Yesterday we drove across the country to Darlington for the first ever Festival of Thrift. There had been a lot of hype surrounding the two day festival and I was curious to see how it all turned out. After being stuck in an inordinate amount of traffic near our house and swerving across a couple of counties we found the venue for the festival, Lingfield Point – a bright and colourful carbon neutral business park to be a perfect fit. The festival was packed but it was still super easy to find a spot to park and the blue sky, scorching sun weather definitely added to the atmosphere as we added our three warm bodies to the heaving throng of thrifty types. The first main stretch of stalls we came to included lots of second hand homeware stalls and even some people making a caravan which they were happy to let you get involved in. We got talking to a guy further down about raising chickens, which is a dream we have for our new house….or maybe the house after that.
We checked out stall after stall of second hand and vintage items, we hadn’t realised the market side of the event would be so big, so we hadn’t brought along much money but we came away with some great ideas for making over furniture and clothes. A good couple of hours of mooching around the event and petting cute dog after cute dog (is this a common theme among thriftsters?) in the heat left us knackered so nestled on a stretch of grass with some grub and a cold drink before calling it a day.
A lot of the festival of thrift was about spending. Sure it was free to get in and sure I understand people need to make a living but unless you were checking out the maps (and a lot of people I spoke to didn’t know the maps existed) or pre-booking yourself into a workshop online, most of the activities (not all but most) centered around buying stuff. Outside of the pre-booked workshops it definitely felt a lot like the vintage markets I attend each week – which is no bad thing but not quite what I expected.
I spoke to a few people who had popped up on a whim after seeing signs on the road and whilst they enjoyed the atmosphere they weren’t overly impressed that most of what would have been of interest to them had been kept to small, pre-booked sessions. They came away feeling, a bit like I did, that it was more of a market than anything else. That’s not to say that the stalls weren’t great because some of them were and I learnt a lot, especially about donating unwanted fruit to collectives across the country who will then turn it into jam or sell it locally which is a fantastic idea.
I do think it was a fabulous idea and the organisers were very brave to champion thrift and second hand, although it was definitely at the right time with many people ready to be converted. If some of the sessions had been on a more open basis – like the talk from Freecycle etc. – I would have given the event a thumbs up but as it was, I think they did well for their first attempt and I look forward to seeing more from them next year but maybe with the inclusion of some of the talks or workshops being open to a larger group of people.
If you weren’t someone already into thrifting and already attending vintage markets on a regular basis this would blow you away but for someone already on ‘the scene’ this was good but not amazing.
Promoting the idea of a thrifty lifestyle, one where we reuse and think creatively, to the masses is a fantastic idea and the promotion and organisation which went behind the Festival of Thrift was incredible. They worked their socks off that’s for sure. I loved the community vibe to the festival and the village green area was a cool idea (although maybe it would have worked better if the food stalls and bar opened onto this area) because it meant we got talking to lots of different thrift fans and got to exchange money saving ideas with strangers whilst chatting over a drink. Talking to the other thrifty types was definately my highlight, they had such innovative ideas – it was like the AGM for people who don’t want to throw stuff out.
I loved how accessible it was for people new to the idea of second hand and reusing. Stepping outside of my own personal experience this is certainly the kind of thing which was needed and I love Festival of Thrift for making a big deal of this kind of lifestyle and letting people know it is possible and it is fun and it isn’t just for loonies who live in a shack.
Events like this are important, especially with the financial struggles many of us are facing at this time. If events like Festival of Thrift can get the notion of reusing items, of buying second hand, of creative lifestyles into the minds of people who wouldn’t otherwise be exposed to them then fan-flipping-tastic.
Making things cool is half the job of getting the ball rolling in the right direction and I think Festival of Thrift did just that over the weekend. Good work with the thrifty trumpet, I say, good work.