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North East festivals for foodies coming thick and fast as Autumn draws in

Summer may be nearly over, but there’s still a rich harvest of food festivals ready for the picking over the coming weeks, as Jane Hall reports

Stalls and Visitors at the Wallington Food & Craft Festival, Northumberland

It’s not been the best end to what had been a pretty good summer by recent standards.

August has turned into something of a grey and cool (ish) squib after June and July recorded temperatures to rival anything the Mediterranean could offer on a number of occasions.

But on the whole this has been a good year temperature wise with one of the earliest harvests for some time and home grown vegetables coming into their own noticeably sooner than the norm.

But for those who prefer their days to be long and light, it all smacks of an early autumn and, dare we whisper it, winter.

That doesn’t just mean dim days rolling into even darker nights, but the inevitable countdown to the onset of the so-called hungry gap when home grown foods will be in short supply until well into next spring.

Before you decide to drown your sorrows in a pint or two of locally produced real ale, thankfully we haven’t quite seen the last of Nature’s bounty for another year.

Sandy Higson, 'The Mad Jam Woman' at The Journal's Taste food and drink festival 2010
Sandy Higson, 'The Mad Jam Woman' at The Journal's Taste food and drink festival 2010

And for food lovers there’s still plenty of good eating to be had as we head into September and October.

The next couple of months will see more than harvest festivals filling the calendar.

September and October have become food festival season across the North with a plethora of events to tempt even the most jaded palates.

And new offerings seem to be springing up all the time.

Headline events offering everything from outdoor dining to the chance to drink your way around the region, stalls stacked high with local produce, farming displays, community collaborations, foodie films and celebrity chef demonstrations, are all on the agenda.

So make space in your diary and read on for Journal Taste’s guide to autumn 2014’s best comestible celebrations.

August 30-31, Proper Food and Drink Festival, Northumberland Square, North Shields, 10am-5pm both days. Free to attend.

The new season of foodie fun kicks-off today with the second Proper Food and Drink Festival.

It also happens to be the third and final outing for what has been a series of tie-in events held across the region in recent months by creators Mark and Shelley Deakin of Hot Stuff Chilli Co fame (the couple who are also behind the North East Chilli Festival and the new Lakes Chillifest 2014).

The Deakins’ promise more than 100 stalls packed high with local, artisan produce, street food, bars by Wylam Brewery, Caribbean cocktails and entertainment at this free to attend event.

Producers from across Northumberland, Tyne and Wear, County Durham, Yorkshire and south Scotland will be laying out their stalls, with Spicy Monkey, The Cherry Tree Newcastle, Swallow Fish of Seahouses, The Durham Brewery, Earth and Fire Pizza, Durham Venison and Game and The Chirnells Farmhouse Kitchen among the names taking part.

Last year’s Proper Food and Drink Festival gave a massive boost to the local economy in general. The Deakins’ are hoping this year’s event will prove just as popular.


Customers being served beer
Customers being served beer

September 13-14, Berwick Food and Beer Festival, The Barracks, Berwick, 9am-5pm Saturday, 9am-4pm Sunday (beer marquee opens September 12 from 5pm ). £2 entry, under 12s go free:

Now in its seventh year, this year’s Berwick Food and Beer Festival promises’ to be bigger and better than ever.

Organised by the local Slow Food Group in Berwick’s historic 18th century Barracks, in addition to a producers’ market filled with edible goodies from Northumberland and the Scottish Borders, the weekend will offer and A-Z of other culinary delights for the whole family.

Expect to find an animal farm featuring rare breeds, foodie film offerings, including a special showing of Au Petit Marguery centred on the last night at a French restaurant, kids’ activities, an industrial section where entrants will show off their baking and growing skills, street food aplenty and chef demonstrations.

The Beer Festival is an especially apt and welcome tie-in. Berwick takes its name from the old English word for barley and has been linked with the brewing industry for centuries.

