Part I: Stockton Pirate Raid
A steady downpour fell on the riverbanks of the Tees on that seemingly ordinary Saturday morning. Townsfolk mingled in the streets of Stockton and went about their usual chores, their hair an oily sheen in the rain. Cat wondered from one market stall to the next until at last she found itself meandering alongside the river when suddenly what looked like a rabbit appeared, a bandana tied around its head and a sabre hanging from a leather belt around its waist. A golden earring glistening in its ear. It dashed off, heading towards a moored ship it would seem, and the barely distinguishable noise of merrymaking.
Before she knew it she was standing in the middle of a pirates' tea party, teacups overflowing with rum and Prosecco and plates stacked with fudge being passed between greedy hands, while the pirates swayed to rock 'n roll and techno-pop. And of course, it didn’t take her long to bump into the presider over the tea party, the mad hatter himself.
The UK Pirate Festival community runs festivals celebrating the murky world of pirates in a select number of places across the country, including Stockton! The Stockton Pirate Festival gave residents and visitors another opportunity to rediscover the town's rich history and served as a reminder of the critical role of buccaneers, pirates, plundering, questionable morals and shifting alliances throughout European history. It is not unlikely to think that a real type of Jack Sparrow walked the streets of Stockton at a stage to squander plunder captured from trading ships intercepted at Hartlepool.
In essence, however, it is meant to be a day of mindless pirate mischief. A day to tap into your inner pirate, rummage your closest for anything stripy, swing around a plastic sword, eat hotdogs and fudge — apparently the choice food of seafarers — and drink potent rum cocktails (or Prosecco if you have a touch of nobility in you). And above all, there is the music. Stockton was spoiled for choice when it came to music selection. An astounding number of acts took place in a range of venues until late that night. There was a little bit of everything: choirs, cover artists, original alternative rock, pop, techno, hard rock and a touch of madness.
After an enlightening chat with Captain Jack, off went Cat right past the Pirate Tea Room, heading for the Rum Bar. Yet, two brawling pirates blocked her way, a brave Scottish sailor and a cunning Spanish lout. Bagpipes, however, was no match for a scimitar.
Stockton being such an eventful town on this particular Saturday, if you happened to have had enough of all the 'Arggh’s' and 'Matey’s', you could head down to the Chic Vintique Market in the town centre for a different flavour of history:
And the perfect end to the day? More rum in the Musiclounge before an evening stroll along the dockside. But before I had a chance to leave the Musiclounge and inhale the thick salty air of the Tees, a mysterious cloud blew into the venue and a dark spell was cast…
Next year's Stockton Pirate Festival will take place on 15-16 July 2017
Part II to follow soon