Case Study: Weston Super Food Festival 2015
We want Weston super Food Festival to be a truly community event and get everyone talking, thinking, tasting, eating, enjoying and growing good food. We want to showcase, and get people to appreciate the amazing range of food produced on our doorstep. We want to create and nurture a sense of community and local pride by proving that it's possible to organise a top quality food event in a very ordinary seaside town with no previous recognised or established food culture.
Since the festival was created 3 years ago we've seen visitor number double year on year and have made determined attempts to reach out to new audiences by involving people of different ages, interests and abilities so that we don't just appeal to foodies but also those who normally wouldn't attend a food festival or be involved in community activities. As part of this, we organised a variety of food themed competitions in the months prior to the festival including a kids' poetry competition, a food knitting competition, an edible container garden competition and a Bake Off, and promoted these through the local paper, community newsletters and contact with local schools, charities and care homes.
We worked closely with a local charity that supports adults with learning difficulties, and involved them in the festival. They produced bunting which we used to decorate the Kids Area and grew plants for the Edible Festival Garden. Their service users went out into the community to distribute posters and flyers and had a very successful stand at the festival selling their homemade cakes and home grown vegetables. We also worked with the local Multicultural Friendship Association and secured local sponsorship to enable them to create a Taste of the World event at the festival where their members prepared dishes from their country of origin using locally sourced ingredients. We also involved a local housing association who had a stand at the festival selling vegetables from their community allotment.
Local resident and festival visitor, Vivienne Kennedy said: “Weston super Food Festival is an amazing event, put together by a tireless team of volunteers led by Sally Packer. Each time I've visited it's been a pleasure to watch the cookery demos or try items of local produce that I've never seen before and I've always left with a lighter purse. But more than that, it's also an event that brings the community together like none other. I suppose the love of food will always unite people, and a big part of the enjoyment is spending time with old friends and new, knowing that it's the one weekend of the year that I'm most likely to bump into someone I haven't seen since childhood.”
The festival prioritised local producers, presenting visitors with a huge range of different food and drink products from over 100 small artisan producers and street food vendors from across the West Country in huge indoor and outdoor markets. We operated a strict selection process and included many award winning producers. All types of food were represented from cheese and dairy products to confectionery, bread, preserves, charcuterie, fish and wine and spirit. We organised a programme of educational films and talks and a local wine merchant and brewery talked about their products and gave wine and beer tastings. To demonstrate that it's possible to eat healthily and well on a budget by shopping locally and eating seasonally we produced and distributed a free 'austerity' recipe book and incorporated the 'eat seasonally and locally' ethos in our programme of professional cookery demonstrations. We incorporated hands on activities including butter making and smoothie making and over 100 children took part in our 'make your own lunch' workshop. Our Kids Area incorporated a wide range of activities from cooking and taste and smell challenges to conservation workshops and food themed Lego, with over 900 children participating in activities over the festival weekend. We ran a programme of professional cookery demonstrations showcasing local and seasonal food and encouraged local chefs.
We also wanted to educate people about the role that conservation plays in agriculture and food production and included wild life and conservation charities, a wild flower honey company and a conservation coppice woodsman.To illustrate the 'plot to plate' story we included an Edible Festival Garden and demonstrated how people can grow their own food even if they only have a small patio or window box. We included a seed merchant, an herb nursery and local veg box companies and operated a 'grow your own advice' desk throughout the festival weekend.
We felt it was important to hold the festival in a central, high street location so that local retailers could also benefit. We held a Festival Fortnight preceding the festival of special offers and events in local shops and cafes including a bakery tasting. There were significantly increased visitors into the town over the festival weekend and over 76,000 visitors were recorded on the High Street over the festival weekend.
We wanted to ensure that the festival was as enjoyable for traders as it was for visitors so a team of volunteers provided a support service throughout the festival giving cover and assistance as required.Over 97% of traders rated the festival as good or excellent. Also, we operated a bursary scheme for new, locally based start-up businesses and supported local restaurants by showcasing their businesses in our programme of cookery demonstrations. We organised local food awards in conjunction with the local paper to recognise quality and excellence in a number of different categories from best restaurant, best breakfast, and best take away to best locally produced drink. These were very popular and incorporated a public vote in addition to judging by a foodie panel. We worked with local hotels and guest houses encouraging them to use local produce and promoted them on the festival website.
Malcolm Nicholson, Town Clerk to Weston super Mare Town Council, commented, “Congratulations on a successful and really excellent event. It brought people and new business into the town and was a great weekend.”
Weston super Food Festival has become a firm fixture in the town's programme of events and is a much loved addition to the traditional 'Harvest Home' events that take place across Somerset. In keeping with the West Country tradition of complementing and celebrating the food harvest with music and drink we sited a live music marquee and covered communal eating area at the centre of our outdoor market adjacent to the High Street.
As an admission free festival it was possible for everyone to join in the fun. Our eclectic programme of music featuring local musicians, was designed to suit all tastes and included everything from a cider fuelled punk band to an orchestra and classical flute recital. A local brewery provided a bar and served cider and beer. We wanted to celebrate the tradition of 'giving' too and after each music performance collected money for the local Food bank raising over £600 over the festival weekend.
“A free event, plenty of free samples if you choose to participate, plenty of quality food if you choose to purchase, entertainment provided again at no charge to the public and a hot sunny day. What more would anyone want? Great show and thank you to all that contributed to the organisation of yet another great food fest.” Paul S., visitor to the festival