Organised by Simon Vickers who runs the town’s Barrels Alehouse, the list of beers still has to be announced, but if previous years are anything to go by expect a huge range of local tipples to whet your whistle.

Festival committee member Ruth McNeeley says: “The committee has been working very hard this year and we are delighted with the range of people taking part. Between them they sum up what the Slow Food movement is all about – supporting local producers and farmers and sharing food knowledge with others.”


September 13-14, Great Taste at Intu MetroCentre, MetroCentre, Gateshead. Free to attend:

Shopping at the MetroCentre will come with an extra tasty helping on the side with a weekend of local chefs, live demonstrations, a farmers’ market with sizzling sausages, beautiful baking, cheeky cheeses and local ales, and exclusive offers.

Even the Metrognomes will be getting in on the act and helping children decorate cookies.

Go along, tuck in and you’ll also receive a free cook book.


Alnwick Food Festival 2012 - Jean Chrostophe Novelli
Alnwick Food Festival 2012 - Jean Chrostophe Novelli

September 20-21, Alnwick Food Festival (incorporating Alnwick Beer Festival), Market Place and Town Hall, Alnwick, 9am-5pm. Free to attend:

The star attraction – apart from the food of course – has for the past three years been the pairing with world-renowned chef Jean-Christophe Novelli.

And the multi Michelin star award winning chef is showing no signs of tiring of the event as he prepares to give this always eagerly anticipated food outing his seal of approval for the fourth year in a row.

The French gourmet will not only be showing off his considerable culinary talents in the demonstration kitchen in Northumberland Hall but will also be hosting two cookery lessons at the Outcook Home Cookery School.

It’s a fitting way for the food festival to celebrate its first decade.

Helping the weekend along will be more than 50 artisan food and drink producers, street entertainers, roving chefs and, of course, the beer festival organised by the Alnwick and District Round Table.

Look out for Carwinley Preserves, Allendale Brewery, The Cake Root, Alnwick’s award-winning pair The Proof of the Pudding and butcher R Turnbull and Sons, Northumberland Sausage Company, Sunnyhills Farm Shop and Crazy Freds among the exhibitors.

Alnwick’s regular Saturday market will also still be taking place in Bondgate Within and there will be hot food from Turnbull’s and The Hog’s Head Inn.


September 27-28, Taste Cumbria Food Festival at Cockermouth, Main Street and Market Place, 10am-5pm. Free to attend; charge for special events:

Over on the west coast Taste Cumbria is returning to Cockermouth for the fifth year for its flagship food festival.

More than 30,000 people flocked to last year’s event celebrating the finest Cumbrian food and drink. And the stage is set for another amazing weekend of artisan treats and gourmet flavours.

Main Street will host more than 100 top producers as well as a cookery demo stage.

Also making a welcome return will be the Market Place Food Court and the Taste Cumbria Beer Festival.

Michelin-starred chef Simon Rogan will be bringing a taste of L’Enclume and Claridge’s to a special festival pop-up restaurant. Each sitting will see four courses prepared by the talented cook. Tickets are on sale now.


October 18-19, Wallington Food and Craft Festival, Wallington House, Gardens and Estate, Cambo, Northumberland, 10am-5pm. Reduced admission charges for the weekend of £5 for adults. National Trust members and children go free:

Held on the grassed courtyard in front of the impressive mansion, this National Trust organised food and craft festival regularly attracts in excess of 20,000 people over the course of the weekend.

Back for its ninth helping – its first outing was in 2006 - the event is traditionally seen as the swansong for the autumn food festival season and is usually blessed with gorgeous weather.

This year will see around 80 stalls selling a range of fantastic regional produce. Among the names already signed up are Wildon Grange with their award-winning chutneys, sauces and marinades, More? The Artisan Bakery, Kenspeckle Northumbrian Confectionery, Ringtons, Deer ‘n Dexter and Boulevard Cuisine.



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