Toggle menu

SIRF is back! Show times, parking and everything you need to know ahead of festival

02 August 2022
A solitary performer dangles from a wire - she is in an old church ruin, bathed in stunning purple light, and watched by a crowd.

A solitary performer dangles from a wire - she is in an old church ruin, bathed in stunning purple light, and watched by a crowd.

SIRF22 returns to Stockton this Thursday - and it's set to be a busy one.

The popular festival will see Stockton's town centre and riverside play host to four days of free street theatre, dance, music and outdoor arts.

There are shows, installations and things to do at the Tees Barrage this year too, while family favourite, the SIRF Community Carnival, will take place on Sunday.

Here's all you need to know...

What is SIRF?

Stockton International Riverside Festival, aka SIRF, is 35 years old this year.

Once described as "the world's best festival of outdoor art" by then Arts Council Chief Executive Alan Davey, it attracts tens of thousands of people to the town each year.

SIRF22 sees the festival return to Stockton for the first time since 2019, with more than 50,000 people expected to visit across the four days.

When is it on?

SIRF22 kicks off on Thursday (4 August) and runs through to Sunday (7 August).

What type of things can I see?

Our five SIRF highlights and eight unmissable family shows pieces are great places to start but here's a quick summary.

This year's festival launches in dramatic fashion at 7.30pm on Thursday with the joy and thrill of French company Gratte Ciel's large scale spectacle, Tawa.

As live music fills the air, aerialists and acrobats will spin in a spectacular explosion of colour on Stockton's Riverside with incredible acts of human strength and resilience.

A whole host of fun, family-friendly and quirky performances will take place throughout Friday, Saturday and Sunday with the action starting around 12.30pm each day.

SIRF will end with a bang on Sunday night (9.30pm) as French troupe Transe Express bring rhythmic drumming and take to the night sky for the finale on Stockton Riverside.

You can check out the full festival programme on the programme page of the SIRF website.

Is there anything different this year?

Yes! The ever-popular Community Carnival takes place on Sunday this year instead of its usual Saturday slot - this year's theme is "Everything under the sun".

The procession will make its way through the town centre to the Riverside where celebrations and family entertainment will continue throughout the day.

There's a Tees Barrage International Showcase to look forward to as well, with everything from fun family activities to dramatic shows featuring dance, music and fire.

As if that wasn't enough, there's also a brand new SIRF Green festival village based on the corner of Bishop Street and Thistle Green.

It will be offering Korean food, gourmet brownies and flapjacks, vegan dishes, stone-baked pizzas, cocktails, alcohol-free mocktails, coffee and more.

Is SIRF free?

Yes! All of the SIRF22 shows are free this year but some are ticketed due to limited capacity.

These are 0AR, Within Without, Ricky the Itch, Community Chest, The Stockton Treasure, FLOOD and Stomping Ground.

Tickets are free and available to collect each day an hour before the start of each show or at the designated time within the show listing.

They can be collected from SIRF Central (aka the Enjoy Stockton-on-Tees shop) on Stockton High Street, on a first come, first served basis.

For the rest of the shows you can simply turn up and enjoy!

What's the best way to get there?

We encourage visitors to walk or cycle into town or use public transport wherever possible. Free bike storage is available.

Visit the Connect Tees Valley website to help you find the best options for your journey.

If you're visiting by car please note the Riverside, High Street, Bishop Street, Dairy, Parliament Street and Municipal car parks are closed during the festival.

There are still many parking options with hundreds of spaces available within a short walking distance of the town centre and Riverside.

Head to the Your SIRF visit page of the SIRF website for full details.

Is SIRF accessible?

SIRF has a proud history of supporting disabled and disabled-friendly artists and there's a range of services on offer to help people with disabilities access performance sites and accessible viewing areas.

These include a "buddy service" to provide visitors with a guide to escort them around key performance sites, wristbands to enter accessible viewing areas and pre-show "touch tours" so you can get familiar with the sets and props used in selected shows.

Early booking is strongly recommended. Check out the Accessible SIRF page of the SIRF website, call 01642 605676 or visit SIRF Central (aka the Enjoy Stockton-on-Tees shop) on the High Street for more information.

Where can I get SIRF updates during the festival?

Be sure to follow the festival's social media channels on FacebookTwitter and Instagram to keep up with any changes.

Use the #SIRF22 hashtag on your posts from the festival and you could see them featured online.

I need more information...

Everything you could ever need can be found on the SIRF website.

SIRF is supported by Arts Council England.

For Council news direct to your inbox sign up to our My Council Newsletter.