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Blog: Festival time in Dorset...from the Jurassic larder

Blog: Festival time in Dorset...from the Jurassic larder

Blog: Festival time in Dorset...from the Jurassic larder

No sooner are the agricultural and country shows over in Dorset than the food festivals begin, and one of the best and most unusual in the country is Screen Bites Food Film Festival, which celebrates world cinema and the best of the region's food and drink.

There is a new beer festival this year, launched by Blandford brewery Hall & Woodhouse and taking place over the first weekend in October, Eat Dorset Food Fair at Parnham, near Beaminster on 19th and 20th October and Wimborne Food Festival in late October.

So this week, details of Screen Bites and the new Blandford Beer Festival. More on the other festivals in the next few weeks.

Tastes of Dorset with Screen Bites

Screen Bites, now in its ninth year, is the UK's only festival linking film and food. The 2013 film programme runs from 3rd October to 2nd November with themes that combine the spicy flavours of India with the heady romance of the days of steam, the sizzling heat and magic of Brazil with the green hills and valleys of Thomas Hardy's Dorset.

But while the cinematic menu can rove around the world, the food is firmly rooted in Dorset. Whether it is grown or reared in the county, or produced by the skills of artisans and specialists, the food on offer at Screen Bites is all about local because that’s how it all started.

Four people – two journalists, an opera singer and a film-maker and photographer – who shared a love of food, a commitment to local and seasonal sourcing, and an enthusiasm for film – hit on the idea of a short festival as part of Dorset Food Week, which ran at the end of October.

Their aim was to promote some of Dorset’s outstanding artisan producers, to show beautiful and thought-provoking documentaries by film-maker Robert Golden, looking at food culture and heritage in 14 areas of Europe, including West Dorset, and to put on affordable evening events in village halls. The quartet felt that Dorset Food Week needed to extend its scope beyond markets, farm walks and (generally expensive) special menus in restaurants and dining pubs.

After a successful first year, they decided to make it an annual event, spread it over the month of October, and embarked on a series of other projects, including working with schools on grow-your-own projects, silk batik banners painted by childen from a special-needs school, working with a community artist, and Edible Playground gardens in conjunction with Dorset Cereals, which won prizes at both Chelsea and the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show.

The fifth anniversary was celebrated with an all-day festival of food and film, with guest chefs, including Rose Prince, at Poole’s Lighthouse arts centre, and the committee is now looking forward to the 10th anniversary in 2014.

The recipe for the success of the festival is the unique combination of high quality films from around the world with a local producers mini farmers market to start the evening, talks and demos by local producers and a traditional icecream break.

Over the years, Screen Bites has welcomed many speakers, including the doyenne of Italian cookery, Anna del Conte, author and cookery school proprietor Christine McFadden, Common Ground (and Apple Day) founders Sue Clifford and Angela King, agronomist and creator of the infamous Naga chile Michael Michaud, and poet and cider-maker James Crowden.

The producers represent the cream of Dorset’s food and farming scene – Dorset Blue Vinny and Woolsery cheese, joined this year by two newer cheese-makers, James’s Cheese and Chalke Valley Cheese, Hall & Woodhouse, the 240 year old Blandford brewery, Honeybuns, the gluten-free baking specialist, Capreolus Fine Foods, producers of charcuterie and cured meats, the Baking Birds, award-winning preserve makers From Dorset With Love and Alweston Jam and Chutney Empire, the History Girls including Maya Pieris of Four Seasons Preserves, Wyld Meadow lamb, Purbeck Ice Cream, Fudges (recently renamed Thomas J Fudge’s), new business Comins Tea House and Olives Et Al, which has been the festival’s principal sponsor from the start.

At each evening there is a display by a local farm shop. These include Fivepenny Farm from Wootton Fitzpaine, Felicity’s at Morcombelake, multi-award-winning Washingpool near Bridport, Home Farm Shop at Tarrant Gunville, Holme for Gardens near Wareham and Gold Hill Organic Farm at Childe Okeford.

Films this year include Jadoo, an Anglo-Indian comedy of warring restaurateur brothers, set in Leicester, English Vinglish, an Anglo-Hindi romance with a hint of Bollywood, the Japanese documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi, Far From the Madding Crowd, the rom-com No Reservations, Hyde Park on Hudson (at Holdenhurst near Bournemouth, where the food on offer will include a special Dorset hot dog, created by charcuterie expert and forager Lee Moreton), Bagdad Cafe, Private Function, and Brief Encounter at a 1940s-style finale at The Exchange at Sturminster Newton, when the History Girls will be serving railway cafe sandwiches and wartime cake.