Fun on the menu as 15,000 tuck in at Ludlow Food Festival

More than 15,000 people were descending on Ludlow today and over the weekend to celebrate a silver jubilee at the town’s annual food festival.

Chef Felice Tocchini showing off his cooking skills at the Ludlow Food Festival which is running all weekend
Chef Felice Tocchini showing off his cooking skills at the Ludlow Food Festival which is running all weekend

The UK’s longest running festival of food and drink opened on Friday and will continue tomorrow.

Organisers promised a superb line-up of special guests from the Marches and further afield.

Visitors were enjoying three days of free talks and demonstrations from leading lights in the food world – from chefs, educators, campaigners and award-winning authors. There were four live demonstrations stages – Wots Cooking, the Graeme Kidd Stage, the Fire Kitchen Stage, and Bake in Time – as well as a popular Talks and Tastings programme and the Aardvark Festival Bookshop, with many famous names offering book signings over the weekend.

15,000 people were expected at the show

To appeal to younger visitors, Grow Cook Learn was hosting a drop-in tent throughout the weekend, so children could find out how much they know about the foods they eat.

Elsewhere, the Fast 5 Show was helping keep children entertained with a fast-moving, interactive, creative and visual display.

Additionally, Taste of Game Masterclasses were thrilling fans of partridge, venison and more. People were learning to prepare Partridge Fajitas and Venison Wellington; Venison Koftas and Pheasant Scotch Eggs or Pheasant Meatballs and Venison Wellington.

Stall holders were doing a roaring trade at the event

Shropshire chef Chris Burt, who was appearing on the liver demonstration stage, said people were having great fun.

He said: “It’s a brilliant weekend and I look forward to taking part each year. It’s a real opportunity to celebrate all that’s good about food here in Shropshire and the Marches.”

There are so many demonstrations, so many great producers and the crowds have an amazing time.

“It’s incredible to think that the organisers have been doing this for 25 years. It was a brilliant idea when it began and it’s still going strong.”

Ludlow Food Festival continues its longstanding partnership with the Slow Food Movement. The organisation was hosting a series of workshops that each lasted about an hour and were taking place in Ludlow Castle’s Beacon Rooms. All were being hosted by experts within their chosen field and promised a fascinating insight into varying aspects of food production.

A quirky food stall at the festival held in the castle grounds

Many producers were showcasing a range of limited-edition creations to mark the 25th anniversary edition of the Festival, including The Beefy Boys’ special Festival Burger and Sytch Farm Studio’s beautiful handmade ceramics.

Beyond the castle walls and its 180 exhibitors, visitors were also participating in the much-loved Sausage and Ale Trails. Local butchers and brewers were going head-to-head as more than 1,000 participants scoffed and supped their way around the town.

There was also the hustle and bustle of weekend markets in Castle Square to enjoy; tomorrow there will be a hand-picked collection of exciting, small scale food producers who will be hoping to become the rising stars of the future. Additionally, many independent retailers and restaurants were welcoming people through their doors.

A visitor soaks up the sounds and smells

Events Manager Hannah Mackley said: “The Festival team are so excited about the Jubilee. Over the years the Food Festival has been an integral part of my life, it’s a wonderful addition to the fabric of the town. We are really proud of the fact that we were the first ever food festival in the UK and that we’re still going strong 25 years later – and that we get so much support from Ludlow’s residents and many independent businesses.

“This ongoing success is testament to the dedication of so many people – from producers to our army of generous volunteers. Food and drink are a wonderful way of uniting people and our Festival really brings the community together. We look forward to welcoming 15,000 visitors throughout the weekend.”

Ludlow Food Festival remains a not for profit organisation, with any surplus being ploughed back into the event and the Festival’s associated charity – Marches Food Matters. It has been a recipe for success for many years.

'Identity deserves to be championed'

Two of those behind the scenes of Ludlow Food Festival have shared their memories of how the event has evolved over the years.

Phil Maile has been chairman of the Food Festival for the past 23 years.

He said: “Right from the very beginning, there was a strong impetus to showcase everything that contributed to Ludlow’s unique identity. As a small, rural market town, food production has always been incredibly important to the local economy.

“There was an overriding sense that this deserved to be championed.

“During the past 25 years, the festival has provided a valuable platform to present this to a much wider audience.”

Margaret Appleton began volunteering at the festival when she and her husband relocated to Ludlow.

“My husband and I previously lived in the North West but we had always felt drawn to Ludlow,” she said.

“It’s a beautiful, thriving town and the food festival was a contributing factor that sealed the deal in moving to the area seven years ago.

"Coming to a new place, we wanted something constructive and rewarding to do with our time which is why we initially got involved.

“It has meant that I’ve met lots of fascinating people and have found a real sense of community. Being a volunteer is incredibly worthwhile and it feels like you’re adding something of value to the town that you love.”

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