Feast of local produce to taste

Berwick Food Festival
Berwick Food Festival

THE approaching remnants of Hurricane Katia brought a premature end to the fourth annual Berwick Food Festival at the weekend.

Strengthening winds forced organisers to call a halt more than an hour earlier than planned because of safety concerns.

Festival director Lisa Wilson said: “The festival closed just over an hour early on Sunday as a result of concern for safety due to the strong winds.

“However the forecast was initially much worse and we hope that most people got the chance to enjoy their weekend. We have certainly had very positive feedback.”

Thousands of visitors descended on the superb setting of the town’s historic barracks to enjoy the feast of local produce, delicious catering, award winning beers, fantastic music and a host of foodie related activities.

Lisa said: “We were delighted to see so many people supporting this event again – there was a great mix of familiar faces and people who had come to the festival for the first time.

“We carry out a survey and people had come from all over the country with some especially taking their holiday around the food festival.”

She continued: “The festival is only made possible by a small team of people who work very hard throughout the year and I would like to thank the Slow Food committee for their efforts as well as the Berwick Events Group, Berwick Development Trust, English Heritage, Northumberland County Council, our sponsors Berwick Town Council, The Co-operative and Renton Swan Vets and all our suppliers and stewards who give so much of their time to the event.

“I would also like to thank the public. The festival costs in the region of £10,000 to stage so their support means that we have been able to cover this year’s running costs which is particularly important as there is now less public funding for these kind of events.”

This year there were even more stalls with local produce from north Northumberland and the Scottish Borders featuring hand crafted cheeses, locally reared meats, free range eggs, hand made preserves, locally caught fish and seafood, home baked bread, pies and preserves, cakes and chocolates, locally grown vegetables, a selection of oils, dressings and sauces and even the kitchen equipment to cook it all with.

A range of charities and organisations were also represented helping to educate the public on issues ranging from climate change to food waste and wildlife conservation.

Once again the Co-operative Trailer featuring its Farm to Fork and Plan Bee Campaign and the Healthy Living Initiative display were busy throughout the day. Slow Food committee member Helen Henderson was also on hand to explain the traditional recipes she has been collecting as part of an ongoing Slow Wisdom Project and Graham Head, leader of Berwick’s Slow Food Group along with Livvy Cawthorn organised a Taste Adventure for Foodie Bairns.

The demonstration kitchen organised by Slow Food members Ruth and Maurice McNeely and Jackie Kaines also had a packed audience throughout the weekend. Jack Smith from the Queen’s Head Hotel, Morgan Whitelegg from the The Barn at Beal, John Forestier from the Wheatsheaf at Swinton and Katrina Reynolds from the Allanton Inn demonstrated a range of mouth watering dishes from local seafood to roast pheasant and delicious desserts.

The audience were also keen to question Jimmy Bell known as Jimmy the Lambman on local lamb and Willy Robson from the Chainbridge Honey Farm on keeping bees and making honey. There was also plenty of fun with the festival’s own version of Ready Steady Cook and a pancake tossing competition with a few well known local faces.

Back by popular demand was the animal farm held with the assistance of local farms and sponsorship from Renton Swan Vets and organised by Graham Head. Children and adults alike were delighted by the antics of the Tamworth pigs from Peelham Farm in Foulden, saddleback pigs from Hunting Hall, middle white pigs and Shetland sheep from Lowick High Steads, Cheviot sheep, miniature donkeys and the Barnacre alpacas from Hartburn near Morpeth. Fittingly for the end of Wool Week there was display of traditional breed fleeces and wools from the Wool Board in Galashiels organised by Jean Bennett. Jean and her team showed spinning, weaving and traditional wool crafts. Feltmaking by local schoolchildren produced as part of the local Sheep Tales Project managed by community arts organisation Think Make Grow in partnership with the North Northumberland Mission Partnership of the United Reformed Church was on display. The Sheep Tales Project and a display on the region’s food heritage organised by historian Derek Sharman educated people on our food heritage production.

It was also a chance to introduce people to the Mouth of the Tweed led by local businesses and community organisations including Slow Food Berwick and the Berwick Cittaslow to develop and promote this heritage.

New for this year was the Slow Food Cinema put together by Slow Food member Joe Lang – the Thursday before the festival saw a well attended special screenings of Babette’s Feast which also inspired a special evening menu throughout the weekend at The Maltings Restaurant. There was also a screening of children’s film Ratatouille at the theatre and short food related films at the festival itself.

A beer festival organised by Borders based DM Event Catering featured 34 real ales and many local ciders. In particular the sunshine on Saturday afternoon saw many people taking the chance to relax with a beer.

They had many award winners to choose from including the Champion Beer of Scotland, the CAMRA Champion Beer of Britain and the gold medal winner from the World Beer Cup.

Delicious catering was provided by Café Curio who replicated their popular Bridge Street café in the Officers’ Mess, Well Hung & Tender and the Great Northumberland Bread Company who provided a hog roast each lunchtime.

Many enjoyed their food to a backdrop of contemporary and traditional music with a programme put together by Brian Martin of the Music Gallery.