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Shrewsbury free-from food fest is fabulous first time

By Dominic Robertson | Shrewsbury | Shrewsbury entertainment | Published:

The first ever free-from festival in Shropshire was a success, with hundreds of people coming along to explore the possibilities of fine dining for those with food allergies or intolerances.

Lilah Hitchin, six, with her uncle John Hitchin, from Shrewsbury, sample some of the ice cream

The inaugural Frestival came to Shrewsbury’s West Mid Showground, and organisers said the feedback to the event had been positive.

Rhea Alton, one of the organisers, said: “We weren’t too sure how it was going to be received but because of the wonderful feedback we’ve had, we are going to bring it back next year.”

Frestival, which took place at the West Mid Showground in Shrewsbury on Saturday, is a free-from and allergy show featuring food producers, workshops, stalls, entertainment, and a variety of talks – educational and entertaining.

Raising money for Midlands Air Ambulance is the Shrewsbury Soap Box team from Severn Business Network. Pictured are Jason King and Stephanie Henson from the soap box team, with Air Ambulance's Maria Jones, centre.

Rhea said the increasing appetite for information about food allergies and the free-from lifestyle had been behind their desire to launch the festival.

“There were a few people in the office here at the West Mid showground who have allergies or intolerances and we were having a chat about other intolerances and the vegan lifestyle and someone said ‘where do you go to find more information about this?’," she said.

“We thought unless you go to the NEC or London there is not one place you can go to get information, produce or learn how to cook in one place.”

The event has been in the making for more than two years, and the organisers secured a full programme of cookery demonstrations including Lajina Masala, known as the ‘gluten free goddess’, local chef Chris Burt, making low-carb and paleo-inspired dishes, along with a dairy free demonstrator Richard Fletcher, and Jenny Tschiesche – the lunchbox doctor.

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Lauren Grace

Shropshire Veggies and Vegans were one of the groups with a stall at the show and Michelle Darcy Jewell, who runs the organisation, said it was fantastic to see an event catering for people suffering with food allergies or looking to try a different lifestyle.

She said: “It is great. I think a number of people have dietary issues and for them to be able to come to an event where they do not feel like there is nothing for them is really good.

“Quite often people will go to events and find there is nothing gluten free, nothing dairy free.”

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Juggling Jim with George Alton, 8, from Shrewsbury

She said a number of people had been visiting the stall to find out more about how to cook good vegan food.

She said: “We have had people coming here today asking us about how we cook cakes without eggs or dairy, and we can explain that to them.

“It is easy to look stuff up online but it is nice to have a face-to-face talk with someone who can tell you how it works.

“Obviously we are selling stuff here but we are not here to make a profit, we sell things because we want people to be aware that there are things they can have and enjoy.”

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