Published: Tuesday, 29th Aug 2023

Records were broken as more than 500,000 visitors attended this year’s Bolton Food and Drink Festival, as the event celebrated its 18th birthday with the biggest party yet.

Crowds F&D 23Street entertainment F&D 23The independently verified figures show an increase of over 40,000 visitors compared to last year’s attendance.

Leading the praise for this year’s celebration was popular TV chef, James Martin who described it as “the best festival in the world”. 

Recalling the early years of the festival, and reflecting on how the event continues to get bigger and better, James said:

“It was a little marquee and a handful of stalls, but the response was amazing and very, very quickly it's morphed into what it’s become so it’s been a privilege to be asked back.

“I’ve seen festivals come and go but what seems to be the underlying thing about successful ones is that everyone has the same goal, it’s that passion and that drive.

“People just think about a food festival, this is so much more.

“You can come here for the entire day and just walk around and I think that’s what draws people to keep coming back.

"I think the difference is with this, the council is as passionate about it as everybody else and I think that’s the key, without that, it just wouldn’t work.”

After a weekend of wet weather was forecast, the sun shone through, and thousands flocked to Bolton town centre to enjoy the jam-packed festival programme.

A fantastic menu of celebrity chefs topped the bill this year, including first-timers Gok Wan and Nisha Katona alongside festival regular, James Martin.   

Located in the prestigious Albert Halls complex, dubbed the festival HQ, hundreds of fans gathered to join the popular chef demos and get an insight into their culinary world.

Bolton town centre was filled with the hustle and bustle of thousands sampling the wares from over 180 artisan stalls.

Families enjoyed plenty of free children’s entertainment from Bolton’s own beach party to a Little Chefs Academy and Around the World activities at The Octagon Theatre.

Party goers danced late into the night at the first ever DJ event at The Afterparty with Gok Wan & Co while others enjoyed lots of laughs at the Faulty Towers and Live and Let Dine immersive comedy theatre dining events.

Glasses were kept topped up as many tucked into a sumptuous brunch at the twice-daily Bottomless Brunch in the popular Albert Bar.

Once again, the mid-summer air was filled with the sounds of lots of live music acts at both music stages, which saw festival-goers singing and dancing along into the evenings.

Festival merchandise went down a treat as visitors embraced the vibe and purchased their wristbands and accessed lots of offers from traders and local businesses.

Leader of Bolton Council, Cllr Nick Peel, said:

“A huge well done to Team Bolton for yet another, award-winning, record-breaking, successful event.

“Attracting half a million visitors is a significant milestone, and further cements our reputation as a host of world-class events.

“The town centre was buzzing with happy, smiling people, and bringing income to the traders and Bolton businesses is a real boost to the local economy.”

Bolton Council’s Executive Cabinet Member for Culture, Cllr Nadeem Ayub, said:

“Culture is at the heart of what we do here, and the Food and Drink Festival always shows Bolton at its very best.

“The fact that over half a million people have visited Bolton, many who may not have been here before, is outstanding and really puts us on the map as a destination.

“I am sure many of them will return to explore everything our town has to offer including our many other popular events, leading theatres, and our wider cultural offer.

“It has certainly been an 18th birthday to remember and I look forward to welcoming everyone back next year.”

Events like this are only possible with the support of sponsors and partners and a huge thank you goes out to them all:

  • Headline sponsors: Peel L&P.
  • Main sponsors: Stateside Foods, Vertu, Step Places, BWFC, Agilisys and the University of Bolton.
  • Partners: Place First, Clear Futures, Carrs Pasties, Bolton at Home, Warburtons, GMCA, Wagamama, Impression Ltd, Mercure Georgian House and Serco Leisure Trust.

The team would love to hear your feedback and new ideas, so everyone is invited to fill in the festival survey to be in with a chance of winning a branded, flask, cocktail glass and children’s crumpet slippers, kindly donated by Warburtons.