DARTMOUTH FOOD FESTIVAL FLIES IN THE FACE OF RECESSION
We are all feeling the pinch in a protracted recession and this week we found out where and how deep the spending axe will fall. Despite this more than 10,000 people shrugged off the doom and gloom to make their way to South Devon for the Dartmouth Food Festival last weekend, the numbers attending the annual event rose by about 25% this year and the town got a very welcome boost as the holiday season draws to a close. Delighted Festival Chairman, David Jones, explained his relief, ‘We knew we were facing a tough challenge this year so we took the view that if we were going to maintain the momentum we’ve built over the last few years then we had to make the Festival bigger and better than ever. With the co-operation of South Hams District Council we added a new area to the event in the town’s Royal Avenue Gardens where we staged workshops, family activities, cooking demonstrations and book signings. This created a wonderful space, especially for families and we’ve received exceptional feedback about it; but it added nearly £3000 to our costs so it was definitely a risk. We also brought in more exhibitors than in previous years and staged a number of additional events around town.’ The Festival Weekend, 23rd and 24th October, was blessed with fine weather and coincided with half term. This brought a mixed audience of dedicated foodies, families with young children and locals to enjoy the atmosphere, watch celebrity chefs and taste all manner of wonderful food as they browsed the 100 exhibitor stalls. A star-studded line of chefs, writers and journalists attended. Cooking on stage were Valentine Warner, Jane Baxter, Mark Hix, Henry Dimbleby, and many more. Wine experts Fiona Beckett, Susy Atkins, Tim McLaughlin-Green and Liam Steevenson joined cheese mongers from Trethowan’s Dairy, bakers Ricard Bertinet and Tom Herbert, fishmongers, butchers, beekeepers and chocolatiers to share their particular areas of expertise. Writers Diana Henry, Xanthe Clay, Alistair Sawday and Tom Parker Bowles came to talk and sign books. Local restaurateur Mitch Tonks, who appeared throughout the Festival and is a great supporter of the event, was delighted with the impact on his own business; ‘It's amazing what can be achieved when a town works together. It's October, our restaurants were full and I know other shopkeepers were reporting record days, the food festival has become a massive attraction and, just as importantly, a huge commercial benefit to Dartmouth’. Joe Murtagh who runs the Dartmouth and District Chamber of Trade & Businesses enthuses, “In a period of national economic uncertainty, the organisers of the Dartmouth Food Festival are to be congratulated on staging a hugely successful event that has seen large numbers of visitors to Dartmouth to enjoy not only the events and stalls but also the town of Dartmouth too. The quality and variety of food and drink available was truly remarkable and the demonstrations and displays were equally informative and entertaining. Both the exhibitors and the Dartmouth traders benefitted from the increase in trade throughout the town and look forward to the continued success of this annual event.” Adam from the Well Hung Meat Company added, “The Dartmouth Food Festival was a huge success for the Well Hung Meat Company, we enjoyed sales that rivalled that of any shows throughout our calendar. A great show with a great atmosphere and lovely high spending customers, I can’t wait to come again next year.” David Jones, who also runs the Manna from Devon Cooking School in nearby Kingswear, summed up the organising team’s positive attitude, ‘We can’t just batten down the hatches and hope to survive the recession. Now, more than ever, small businesses need to get out and market themselves and the festival provides an excellent opportunity for them to meet potential customers and develop relationships. We remain ambitious whatever the economic climate and our plans for the Festival reflect that ambition’.