Screen Shot 2015-06-22 at 10.05.28STUNNING fire gardens, circus troupes, live art and comedy will all be on show next month as SIRF returns to Stockton Town Centre with more than 100 incredible shows.

The festival, from 30 July to 2 August, will celebrate the redevelopment of Stockton Town Centre with four days packed full of spectacular street theatre, dance and music productions from all around the world.

A focus for SIRF 15 is Instant Light, the interpretation of a story we commissioned by Sara Maitland telling the magical tale of how Stockton became a festival town. It starts with the historic fact of John Walker’s invention of the friction match and weaves through it the magic of the circus to create a mythical version of how the festival might have come about.  Instant Light, will be presented in episodes over the full weekend.

SIRF opens on Thursday 30 July when the Instant Light circus troupe arrives in Stockton by boat. The circus troupe will disembark and be welcomed by a jubilant crowd and together they will lead the audience along the Riverside to enjoy BoO, a spectacular trapeze show by French company, CirkVOST performed on an extraordinary structure of 368 bamboo poles.

The Instant Light story continues on Friday and Saturday with “Love Struck”, the story of the meeting of John Walker and Vesta from the circus and the invention of the friction match.  A pharmacist with ambitions to be an inventor meets a daring circus dancer. She is an exhibitionist – a gorgeous extrovert with pointe shoes on her feet and ribbons flying from her hands. She is Vesta – named after the Goddess of the Hearth. He is John Walker: lonely, obsessive and struggling to light his fire. Together, they become accidental alchemists – and the spark between them ignites the way for a beautiful and intimate journey…

Also on Friday 31 July with ‘451’, the festival continues with a fiery theatrical performance inspired by Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 novel. Spectators will watch the story unfold in a display of high-octane drama and pyrotechnics to show a dystopic society where people seek happiness in a world of technology.

Friday and Saturday will also bring Carousel, a fully-functioning merry-go-round complete with a host of mysterious characters. Music, dance and drama combine for a stunning piece of dance theatre in which the performers use the carousel’s revolving platform to flip, roll, dive, and spin to an eclectic Balkan and Gypsy-influenced score.

Stockton’s Parish Gardens will play host to Navrattan on Saturday and Sunday. This magical weekend highlight is inspired by the children’s stories of Mughal Emperor Akbar and his favourite Advisor Birbal.  Audiences will embark on an epic quest of shadow puppetry, interactive storytelling,  dance and craft workshops to solve clues and collect the missing gems of Emperor Akbar’s favourite pendant, the Navrattan.

Councillor Norma Wilburn, Cabinet Member for Arts, Leisure and Culture at Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council, said: “For 28 years SIRF has been a highlight of our diverse events programme, offering a fabulous display of skilled performers, theatre, music and entertainment.

“With the regeneration of the High Street, this year’s festival will be bigger and better than ever. We have plenty to celebrate in Stockton and are delighted to bring the unique, creative festival back with another programme of unmissable shows.”

French fire artists Cie Carabosse will close the festival with a beautiful finale on Sunday 2 August. The company has created a masterpiece for SIRF which will transform Trinity Church and Trinity Green into an immersive garden of fire, light and music on a grand scale for a very different and exciting end to SIRF 15.

SIRF 15 will have a programme of shows from noon until 11pm at night on each day. There will be a mixture of both small and large scale productions shows for people of all ages to enjoy.

Entry to the festival is free. Audience capacity to ‘451’ and ‘Navrattan’ is limited and tickets will be issued for them during the week before the Festival.  Look for information about how to get tickets on SIRF website or ask at SIRF Central on the High Street.

SIRF is supported by Arts Council England.

To see the latest news and full festival programme, visit the SIRF website on www.sirf.co.uk