The Christchurch Food and Wine Festival took place in the beautiful Dorset town from 8 May to 17 May 2009. One of the biggest of its kind in the UK and celebrating its tenth successful year in operation, the festival draws in crowds from across the country with delicacies to suit every taste.
ICM Chairman Dr Alistair Somerville Ford was once again the principal sponsor of the event and is, as ever, a keen advocate of an event that boosts tourism in Christchurch exponentially and one that continually surpasses itself with every year.
The festival boasts an enviable calendar of events over the ten days in May from live cookery demonstrations by celebrity chefs and ice cream tasting sessions to barn dances and a medieval fayre.
The live cookery demonstrations are always a huge crowd-puller and this year proved to be no exception. With Lesley Waters, Gary Rhodes and the Tanner brothers in attendance, the Rangemaster Theatre was constantly packed with avid cookery fans.
The International Food Market held during the weekend is considered by many to be the highlight of the festival. This ever-popular weekend event attracts thousands of guests each year; last year saw 60,000 attendees and the figure for the 2009 Food and Wine Festival is estimated to have reached nearly 80,000.
Traders from across Europe make the journey to Christchurch to sell their products in the International Food Market. This year was Sam Winter, of New Forest Biscotti, first trip to the market and it exceeded all his expectations. He said: “We bought enough stock for two days and we’d broken even by 12 noon yesterday (9 May).”
Other stallholders experienced similar success, including Jon Lilly of Scream Retail whose Thunder Toffee Vodka was an unprecedented hit with visitors and the Sicilian Food Suppliers stall owned by Stefano Leone enjoyed unending interest in its traditional Mediterranean produce.
Ann Simon, Tourism Manager for Christchurch Borough Council, was overwhelmed by the response she received from visitors and traders alike. She said: “It’s just amazing. When we first started, it was an idea of Mary Reader, our President, and we were sitting in her front room wondering what we could do – and we suggested that maybe we could have a food market as well.
“Now we’ve got a waiting list, we are making sure that we have quality local, regional and international produce and say this is how we want it. Everybody I’ve spoken to […] has made a point of saying they’ve had a fantastic time; it’s been the best ever.”
Plans have already begun for the 11th annual Christchurch Food and Wine Festival which will take place in May 2010. After the success of this year, it’s sure to be another great event.