THOUSANDS of spectators watched the 50th Billingham Folklore Festival finish with a bang at a firework display.

Organisers have revealed attendances were up by 25 per cent.

This year there 33 world dance events, 20 workshops and two street parades as dancers from Chile, Italy, Ireland, Mexico, North Cyprus, Russia, South Korea, Spain and Thailand came to the Teesside town.

Organisers experimented by organising smaller, contemporary art events outside the town, including Newcastle and Middlesbrough, as well as staging traditional dance shows.

The idea is to secure the future of the event which regularly attracts about 30,000 spectators to Billingham. Extra publicity may also have led to the increase to workshops and both free and ticketed events. The week-long festival ended with a firework display at John Whitehead Park.

Joe Maloney, Festival Director, said: “After 50 years the people of Billingham still find time to show loyalty towards the festival, whether it’s to share a tale about bygone days or by attending one of the many unique shows we put on.

"For us to stay in the public eye for years to come we will need a new generation of people to pick up the cultural baton, and from the high attendance of our young people’s workshops, I think the festival is in safe hands.”

Billingham International Folklore Festival of World Dance was supported by Arts Council England, Stockton Borough Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Those considering taking part in next year’s festival can email or call 01642-553 220.