Darlington. Free. A festival of handmade and second-hand stuff. I made up my mind to go to the Festival of Thrift fairly quickly.
Darlington is not the type of place people would choose to go sightseeing (apart from church, railway and history lovers maybe?). It’s on the way to London. So I’d pass it every time I take East Coast Mainline trains. The train station itself is very impressive and dominant, at the top of a street on a slight hill. But same with many other normal streets in ordinary towns in the UK, it looks a bit sad and unloved. If I want to visit the grand Bowes Museum, I change bus at Darlington bus station. Any other reasons I would go to Darlington?
But I was DELIGHTED to see that the Festival was held in Darlington – not London, not Bristol, not Birmingham. Finally someone noticed the northern half of the UK! I had to go even just to show my support.
Last time I actually went to Darlington was to meet up with family. They are not from Darlington. I can’t remember why we met up there. But we had a lovely meal in a restaurant called Oven, recommended by a lady at the till in a corner shop, convincing us that the chef “used to cook for No.10” or something like that. I had the most richly flavoured and creatively designed cottage pie in my life.
So we took a train to Darlington in the morning on Saturday 27 September. There were cheerful signs saying “Home of Lingfield Point” on the train station platform. Lingfield Point was originally a wool factory. If you’re interested, here is their website. It reminded me of Beijing 798 Factory. Not sure how many people actually went the recommended eco-friendly way: train and bus. The bus stop to Lingfield Point was actually very close to the train station on the map. But in reality, it wasn’t very obvious and there was no sign for it. We had to walk all the way to town centre and passed the train station in a few minutes on a bus (feeling stupid).
We arrived just before lunch time. It was packed already. There was music and people talking in the main square, giving a lively festival feeling.
I skipped along the stalls with a big grin. Immediately, it felt like a weekend market on a huge scale. All sorts of stalls lined the streets and filled indoor spaces.
There are a lot of children friendly workshops. I really wanted to have a go as well. But there were so many children waiting…
That’s how you make apple juice!! Our question was, if this is how to make clear apple juice, how is cloudy apple juice made?
Blacksmith! I thought they only exist in computer games now.
I wonder when will be my first ever ceramic experience…
You can learn how to fix everything in a wigwam…
Or make a pizza oven in your back garden.
A lot of the workshops were held indoors in an interesting historical building. This was one of the cool ones: making your own sausages… It was quite funny to see them try to handle raw meat and record the process with a camera at the same time.
And these guys really made it feel like a festival:
This man and his contraption were definitely the number one centre of attention. (I did feel a bit sorry for him when big ladies sat at the front…)
It was a very much
family children focused festival. There was an impressive pink pig in the middle of the street with “piglets” snuggling next to it. It actually looked very cute. There was also a BBC weather gazebo. Children could stand in front of a green screen and see themselves in front of a UK weather map on a TV monitor.
There were lots of lovely caravans and camper vans. I’m sure there was a sale going on. I want a camper van! I’ll have a comfy bed next to a big window with loads wool blankets and puffy pillows. A tin of Welsh Cakes and a tin of peanut butter cups in the cupboard. A radio. A few books (Cloud Spotter’s Guide and The Natural Navigator) and magazines (Country Walking and Lonely Planet?). A small sketch book and an ink pen. Multiple cameras of course :)
We saw a hotdog van, tea and coffee point, a few proper cafes. But they were all packed and lined with long queues. We didn’t have anything. Too tired to queue. After all, according to their own report, 40,000 people flooded into Lingfield Point during the weekend. More indoor space for food and drink please!
Another thing to complain about, as I mentioned already in my previous blog post, on the website, please add “Newcastle 30 minutes by train” onto “Planning your visit” page, in addition to “Darlington is only 2hrs 1/2 from London, less than 2hrs from Manchester and 1hr from Leeds”! I might visit again next year :)
A happy visitor.