage vehicles.

“Local food and drink producers expend minimal food miles in bringing their artisanal goods to market, and even then the food doesn’t travel far as festival crowds use pre-paid Picnic-n-Mix cards to assemble their bespoke hamper.”

Lancashire-born Wayne offered a personal insight into his inspiration for the festival – particularly its location within the UK.

He said: “The people of the north east have long been thrifty – through necessity and through a desire to save the planet and the Earth’s resources. As a Lancashire lad  I was brought up on an ethos of thrift – from my nan putting small bits of soap bars into a jar, melting them together and making new bars of multi-coloured soap, to my pop shredding the daily newspaper to use as ‘blankets’ to keep the frost off his strawberries.

“We aim to inspire the next generation by showing the pleasure that can be made through being thrifty, celebrate sustainability while having fun with creating, and for everyone to enjoy the festival while spending time together with friends and family.”

For more information on Festival of Thrift visit follow @ThriftFest or visit the team’s page on Facebook.

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