Giant puppets and people join together to celebrate Middlesbrough’s high streets
A programme of magical arts-led events are heading to Middlesbrough this summer to celebrate Hi! Street Fest – a free family-friendly festival taking place alongside Orange Pip on 29 July.
The star of the show is a giant scooter-riding puppet named Farrah the Fox – and she’s taller than a double decker bus.
Joined alongside community groups from across Middlesbrough, Farrah will begin the route at Centre Square, continue along Albert Road up to Middlesbrough’s Historic Quarter ending in Exchange Square for a colourful celebration of Middlesbrough’s high street and communities.
A number of local groups have played a part in helping the parade come to life including 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.
The festival forms part of Historic England’s national cultural project to explore and celebrate high streets, as well as the people who love and look after them.
Middlesbrough is one of just 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.
Cllr Theo Furness, Middlesbrough Council’s Executive Member for Regeneration, said “It’s fantastic that Middlesbrough has been selected by Historic England as one of six UK locations to host Hi! Street Fest and welcome Farrah the Fox. With resilience in her genes, Farrah has adapted to live in a changing environment much like our high streets. This festival will actively encourage local people to engage in creative practices within our town centre.”
Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England, said “We know that cultural events on our high streets increase a sense of pride in local places, encourage people to visit their town and connect with their local community. That’s why these projects are so crucial. A giant fox on a scooter visiting Middlesbrough to celebrate the identity and history of its high street is not something to be missed!”
Navigator North have also developed an exciting creative programme to celebrate Hi! Street Fest.
Taking place at their Linthorpe Road creative hub, The Masham, local people can take part in a wide range of activities including textile classes and felting workshops with artist, Hellen Edwards, illustration with Adele Catchpole and creative writing with Rumana Yasmin The artwork created at these activities and from an open call for artwork submissions will form a public exhibition between 15 July – 19 August at the venue.
Stories of Tea will be brought together by local creative Miki Rogers, inviting people to find out more about the heritage of tea around the world and the opportunity to create their own ‘Boro Brew’ on Friday 23 June at The Masham.
At the centre of Middlesbrough’s Historic Quarter, Exchange Square will host a Playful Picnic on Saturday 22 July between 12pm – 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 programme for Middlesbrough High Street Heritage 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 Heritage Action Zone (HSHAZ) – a four year grant-funded project led by Historic England with support from Middlesbrough Council and the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
The programme is helping to breathe life back into Middlesbrough’s Historic Quarter, the area near the Railway Station, and the improvements have already attracted a number of investors looking to capitalise on the up and coming part of the town centre.
Bloom restaurant received grant funding to make major improvements to the former Spensleys building and just opposite and building that was formerly Kalinka is currently undergoing works with discussions to transform it into a high end restaurant and cocktail bar.
Around the corner, work has started on Christie’s Brasserie on Zetland Road to restore the building’s exterior and reinstate the historic dormer windows so that the upper floors can be renovated and brought back into use.
The High Street Heritage Action Zone funded project will come to an end in March 2024.