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Puppets, Pip and one big family day out in Middlesbrough

The streets were awash with colour, music and family-friendly shenanigans on Saturday (29 July), as two successful events descended on the town centre.

Over 14,000 people visited Centre Square and Exchange Square to enjoy July’s slice of Orange Pip and just down the road, Hi! Street Fest brought together hundreds of people to celebrate the town’s Historic Quarter.

Middlesbrough was one of just six town’s in England chosen to host the outdoor street festival. The festival has been developed by Historic England in partnership with Emergency Exit Arts to celebrate high streets and communities across the land and bring them to life through parades, music and art.

And that’s certainly what happened.

Farrah the fox in Middlesbrough

Farrah the fox in Middlesbrough

Community groups from across the town took to the streets of Middlesbrough’s Historic Quarter and happily waved and danced along with the crowds while showing off their bold and colourful puppets which they had made during months of work with local artists and local art collective, Navigator North.

But it was the two giant (five meter high) puppets that stole the show.

Farrah the fox – the star of the parade who visits high streets across the country – whizzed through the streets on a giant scooter and was joined by Tia, a puppet made by community groups who represented the history and heritage of Middlesbrough and its people.

Tia wore a beautiful outfit that had been painstakingly crafted by the groups through a number of workshops leading up to the event.

The outfit was inspired by the first Asian lady to live in the town and her story is documented in the Teesside Archives.

Along with the puppets, who were all inspired by influential women from Middlesbrough’s past – pop up theatre, live music, pavement art, Boro Brew tasting and dance groups all added to the carnival atmosphere.

Becky from Nunthorpe said: “I normally come down to Orange Pip but spotted on Facebook that the parade was taking place and thought I would check it out. It was really good fun, something completely different and it was great to spot all the different performers enjoying themselves.”

Until 19 August you can head over to The Masham on Linthorpe Road to see the Fox and the Girl exhibition from Navigator North which has been inspired by Tia and Farrah’s visit to Middlesbrough.

You’ll be able to see behind the scenes images, exciting animations and entries to their community art project.

Street performers at Hi! Street Fest

Street performers at Hi! Street Fest

The fun continued up the road at Orange Pip with scores of stalls selling food from around the world including Greek gyros wraps, tempting gooey loaded fries and giant artisan hot dogs.

There was a new take on classic Chinese street food with delicious pancake-style wraps that had queues snaking around the square, and it was hard to pick a sweet treat from the flurry of local independent bakers who had set up stalls just hours after whipping, baking and decorating fresh treats that morning.

Frazer Lambert, Vicky Barber and Mascara’s Lies brought energy to the Pip’s music stage and there was crafty fun inside a red telephone box as local artist Suzie Devey dropped by to create some clever art printing at the Two Tin Cans! pop-up.

Firing up the imagination of the mini pip goers (perhaps when mam and dad enjoyed a local craft ale) was Jellyfish Theatre who brought their imaginative Wagon of Dreams to the party. It’s a converted retro caravan that hosts pop-up theatre shows for kids – and the swashbuckling tale of mermaids and sea creatures was a definite winner.

Orange Pip trader

Orange Pip trader

After the sun went down over the town, the ‘after-pip party’ was at quirky hang out den, Disgraceland, which saw the fun continue through the evening.

There was an excitement about town towards the end of the day as restaurants and bars were all buzzing with people trickling across to Linthorpe Road, Baker Street and Bedford Street to continue their day out.

The next Orange Pip will take place ‘in the streets’ at Baker Street and Bedford Street on Saturday 30 September, 12pm – 7pm.

We are words: Anne-Marie O’Donnell