Free family festival coming to Middlesbrough will see giant puppets parade through the town
Giant puppets will parade through Middlesbrough during a family free festival next month.
A programme of arts-led events is heading to Middlesbrough to celebrate Hi! Street Fest – a family-friendly festival taking place alongside Orange Pip Market on Saturday, July 29. The star of the show is a giant scooter-riding puppet named Farrah the Fox – and she’s taller than a double decker bus.
Farrah will begin the parade at Exchange Square in the Historic Quarter, continue along Albert Road and end in Centre Square for Orange Pip celebrations. Local community groups will also take part in the parade and the festival forms part of Historic England’s national cultural heritage project to explore and celebrate high streets, as well as the people who love and look after them.
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Councillor Theo Furness, Middlesbrough Council ’s executive member for regeneration, said: “The high street is constantly changing – it always has – and it’s important that we keep up with the pace of that change. It’s really good to see so much happening down at the historic area around the train station.
“To have a real quality venue like Christie’s Brasserie at The Zetland now being joined by the likes of Bloom, Stack and The Muddler can give us grounds for optimism that people are buying into the idea. It’s well worth anyone giving that area a visit and the Hi! Street Fest at the end of July is definitely a really good excuse to get into town and enjoy everything that’s going on during the day.”
Local groups taking part in the parade include representatives from the Taste of Africa, the Dorman Museum’s Thrifty Fingers group and the Newport Community Hub. Each group has worked with a community producer to create their own puppets which celebrate significant female figures from Middlesbrough’s past.
Duncan Wilson, chief executive of Historic England, added: “We’re so excited to bring the fantastic Farrah the Fox and Hi! Street Fest to high streets around England to celebrate what makes each of our high streets so special. Farrah has already been enchanting children and adults alike as she warms up for her tour, and she is set to be a huge success as she visits Middlesbrough this summer.
“Expect a festival atmosphere, joyful music and dance and, of course, a giant friendly, fluffy fox.”
Middlesbrough is one of only six towns to be chosen to host Hi! Street Fest which is being delivered by Emergency Exit Arts in partnership with Historic England and Arts Council England. Navigator North have also developed a creative programme to celebrate Hi! Street Fest.
Taking place at their Linthorpe Road creative hub, The Masham, there’s a wide range of activities to take part in, including textile classes and felting workshops with artist Hellen Edwards. The artwork created at these activities will form a public exhibition between July 15 to August 19 at The Masham.
Local creative Miki Rogers will bring together Stories of Tea, inviting people to find out more about the heritage of chai and the opportunity to create their own ‘ Boro Brew’ on Friday, June 23 at The Masham. Exchange Square, at the centre of Middlesbrough’s Historic Quarter, will host a Playful Picnic on Saturday, July 22 between 12pm and 3pm where visitors can share lunch, taste a Boro Brew, play games and listen to stories with Rumana Yasmin from Bok Bok Books.
Navigator North’s co-founder and director, Vicky Holbrough, said: “We’re delighted to have put together this programme for Hi! Street Fest and to bring local artists to explore the town’s heritage through creative activities. This builds on our recent work delivering the cultural and community programme for Middlesbrough High Street Action Zone and offering people a way to get involved through our creative space on the high street.”
The festival is part of the wider Middlesbrough High Street Action Zone – a four year project led by Middlesbrough Council and Historic England aimed at breathing life back into Middlesbrough’s Historic Quarter. Major conservation improvements to the public space and historic buildings have already attracted a number of investors looking to capitalise on the up-and-coming part of the town centre.
Spensleys Emporium has been overhauled into the popular Bloom restaurant after a successful application to make major improvements to the building. Work is also taking place across the road at the former nightclub Kalinka thanks to the grant funding, and plans are in place to transform it into Muddler, a high-end restaurant and cocktail bar.
Around the corner, the owner of Christie’s Brasserie on Zetland Road has match funded their grant to restore the building’s exterior and reinstate the historic former windows so that the upper floors can be renovated and brought back to use. The High Street Heritage Action Zone funded project will finish in March 2024.