Hundreds of people gathered at the Riverside in Stockton yesterday to welcome the launch of a four-day celebration.

Stockton International Riverside Festival (SIRF) kicked off with a bang and the swish of acrobatic dancers yesterday (Thursday August 4) as residents across the region attended.

With a range of food options and new heights of acrobatic talent, the festival will span across four days until Sunday, August 7.

Kicking things off was Tawa by Gratte Ciel, a French aerialist and acrobatic group, as many watched on the nearby hillside.

The Northern Echo: Picture: CONNOR LARMANPicture: CONNOR LARMAN

Businesses were enjoying the festivities as well with many excited to see what the weekend will bring.

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Kirstine Walton, of the Velveteen Rabbit Luncheon Club, was handing out homemade pies and pastries to hungry mouths during the evening.

Ms Walton said this was the first time they had done SIRF so they were “taking it as it comes.”

She added: “People have been toing and froing I think people are waiting for the main acts to come on so they’re not really sure what’s happening just yet and they’re getting themselves acquainted.

The Northern Echo: Kirstine Walton and The Velveteen Rabbit Luncheon Club Picture: CONNOR LARAMANKirstine Walton and The Velveteen Rabbit Luncheon Club Picture: CONNOR LARAMAN

“We’re here all weekend so it’s one of those we think if people know where we are it will be good, we’ve had a lot of people asking if we’re going to be here all weekend and we gladly say yes.”

Originally from Stockton, the business is based in Great Ayton with another branch in Northallerton.

According to Ms Walton, who has attended the event a number of times, she said this year it had a “different vibe.”

She added: “I mean, I’ve been coming to SIRF for years, either working it or visiting it and it’s a bit of a different vibe this year.

“So it’s a bit more interesting and a lot more street theatre, there’s always an element of it though, bit it’s less music and more interactive stuff as well.”

“We’ve prepped loads but we’re hoping that atmosphere is going to be really awesome, and we’ll just get in the festival mood and spend time by the riverside and watch some things.

“Hopefully it will be a good weekend.

Brodie, from Redhead Mac’n’Cheese, said the day had been “decent” and he was anticipating it would get busier as the weekend goes on.

The Northern Echo: Redheads Mac 'n' Cheese Picture: CONNOR LARMANRedheads Mac 'n' Cheese Picture: CONNOR LARMAN

He added: “I had a look at the booklet and it really looks like there’s some quite interesting things on.

“It’s not really something we have done before as it’s more of performing arts and things, but yeah it’s been good.

Visitors to the event were also enjoying the spectacle such as Sarah and Pauline, Sarah from Middlesbrough and Pauline from Sunderland.

Sarah said: “We went to the barge and saw the music, which was really good and very interesting and different, with the wind catching the different instruments.

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“So yeah it was lovely and I mean the weather has been perfect.”

She added: “We are excited it’s just nice to see everyone out and about after the pandemic and seeing something different.”

Katheryn and Allan Armstrong, from Eaglescliff, were among those attending but were “excited by the food offering.”

The Northern Echo: Katheryn and Allan ArmstrongKatheryn and Allan Armstrong

Ms Armstrong added: “Yeah I feel that the couple of years that it has been off has made a difference I think, because it’s a lot more little food options.

“We’ve been a lot of times before.”

The pair has been visiting the event since the 90s when they used to come with their children.

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Mr Armstrong added: “It was bigger in those days and there was a lot more of the spectacular.

“People used to come here on the way to Edinburgh festival so we used to get these big acts from Europe, and we remember one called Circus Renaldo which was absolutely amazing.

“It was a ticketed event in those days, free but still ticketed.

“So it’s scaled down now and we’ve not been for a few years, so it will be interesting to see how it’s kind of developed since the pandemic really.”

Ms Armstrong stressed that the festival was always good at “finding interesting people.”

She added: “We spend a lot of time in Edinburgh as well and obviously there’s lots going on there, especially at the moment.

“So it’s nice to be able to go up the road and there being something here, which is one of the reasons why we come because you have to support it while it’s here.”

Mr Amrstrong concluded: “We have seen some really incredible things that have altered your perception about thing.

“From things that have been quite socially aware, to things that are sort of black humor, you name it, outlandish things but also spectacularly entertaining as well.

“The variety of things as well and all that culture comes to Stockton.”

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