The Stockton International Riverside Festival (SIRF) is an annual free outdoor arts and street theatre festival in Stockton-on-Tees. In 2017 the festival celebrated its 30th year, helping to cement its position as one of the world’s oldest and best international outdoor art festivals.
Taking place in early August, it attracts international artists performing to thousands of spectators each year. It showcases outstanding international street theatre, dance, circus and music acts with a packed programme of shows for all the family.
The first Stockton International Riverside Festival was held in August 1988. Seeking inspiration from European festivals in Holland, France and Spain, SIRF soon became an outdoor art spectacular with a focus on international performers and companies. As enthusiasm gained for the exotic festival, the budget grew to allow for more street theatre, dance, circus and music acts to get involved. As well as becoming the gateway to the UK for European companies to showcase their work to an altogether different audience, the local environment relished in the introduction of diverse culture and also benefitted hugely economically due to the large crowds the festival attracts to the town each year.
Since mid-1990’s Arts Council England has increased their support of large outdoor festivals and street theatre companies in the UK, which has benefitted not only SIRF but also the English artists and performers we work with. We also provide a platform for community projects with our popular carnival procession, which is an integral part of SIRF that brings together professional artists and local community groups to create a vibrant showcase parade through the heart of Stockton.
SIRF is organised by Stockton Borough Council and beneath the performances lies a hidden year round programme of planning, technical expertise, professional collaboration and Council-wide support. At the heart of SIRF are our dedicated audiences that have been coming to the festival for many years and the serious seekers of new trends in street theatre. Our hopes for the future of the festival are centred round championing and presenting the best international street performances, supporting artists and companies to make great shows and inviting audiences to enjoy and actively participate in events. And, of course, to remain the world’s best international festival of outdoor art.