I met designer Wayne Hemingway a few years ago and we’ve vaguely kept in touch, he keeps tabs on me via my newsletters and I’m always interested to see what he’s up to. Projects are always worthwhile [sustainable housing in London] and never dull [brand guidelines for Beano and designing the Beanotown Museum] and now he and wife Geraldine have been working their curatorial magic in Darlington with the UK’s first Festival of Thrift. So it was that me and my mate Patti made a swift trip up the A1 to join what promised to be a “chic celebration of creative common-sense living featuring upcycling, recycling and finding the fun in sustainable living.” It also promised to be “life-changing and life-affirming” and bearing in mind entry was completely free that already seemed like a bit of a bargain.
The Lingfield Point site for the festival is itself a great example of recycling, with buildings from the 1940s era of Patons and Baldwins enjoying a new lease of life as a contemporary complex of offices and workshop units.
The festival branding and style took inspiration from the vintage site and despite the size and variety of stalls and entertainment the whole thing felt really cohesive from the Choose your Cheese DJ at one end to Paul Henri’s Chapeau Magique at the other which elevated paper hat making to a whole new level. Fully grown men were desparate to have a go at the millinery mayhem but elbowing your way through hoards of small children wasn’t really in the spirit of Thrift.
Miss Contance Irkles Hula workshop was however, fun for all the family, as was Tunaversity Challenge. Sadly Jeremy Paxman wasn’t the one in the giant yellow waders quizzing the teams on all things fishy and when they ran out of tuna prizes they had to fall back on Pilchards (far more vintage!) but like everything else on site it was just brilliantly eccentric fun.
Vintage camper vans housed bijoux eateries and micro workshops including the little Artivan and up-cycling from Tabby Textiles who run weekly knitting cafes at Lingfield Point.
Meanwhile, working the crowd was a man wearing a serious veneer. No, not the metaphorical kind, more like some kind of suit crafted from offcuts of Formica. He came with a wardrobe on wheels, dressing unsuspecting victims in all kinds of pre-fabricated outfits with support from a side-kick covered entirely in living cress which he would tear off in handfuls to finish off the look.
Indoors were more thrifty workshops, advice and exhibits. I paused to admire a wool felt sleeping bag, only to find it was actually a coffin. If you prefer to leave the world nice and snuggly, safe in the knowledge that you haven’t taken half the world’s rain forest with you this is definitely the way to go .
Vintage tea club ladies toured the site by bicycle..or possibly tricycle…one of them looking rather reminiscent of Tony Curtis in Some like it Hot, and “Please play on the grass” was the order at the bee hive garden
Stalls offered everything from antique tea sets to cutlery jewellery; there were a million and one ways with buttons and heaps of hand printed textiles including one of our old favourites Kettle of Fish who’s on the Folksy website along with a host of other makers. (www.folksy.com).
Visitors were invited to design and create their own thrifty tips – which I duly did and of course I also did some serious shopping coming home with some beautiful bowls, some Yorkshire Ale and a rather lovely bracelet. But I have to say the biggest thing I took away was a hefty dose of happy. Of course the glorious September sunshine brought its own feel-good factor but overall the Festival of Thrift did deliver something special. So here’s to Wayne and co and here’s hoping we’ll back at Lingfield Point to do it all again next year. I’d best get knitting…