It's one of Middlesbrough's great success stories - we spent the day at the artisan food, craft and music market to find out how it all comes together
A nana dances to big band music with her young granddaughter.
A group of women burst into hysterics posing for a selfie while sipping prosecco nearby.
Three lads – in their early 20s – look over with a smile before finishing off their pint and setting off for the beer tent.
They excuse themselves as they slide in and out of the long queues for food – one of them follows their nose and joins dozens of others waiting at the Greek food van, tempted by the smell of freshly grilled gyros.
There’s a hum of conversation and laughter as I wander around on Orange Pip market day, it’s the sound of a town ready to enjoy themselves.
“We try and create a relaxed family atmosphere, and provide something for everyone,” said Holly Glover, Middlesbrough Council’s festival and events officer and one of the driving forces behind the market.
She’s one person who can’t relax as she surveys the thousands of visitors unwinding in the town centre on an overcast but warm Saturday afternoon.
Centre Square is packed full of food and drink vendors and craft stalls, activities for children, while there’s a main stage and two soap-box stages featuring all sorts of musical acts.
Yet a number of food businesses and musicians have pulled out due to Covid.
“Our job is to make sure people enjoy themselves,” continued Holly.
“We love putting on Orange Pip, we have loads of local businesses here and I think it definitely shows off Middlesbrough.”
Leanne Littlewood, the council’s deputy head of culture, agrees: “It’s a vibrant, family-feel festival. You could try and put this on anywhere, but I don’t think it would be the same. Middlesbrough is the perfect place for it.”
Originally launching on the intimate Bedford and Baker Streets, then expanding into Albert Road, Centre Square has been the location of Orange Pip since it returned this summer from Covid lockdowns, with more space for social distancing.
For 25-year-old Adam Martin – visiting with friends Rosie Wells, 24, Nathan Wallace, 28 and Abbie Dunnakey, 24 – “it’s nice to return to some normality”.
“I’ve always wanted to come but not made it before,” said Adam, from Normanby. “It’s really good.”
Abbie continued: “It feels safe, there’s loads of people here and it’s great to see that we can all get out and enjoy ourselves again.
“I like the location too – we’ll probably go over to the bars on Baker and Bedford Street later, I like it that I can come and go.”
Laura Hill, Jo Bryan, Claire Massey and Jo Graham have all travelled into Middlesbrough from Redcar and Cleveland for Orange Pip, and are enjoying a round of gin cocktails as they chat.
“There’s loads of stuff here to try, we’re going to get some food but we can’t decide what to get,” said Jo.
Claire added: “I think it feels more family friendly over here (Centre Square). We’re excited to see all the bands and just have a good laugh really.”
Peter Devlin, 28, has come in from Stockton with his two-year-old son Archie.
“What a place this is! There’s nowhere else on Teesside that I can come with the little fella, have something nice to eat, and just let him run free and enjoy himself like this,” he said.
“We love it, we’ll come to everyone we can manage.”
As I move on, a group spot my notebook and shout over: “It doesn’t feel like Middlesbrough, does it? Write that down.”
Steven Page, Robin Lawrence-Davison, Lynda Metcalfe, Gillian Batty and Donald Patten have also travelled from Stockton to enjoy the festival.
They love the opportunity to enjoy a drink and listen to some new music, but thinks Middlesbrough can make even more of their flagship event.
“We’ve been coming for a while, and we always enjoy it,” said Steven. “But it’d be great if there were more signs from the bus station so you know where to come, I think you’d have even more people here.
“We’ve had some food already, from the Greek van, and it was delicious – we might have to try something else!”
That’s one wonderful thing about Orange Pip – the choice.
I drop in at Northern Portions, the start-up food firm that’s taken Teesside’s social media by storm in the past year, and try an indulgent deep-fried creamy penne pasta.
It’s delicious, and I could easily have found space for their sandwiches, arancini and cakes while I glanced enviously at the dozens of stalls selling everything you can think of – Cuban food, pastries, gourmet hot dogs, vegan cakes.
Many of the traders are local – including Laura Parks, 29, who runs Fudge It.
She said: “I got into fudge making by accident really, I made some as a Christmas gift for friends and family and people enjoyed it so much they encouraged me to make more!
“We’ve gone really quickly and I’ve just moved into a new premises, and this was my first Orange Pip. I absolutely loved it!
“It’s such an amazing atmosphere, and it’s such a big deal locally that when I was invited I saw it as a real achievement for our business.”
Jonny Hesketh runs Parm-o-rama – a mobile food unit based in Newcastle which brings the Teesside parmo to the masses outside the area.
“I’m from Stockton, but I live in Newcastle where I was a DJ and I was fed up of never being able to get a parmo after work, places sell them but they’re nowhere near what you get on Teesside,” said the 37-year-old.
“So I converted an old horse-trailer into a kitchen and made my own. I was eating parmo every night for 6 weeks until I got the recipe right, I put a stone on. But I soon lost it working at events!
“We get fantastic feedback all round the country, and we feed a lot of ex-pats too. So to be honest I was a bit nervous coming to Orange Pip because people in Middlesbrough know their parmos.
“It’s been great though, it’s just a great event full of people who’ve come to have a nice time.”
But it’s not just food. Along with the arts and crafts, introduced in 2019 to diversify the market’s offer, a big part of the day is the music – with live performances spread across three stages in September.
There’s another market to come on October 2, with a special theme.
After a pop-up event in 2019, Pride makes its return to Middlesbrough to take over the popular artisan market.
Alongside the Orange Pip’s well-loved offer the main stage, sponsored by housing organisation Beyond Housing will be packed with performances by artists from across the North East. Including Sunderland’s bigfatbig and PICNIC and Drag Artists Frida Sapphic (North East Drag Idol winner) and well known drag talent Carla Jackson and DJ Gina Tonic.
The market will also be extended to make way for a series of Pride stalls, run by local LGBTQIA+ owned businesses and Pride supporters including Unison, Cleveland Police & Crime Commissioner’s Office, Cleveland Fire Brigade, Teesside University and more.