In the late 1950s and early 1960s Billingham U.D. Council had developed a new traffic free shopping centre. Traditionally Billingham residents went to the larger and established shopping centres of nearby Stockton & Middlesbrough. To attract shoppers the Council organised entertainment in the centre, which, because it was traffic free lent itself to such performances.
On one such Saturday an Irish Dance Troupe led by a Sunderland head teacher, Phil Conroy performed on the Town Square and attracted a large and enthusiastic audience. At the end of the show Mr. Conroy happened to mention that his group had just returned from the continent where they had performed at a week long folklore festival. He also remarked that the town centre would be an idea setting for such a festival. Councillors present liked the idea. So was the Billingham Festival born in 1965. Billingham then became a founder member of C.I.O.F.F., the international organisation of folklore festivals and Phil Conroy became its General Secretary. a post he held until his death.
From small beginnings - only Austria, Estonia and Hungary were represented at the first festival -and now in its 43rd year, over the years the Festival hosted over 15000 performers from more then 90 countries and each year it hosts 8-10 groups with over 400 artists from abroad and presents the best, world of folklore dance and song has to offer at two venues - The Forum Theatre, the Festival Outdoor Arena in Billingham Town Centre. In 1999 the festival became an independent limited company and registered charity. It has also concluded a partnership agreement with Stockton Borough Council which guarantees its future.
Please click on the link below to visit our NEW Festival Online Shop and browse through our collection of Festival Photographs, DVDs, Programmes, etc