A record 7,000 people tucked into Penrith’s annual food festival on Saturday. This year’s Penrith on a Plate was the biggest so far with more than 50 stalls and activities on offer, toasting the best of the area’s food and beverages.
TV personality Martin Jordan from the Channel 4 series Lookalikes entertained the crowd throughout the day in the guise of celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay. Also topping the billing was Eden’s own TV chef, Peter Sidwell, with a large crowd gathering to watch him prepare dishes including steak crostini.
Foodies were treated to three other chef demonstrations during the day at the Made in Cumbria kitchen, and 1st Appleby Scouts fascinated festival-goers young and older with their demonstrations of preparing and cooking wild rabbit.
The Eden farmers’ market was at the heart of the event as always, giving food lovers a chance to meet producers from across the district and sample their quality foods. Meats, fish, chutneys, sauces and cheeses were among the savoury offerings on the menu, along with homemade cakes and jams, blini pancakes by Ullswater Community College, local ice creams and frozen yoghurt, artisan coffee, Eden craft beers and a selection of arts and crafts.
Young foodies flocked to the activities on offer, with workshops on balloon modelling and juggling, rodeo bull rides, roving entertainment and music. The Farm to Fork Roadshow run by Westmorland County Agricultural Society and sponsored by Newton Rigg College thronged throughout the day with children and adults keen to meet the farmers and their animals.
The event even attracted newly-wed Rachael Gilbert-Burns from Manchester and her groom, James Gilbert, from Stoke on Trent. The couple were married on Saturday at the Town Hall.
“I stayed at The George Hotel the night before the wedding to get ready in the morning,” Rachael explained. “We had afternoon tea there after our ceremony. We came out of the revolving doors directly into the bottom of Mary the cow!”
Making her way through the festival crowds and stalls to the wedding was an unexpected experience.
“I was slightly embarrassed at walking down the high street in my wedding dress to the Town Hall, but the public were lovely and Mary the cow helped take some of the attention away!” Rachael said. “Our guests thought it was brilliant. We did know it was on the same day as our wedding but had no idea there would be livestock!”
Rachael and James are now residents of Eden, and are renovating their future home in Plumpton.
“This is the fourth year of Penrith on a Plate and we’re delighted to see it going from strength to strength,” said Richard Utting from Penrith Partnership, who chairs the Eden Food and Farming Festival committee. “Feedback from visitors and stallholders has been overwhelmingly positive.”
One of the Partnership’s aims for the festival was to increase people’s knowledge about how food is produced in Eden, and they appear to have succeeded.
“The majority of people we surveyed about the event said they had learnt more about food and food production, and that’s a great success for us,” Richard said.
Stallholder Alan Reading, from J&J Graham’s shop in Penrith, welcomed events like Penrith on a Plate, which he felt are a great benefit to the town.
“They put Penrith on the map as a lively town with lots going on, and that encourages people to come and visit throughout the year, as well as on the day,” said Alan, who also leads the town’s Totally Locally campaign.
Attracting trade for the town is also a focus for Penrith Business Improvement District (BID), and the team was out in force promoting the first-stage launch of the Discover Penrith free Wifi along with the new Loyalty Scheme and the Penrith Pound, all powered by www.discoverpenrith.co.uk, to increase commerce in the town.
“It was fantastic that the BID has been able to support this event again,” said Dan Harding, Penrith BID’s interim chair. “Even the weather was much kinder than forecast and the town enjoyed a great turn out, giving the exhibitors a superb showcase for their local produce and allowing town traders to engage in the spirit of the event and promote their businesses.”
“Cooking up an event like Penrith on a Plate and being able to offer it free of charge took a lot of help from funders, sponsors and supporters,” Peter said. “Eden District Council are a major funder, also offering free parking in their car parks on the day. Penrith Business Improvement District and Pride in Penrith Lottery have also provided funding again this year, with support also from Discover Penrith and additional sponsorship and help from Newton Rigg College, North Lakes Glass, Vista Veg and Burnetts Solicitors. We’re indebted to the Rotary Club of Penrith for turning out early in the morning to help us set up and collect money at activities throughout the day, which meant we were able to bring in more than £300 towards running costs.”
Peter added a final word of thanks to Appleby firm Eden Lighthouse, for event management and marketing.
The festival continues with events all week, reaching a climax with Penrith Show on Saturday 25 July. Full details are on the festival website: www.edenfoodfestival.org/events.