I spent a very enjoyable evening at the Wokingham Food Festival last night. This event, lasting two and a half days, is in it’s seventh year and has gone from strength to strength. It was originally a Council run event that ran for 2 years. But 5 years ago two local residents Stan Hetherington and Kate Lole approached the council saying that they would run it if they, the council, were no longer going to.
The event brings local and new bands and musical talent together with some more established travelling musicians and produces a nice community event for the whole family. There is always a very large beer tent with cask ales and hot food on sale throughout the day and night, but during the day there are additional stands with local food producers and suppliers more than happy to talk to you about their wares.
Whilst I wasn’t there on Friday night I heard that the evening was packed, the bands great and the atmosphere buzzing as the beer flowed.
On Saturday I arrived just as the food tent was closing for the day but could see that The Oxford Cheese Company were there, Mediterranean Olives and Snacks, Shemin’s curry pastes, a man selling cured meats, cakes stalls, The Sweet Cabin, wine, olives and honey to name but a few. The general consensus from the people I spoke to was the Saturday had shown a good supply of people through the tent but the rain in the middle of the afternoon had deterred others or sent them home early.
The beer and hot food tent is always busy and lively. With long trestle tables and seats it is looks like a Scout Camp dinner tent, but strangers sit shoulder to shoulder as they enjoy the company of their friends and the music from the festival. Children run in and out to see their parents and the atmosphere is really relaxed and friendly.
The hot food on offer this year was some fantastic Spanish fare from Street Food Spain offering both a freshly prepared chicken or seafood paella and their very tasty looking chorizo rolls.
A stand selling Slovakian ‘crazy cakes’, which is a dough cooked on a special cylinder and rolled in sugar and cinnamon or cheese look interesting and very snack worthy.
There was a man selling freshly made hot crepes with more Nutella on his stand than he could possibly ever use. But who am I to know?
There was also available Thai noodles or curries, all freshly prepared that day. Bratwurst sausage sandwiches, ice cream, a smoothie van, a coffee camper van and Roly Poly who made a hot pork (hog roast) style sandwich.
The combination of smells of food wafting, sights of people enjoying themselves and sounds of good music worked really well as the the dusk came in and the music got a bit more lively.
I made a point of watching two of the bands. One was called the Bear Blues Band and the other Nark Drool & The Shudders. Both did a really great job of getting people moving and dancing and having a carefree time. I did amuse myself by watching one couple where she was really, really, really keen to dance. And he wasn’t. She was pulling him this way and that, but he stood stock still and refused to join in. Very amusing for me, not much her I don’t suppose.
All in all this is a fantastic community event. I was surprised to learn how hard it is to get stall holders and local suppliers to get involved. I really would have thought this would have been a prime opportunity for them to meet their potential local clients up close and personal. For example the Thai food company came from Portsmouth, we have some fantastic Thai restaurants in and around Wokingham, what a shame they couldn’t see the benefit of attending.
Whether the food festival will run in the same venue next year is to be decided as there is still the unanswered question about redevelopment at Elms Field. But if you missed it this year, try and get yourself down there next year. I am sure you won’t be disappointed.