FIFTEEN thousand people turned out on Stockton's Riverside to watch giant puppets, music and pyrotechnics bring Europe's largest free international arts festival to an end.

The finale of Stockton International Riverside Festival (SIRF) saw a colourful parade and performance inspired by the Mexican festival, Day of the Dead, on Sunday night.

The audience along Stockton High Street joined a dance and a band playing tangos, tarantellas and rumbas as the parade made its way to its conclusion on the Riverside.

Stockton council said the event had once again been a success, with more than 50,000 people attending this year.

Stockton Council’s Cabinet Member for Arts, Leisure and Culture, Councillor Ken Dixon, said: “Yet again SIRF has been a fantastic success and Stockton has been showcased as a host of truly world-class events.

"It was really encouraging that despite the bad weather on Saturday and the significant regeneration works under way in the town at the moment, an estimated 50,000 people visited the festival with large audiences for the Community Carnival, finale and other big shows.

“We cannot underestimate the benefit events such as SIRF have on the local economy. Although the economic impact of this year’s festival is not yet complete, in previous years it has generated between £800,000 and £1m per year.

"Footfall in the town increased throughout the festival which benefited many of the shops, businesses and eateries based in the town centre.

“The programme has been varied and exciting with something for everyone and the acts proving hugely popular for audiences. It really is excellent that our residents can enjoy this standard of performance right on their doorsteps every year.

“What’s more, this year’s Community Carnival was one of the most colourful and vibrant to date."

On Saturday, the community carnival - the largest of its kind in the North-East - paraded down Stockton high street. This year's theme was Voyages of Discovery and the floats were designed and put together by schools and community groups across Stockton.

The finale parade Les Tambours de la Muerte was performed by French company, Transe Express.

The festival is funded by Stockton council and the Arts Council and attracts performance artists from around the world, with many preparing to go on to the Edinburgh Festival.