Food lovers from across the North West and beyond were in heaven as Bolton celebrated its eighth Food and Drink Festival.
Thousands of people visited the festival over the four days (Aug 23-26) of the bank holiday weekend. They were able to sample culinary delights from more than 80 stalls; watch celebrity and regional chefs in a series of demonstrations; enjoy the activities at the new children’s food and fun emporium and sit back and relax while being entertained by live bands and street performers.
Double Michelin-starred chef Michael Caines launched the festival on Friday 23 and provided two enthralling cookery demonstrations for free in the Festival Marquee and then in the Market Place Shopping Centre.
He cooked curried carrot soup, red mullet with Thai puree & fennel salad and chicken fricassee, all cooked with local produce.
Michael Caines said: “It is a pleasure and privilege to be back at this event for the third time. Over the last few years I have seen the Bolton Food and Drink festival grow and develop from a local to a national event, with new additions each year. The festival shows that there is a real appetite for local and regional food and it is crucial in bringing the community together and also boosting the local economy. The festival is a credit to Bolton and it is an honour to be asked to launch it again this year.”
Stars of The Great British Bake Off, Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry proved to be a big hit once again on Saturday as they entertained a packed marquee with their baking tips.
Paul Hollywood said: “Bolton is an amazing place and festivals like these are very important to the town. It’s important to me to be able to source fresh, local ingredients for my dishes and here I can find excellent quality fish, fruit and vegetables, which is very satisfying. The market rates among the best in the country and it’s at least as good as, if not better, than the famous Borough market in London.”
Mary Berry said: “It’s our second year at the Bolton Food and Drink festival and we love it. The people are fantastic and very warm and friendly. This festival generates interest in local food and also helps to support local businesses and local producers and we hope it continues to get bigger and better each year.”
Italian chef Aldo Zilli made his first appearance at the festival this year. He said: This is my first time at the Bolton festival and I am really excited to be here. I love doing live events as you get an immediate reaction from people watching the display.”
And festival favourite James Martin brought the weekend to a close on Monday. He said: “This is my fifth time at the festival and it gets bigger and better every year. I started coming to this festival in its infancy and I have seen it grow year on year, with bigger marquees, more local producers and local businesses getting involved every year. The buzz is infectious”.
As well as the celebrity chefs, the weekend saw a host of free demonstrations in Bolton Market, on Ashburner Street and in the Market Place Shopping Centre, including Andrew Nutter, Anjali Pathak, Chris Yates and Aazam Ahmad.
Local chef Anjali Pathak who was a big hit in the Market Place demonstration kitchen said: “This is my fifth year at the Bolton Food & Drink Festival and I am delighted to be back , as its an opportunity to come back to my home town . The festival is growing year on year and provides a showcase for the market, local producers and local chefs.”
Anjali made caramelised lamb masala with spiced flatbreads and for dessert she made sticky peaches with vanilla and lime cream.
Free shows by performers including the Ski Band and the Bourbon Street Roof Raisers also entertained the crowds.
A big hit this year was the addition of the children’s food and fun emporium at Crompton Place which provided a packed programme of entertainment, games and hands on food activities to entertain youngsters. Toddlers were transfixed with the Octagon Theatre’s production of Michael Rosen’s classic story “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” and children were able to have a go at decorating cakes and biscuits with Lancashire based baker Justine Forrest.
Live music performed by,local bands in the Beer Keller and the KRO Bar also went down a storm. James Mason, Gage and Our Fold were just a few of the bands who struck a chord with customers.
Coach parties came from the North East, Hull, Huddersfield, Wakefield, North Wales, Lancashire and Warrington. Teresa Wade from Hull said: “We came to the festival last year and thoroughly enjoyed it, so came back again. We want to come again next year and will be making it a regular fixture in our calendars.”
Alwyn Johnston, visiting the festival from Macclesfield Cheshire for the first time this year said: “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the day – the stalls, the demonstrations and tasting all the food. And when we got to the market we couldn’t believe the quality and range of fruit and veg at such low prices. Everything’s been fabulous and I can’t wait to bring my friends next year”
Visitors even came from as far away as Australia. Tina and Dennis from Victoria in Australia said: “We are doing a three-week tour of the UK. We researched what was on and we saw the Bolton Food and Drink Festival and just had to come. It is excellent, we are enjoying it very much and the free parking is a bonus!”
Among the traders who were happy with the turnout was Tracey from the Urban Chocolate Company, a newcomer to the festival. She said: “The festival is really well organised and everyone’s been very friendly. I’m pleased to be taking part and hope to be back next year.”
Sue Hughes of Occasion Cakes said: “This is our third time at the festival and we do really good business here, I keep running out of supplies and calling the shop to send more! It’s a great opportunity and well worth doing.”
After serving authentic Italian food to the people of Bolton for 27 years, Franca’s made a welcome visit to the festival for the second year running.
Marina Igverdino said: ‘"It's been fantastic. We've been really busy all weekend. We've had lots of different people tasting our food. It’s been nice to speak with both local people and visitors from Leeds, Manchester and lots of other places.”
Organisers have calculated that visitor figures reached nearly 130,000 over the four days, a big increase on last year’s figure of 102,000.
Councillor Cliff Morris, Leader of Bolton Council said: “We are delighted with the visitor figures of almost 130,000 from this year’s Festival, which show it has been a massive success. We have had great feedback from all the chefs who provided cooking demonstrations and the feedback from traders was really positive, with many of them having to call for extra stock as their stalls were so popular!
“Visitors to the Festival came from as far away as Hull, the North East, Essex and even Australia and all seemed to enjoy their visit, which has a really positive impact on the town. The children’s emporium, which was new this year was also really popular, with queues for all the activities. We’d like to thank everyone who took part in the festival, from the chefs to the traders and also all the visitors who came and made it an amazing success.”
To keep up to date with the latest festival news, log on to the website www.boltonfoodanddrinkfestival.com, visit Facebook and search for Bolton Food and Drink Festival or search for #Boltonfoodfest on Twitter.
Bolton Food and Drink Festival is organised by Bolton Council and sponsored by Bolton College, Bluemantle, Crompton Place, The Market Place Shopping Centre and Stateside Foods.
Our partners this year are The Octagon Theatre, Kro Bar, the Marriott Worsley Park Hotel, Bolton Market, and The Albert Halls