Friday, 22 February 2019

Food festival back on the menu

Food Festival back on the menu

A NEW food festival is to be launched in Henley this summer.

It will take place over two weeks in June and has been billed as a celebration of local businesses and producers.

The festival will begin with a “big feast” launch event in Falaise Square on June 15 and end with an event on Mill Meadows on June 29 with food, stalls, music and entertainment. Both will be free to attend.

In between there will be a series of pop-up events such as talks and cooking demonstrations by professionals at venues around the town.

The festival is being organised by Philippa Ratcliffe, of New Street, Henley, who is a food events curator.

It will be the fourth different food festival to be held in the town over the past decade. Miss Ratcliffe told a meeting of Henley Town Council’s events sub-committee last Friday that it would offer something different.

She said: “I know there have been other ilks of food festivals in Henley but this one is something to showcase and celebrate local producers.

“The idea is along a similar premise to the literary festival. It will start with a launch day on a Saturday in Falaise Square with a big feast, getting as many local pubs, restaurants, cafés and shops, anything related to food in Henley, together.

“Then in a two-week period it will be followed up with various pop-ups, like demonstrations, talks from producers and proper demonstrations with a kitchen.”

She described the events as a “food safari” where people could go to different venues to try different things.

Miss Ratcliffe said: “I am keen to bring in as many non-ticketed events into Henley as possible.

“We already have the royal regatta, festival and boat festival but I want to make this as inclusive and as accessible as possible. The idea is not financially driven as in profit-making. The majority of it will come from people who have stalls. We have to make it financially viable in that way. We are looking to get sponsors to pay for any additional things.

“We have done ticketing before but this is about bringing that vision that people can come along and take part. I am not looking for some cash from Henley Town Council but more for support in helping to facilitate and some contacts. We wouldn’t want there to be a financial onus on the council.”

Councillor Will Hamilton said that Thame used to have a two-day food festival which was free to attend and was a success but then failed when it was moved to a bigger site and ticketing was introduced.

Miss Ratcliffe said that by having two weeks of events many local people and businesses could get involved.

She said: “The two-week bit is so that it has that feeling that there is a lot of small things going on, generating that interest as many of the pubs, restaurants and cafés get involved. It would be a really nice thing to get people working together.”

Laurence Morris, a member of the sub-committee, who runs Laurence Menswear in Duke Street, said: “There are also a lot of food outlets that can’t spare the time away from their businesses. It would cost them a lot of money.”

He added: “Marlow has a very successful food festival. Henley is getting known as a place for festivals but surely we want to find things that are different. Why do we want to compete with something happening in Marlow?”

Miss Ratcliffe said her event was different to the Pub in the Park event in Marlow, adding: “Their starting ticket price is about £25. This is different. It is open to everybody to come along and enjoy, it is not directly competing with anyone.”

Councillor Sam Evans questioned the timing of the event, saying: “Summer comes so quickly in Henley so it might be better to look at having it a bit later on in the year when the town diary is not quite so crammed.”

She also suggested trying to involve children and educating them about food and how to “grow your own”.

The former Henley Food Festival, which was organised by Jonathan Hobbs, managing director 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 2009 sponsor, didn’t re-sign.

In 2016, Henley on Food, a new food and literature festival was held at Shiplake College from April 29 to May 1 under the auspices of the Henley Literary Festival but did not return the following year.

The Henley Food and Drink Festival was held in September 2017 but has not been staged since.

It was organised by Kathryn Fell, a professional photographer from Sonning Common and Tracey Price, who runs an events company in Stoke Row.

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