We're just three weeks away from Huddersfield’s Food and Drink Festival, the largest annual event of its kind in the North of England.
This year will see 80 stallholders converging on St George’s Square between Thursday, August 4 and Sunday 7, with food and drink from all corners of the world, much of it reflecting the town’s rich cultural mix.
Last year around 100,000 visitors attended the four-day festival, which features everything from Thai, Indian and Chinese cuisine to food from the Caribbean, Malaysia and the Mediterranean.
Although the trademarked event celebrates the tastes of many different cultures, it features chefs, foodstuffs and businesses that are mostly from our region.
As the festival’s manager Karen Hobson says: “We get traders coming from as far away as Suffolk, Devon and Somerset, but 95% of stallholders are from Huddersfield and Yorkshire. It’s really about supporting local businesses and it’s brilliant for the town.”
The 16th festival is costing more than £130,000 to stage and will be the last one run by Karen for the Huddersfield Partnership, a group that supports and helps to develop businesses in the town.
Funding cuts by Kirklees Council mean the event has an uncertain future, but it is hoped that it will continue.
As Karen explained, the festival has, in a sense, become a victim of its own success.
“The costs of running the festival have grown as the festival has grown,” she said. “At the start it was a small event but the infrastructure it needs now is so expensive that it’s not profitable for the partnership.”
It has, however, attracted sponsorship from a number of local companies, including the Newsholme Food Group, Empire Dogs and Dawsons music shop.
Planning for the festival began in early March this year. Much of the cost of the event is tied up in filling St George’s Square with tented stalls. Volunteers are still needed to help out in setting up the festival and clearing up afterwards.
“We always need more volunteers,” says Karen, “they help the stallholders, support the stage crew and do things like litter picking as well as setting up.”
Anyone interested should contact her through email@example.com
The festival times are: Thursday, 11am until 9pm; Friday and Saturday, 10am until 10pm; and Sunday 10.30am until 5.30pm.
Because of the huge influx of visitors to the town, organisers recommend the use of public transport.
While food and drink – from artisan beer and cheese to cupcakes, curries and olives – is the focus of the festival, it has also become known for the live entertainment on offer each evening.
This year will see three local bands performing on Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 6.30pm, with headliners Helter Skelter and Storm.
Feedback from visitors last year found that those attending wanted stallholders to supply smaller portions of food and offer more vegetarian options.
As Karen says: “People complained that they were paying £7 for a large portion of food and then couldn’t try other things, so this year we have asked stallholders to do smaller portions for a fiver so that everyone can try more. We’ve been asked for more vegetarian options, but many of the stallholders are not just selling meat dishes they have vegetarian things too. People need to ask.”
As well as stalls and music, the festival has 21 cookery demonstrations and a children’s area with free activities. Among those demonstrating will be volunteers from the charity Jamie’s Ministry of Food.