JOHN Orchard, a director of Lingfield Point’s owner Marchday, was one of the main men behind the launch of the first Festival of Thrift held in Darlington last year.

He got together with his fashion designer friends Wayne and Gerardine Hemingway and after recruiting experienced events organisers, the Festival of Thrift was born.

Its debut weekend saw 27,000 people flock to the Lingfield Point business park to enjoy a range of stalls, workshops and art with a thrifty theme.

That success has led to a second festival planned for the weekend of September 27 and Mr Orchard explained why Lingfield Point has all the right ingredients to host it again.

“People ask me all the time why we did the festival,” he said.

“Some mistakenly see it as frivolous and irrelevant to the world of commercial property.

“But we see it as a valuable showcase for everything we're doing at Lingfield Point - and a great opportunity to have some fun.”

Mr Orchard said the Hemingways liked Lingfield Point as a venue because they appreciated how the office buildings had been renovated with respect to their former use as the Patons and Baldwins wool factory.

And from an initial belief that the festival would appeal to a niche audience of 'thrifters' – those already skilled in making and growing their own – the festival grew to appeal to those who wanted inspiration to live a little differently.

Mr Orchard said: “These people had come because it was a 'cool' event but also because they wanted to learn how to make this, reinvent things and grow things.”

The same principles apply at Lingfield Point and Mr Orchard argues that the popularity of the facility shows the value that art and culture can bring into the working environment.

He said: “Again, it's not the sort of stuff that most commercial property companies get into.

“We have a lot of art - from Futurescope, which is a series of enormous images that are visible from the surrounding roads, to lots more 'hidden' artist treasures around the site.

“It makes people smile and we like that.

“We have installed beehives and produce our own honey every year, we have allotments, a knitting circle, book club, cycling group and lots more to keep people interested in what’s going on at Lingfield Point.

Mr Orchard says all these ‘extras’ help to boost staff retention and boost productivity, which is very important for many of the businesses based at Lingfield Point; so one could say it is not just art for art’s sake, but a lot more useful than that.