Weather holds off and Paul Hollywood proves a sell-out at the new Food Festival venue Stratford Racecourse

More than 130 exhibitors, over a third of which were local producers from Stratford and surrounding Warwickshire areas came together in the 8th annual Stratford Food Festival on 14th and 15th September at the Stratford Racecourse, proving a successful year at its new venue.

Even some blustery weather did not deter visitors who mainly arrived in cars and made good use of the free parking. The shuttle bus to and from the Stratford town centre was also busy throughout the event and congestion was also much less of an issue this year.

Crowds flocked to get a glimpse of Paul Hollywood of The Great British Bake Off proving a very good choice as a celebrity draw for the event, Sunday in particular was much busier than the second day of last year’s festival and Paul’s demonstrations were totally sold out. While the better day for the weather was on the Saturday, averaging out the high footfall for the weekend.

Organiser Charlotte Harris, of Showplace Events, said: “It was amazing to see how broad the appeal of Paul Hollywood was, attracting visitors of every age from children upwards. Also, the new venue was much less weather dependent with lots of established facilities and free parking which made life easier for our visitors. It also gives us further opportunities for expansion as we look to the future.

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New features to this year’s event also proved a great hit with the public including the interactive workshops where visitors got the chance to get hands on experience of sourdough bread making and Indian inspired cuisine sessions. Additionally the local exhibitor’s tent, new for 2013, saw a mixture of traders from the local area including wonderful artisan breads, quality cheeses, chocolates, jams, preserves and sweets.

The cookery theatre proved to be a strong draw well before the Paul Hollywood road-show swept into town and other stars of the Festival included Indian cooking experts Moushumi Moran of The Cardamom Pod and Anita Sharma-James, Aubrey Allen, Seren Evans-Charrington of Bubbling Stove historical recipes, the chefs from Ettington Park Hotel and Belle House, The School of Artisan Food and Saturday’s guest celebrity Sophie Mitchell who was attending as part of an initiative with the Sense deaf blind charity. The celebrity themes of healthy eating and baking proved to be a winning combination enjoyed by visitors.

With live music, activities for the children and lots of lovely food and drink on offer the event really did offer something for everyone. Subsequent comments from exhibitors and visitors have been extremely encouraging, complementing the volume and variety of food stalls representing local and national food businesses, the popularity of the celebrities and the quality of the event’s organisation.

Visitors and exhibitors discussed their thoughts on the event on social media; “@foodfest2013 fantastic day today spoilt for choice and even the sun came out to play”, “Brilliant day @foodfest2013 well organised, great new location. Organisers should be proud.”

One of the Food Festivals returning exhibitors Rachel’s Cupcakes says “Thanks to @foodfest2013 for another great weekend we have just finished packing everything away! Here’s 2 next year!”

As the organisers look forward to 2014 they will be looking to further differentiate the event and build on this year’s success.