Food festival is off the menu for 2015 as support issues bite

Jean-Christophe Novelli with Chicken George (aka Jamie Sleeman) at the 2014 Alnwick Food Festival.
Jean-Christophe Novelli with Chicken George (aka Jamie Sleeman) at the 2014 Alnwick Food Festival.

A long-running annual festival which showcases local food, attracts famous chefs and pulls in thousands of visitors, will not be going ahead this year – but organisers have vowed to put it back on the menu in 2016.

Those involved with the Alnwick Food Festival, which celebrated its 10th birthday in 2014, have revealed that the yearly culinary feast will not be served up this September.

Financial pressures and a search for new manpower have proved to be the key ingredients in the decision to cancel this year’s event.

However, organisers are cooking up plans for the 2016 festival, earmarked for September 24 and 25. But they have made a plea for people and businesses to support future events.

Festival director Karen Larkin said: “We are having a rest from the event itself this year, however, we will be back in 2016. We have some ideas and will be using the time we have this year to implement those before 2016.

“I’d like to further engage with local businesses and people to establish the needs of the town and to gauge the appetite for the event, as well as recruit volunteers onto the new team to take it forward.

“We are, of course, incredibly grateful to everyone – sponsors, volunteers, traders and visitors – who have supported the event up to now, and we will be back with a vengeance in 2016.”

Chairman Carys Thomas explained the financial pressures which have heaped up problems for the festival.

She said: “It has become increasingly difficult for any voluntary organisation to find money as grant funds have been shrinking. For some time now, the food festival has had to rely on the generosity of sponsors for its main funding, and for sponsorship in kind, in terms of goods, services and manpower.

“The county council has said it will have to charge for stall erection, road closures, transport and rubbish collection, which previously it has been able to do at no cost. This represents a massive increase in our overall basic budget so we need to do further research to consolidate funds before 2016. We also want to take time to recruit passionate new volunteers to help us make the next 10 years of Alnwick Food Festival vibrant, exciting and above all, sustainable.”

The event, which celebrates Northumbrian produce, drink and healthy eating, has become a major fixture in the town’s calendar, attracting around 30,000 visitors during festival weekend.

It has been attended by famous faces, such as celebrity chef Jean-Christophe Novelli and ex-Coronation Street star Sean Wilson.

Having built such a reputation, committee member Mark Turnbull feels it is crucial for the event to continue.

He said: “It is great for the town and it would be a shame to lose it altogether. Without more help and support it will be difficult to avoid this, so I hope people do come forward and support us for 2016.”

To help support and plan the 2016 event, email karen@alnwickfoodfestival.co.uk