Thursday, 30 March 2017

Food festival could return

A FOOD festival could return to Henley. The Market Square Group wants to stage a three-day event in Market Place and the town hall from August 8 to 10.

The company has held Continental markets in Henley since 2010 and will also be holding food festivals in Ipswich, Norwich, Saffron Walden and Reading this year.

Town councillors have welcomed the idea, saying they hope the event would feature local foods and producers.

The last Henley Food Festival took place in 2009, having run for three years before being scrapped due to costs.

The town council’s town and community committee heard this week that the festival would focus on British food and drink but also promote national dishes from around the world.

Paul Kennedy, events co-ordinator for the Market Square Group, said: Our belief is that fair trade starts at home and that local sustainability should be strongly encouraged.

It has always been our policy to invite local businesses to our events. We often find that their foods are the freshest and their business practices the most commendable. We also know that local communities are just as delighted to discover products on their doorstep as something from half-way across the world.

Mr Kennedy said that road closures may be necessary if it is decided to set up a cooking theatre and provide a beer festival element.

He added: Market Square Group would deal with the council in respect of road closures.

Councillor Kellie Hinton said she was all in favour of the festival and Councillor Elizabeth Hodgkin said: It is worth giving it a try.

Councillor David Nimmo Smith said: I subscribe to the idea of losing a Continental market but I would like to see a focus on the best of British rather than other world foods that have been brought into our culture.

Councillor Will Hamilton said: I would also like to see local producers. I don’t get the feeling that Antony Worrall Thompson or Paul Clerehugh would be involved. The committee agreed to recommend the proposal is approved by the full council when it meets on February 18.

The former Henley Food Festival, which was organised by Jonathan Hobbs, of Hobbs of Henley, and commercial caterer Simon Cromack, was held in the town centre in 2006 and 2007 but didn’t take place in 2008.

It returned in 2009 when it was held at Phyllis Court Club and attracted about 10,000 visitors but was cancelled in 2010 and 2011 before being axed permanently.

Organisers blamed a lack of sponsorship after Le Cordon Bleu, the main sponsor of the 2009 event, didn’t re-sign.

Mr Hobbs said he would support another food festival.

He said: I think our festival was a great event for Henley and the only reason it couldn’t continue was due to funding issues when the recession kicked in during 2009, sponsorship issues and because my partner went to work in Africa.

The festival would be a great thing for Henley and people have missed it.

One of the original reasons for having it was to promote local produce but our last event had an Italian market so a blend would be good.

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