With only one week to go until Stone holds its 13th annual food and drink festival, excitement is starting to build in the town.
Every year during the first weekend in October, the Festival draws thousands of local residents as well as visitors out onto Westbridge Park come rain or shine to enjoy great food and drink, live music, kids’ cookery classes, circus workshops and shows, face painting and craft activities.
The gates will open at 12 noon on Friday 5 October, but there are events and offers on at venues across town from Friday 28 September – check out the Festival programme for details. There will be a park and ride service operating from Aston Marina, with the site open from 10am to 5pm on Saturday and Sunday and the regular monthly farmer’s market taking place on Saturday too.
If you’re quick you might still be able to join one of the masterclasses that are running: knife skills for fish with Stafford College lecturers Richard and Tom, cupcake decorating with Beth Lauren Cakes, or food for health with RAWR’s Gemma Bloor.
The Demonstration Kitchen will play host to a variety of chefs, from Little Seeds’ Jake Lowndes and No. 26 at Aston Marina’s Mark Rawlinson to Robert Didier, founder of Orchard Pigs, and Zalena Vandrewala of Rose Petals & Rice. Meanwhile there will be plenty of talks and tasting sessions going on, as well as street food, a pop-up tea room, the Staffordshire Beer Garden and champagne and cocktails to enjoy.
If you’re visiting, don’t forget to pop by Sauce’s stand to say hello or pick up your free copy of the magazine.
In it you’ll find our full interview with Richard Stevens, Chairman of the Festival and all-round champion of the Staffordshire food and drink scene, who explained how the event is put together and why it’s so important to the town.
Concentrating on local producers wherever possible, encouraging them and watching them go from strength to strength is one of the great pleasures of being involved as far as Richard is concerned.
“Lymestone Brewery is a great example,” he says. “We’ve been there from the very beginning supporting them and they’ve supported us. Seeing people like Lymestone grow and grow is very pleasing for us. I could name half a dozen others, but Beth Lauren Cakes is another perfect example. She started trading with us having been baking cakes at home, and that gave her the confidence to think she could make a living out of it. Now she’s got a fabulous shop in Radford Street and the café next door.
“Jake Lowndes was sous chef at La Dolce Vita eight or nine years ago when he watched his two bosses perform at the Festival. Now he’s got a restaurant [Little Seeds] of his own in town and will be on stage himself doing a demo in 2018. This is what we love.”
A whole roster of celebrity chefs have graced the cookery stage at the Festival over the years, from Gino d’Acampo to Anthony Worrall-Thompson and Paul Rankin, but there’s one in particular that Richard recalls with pride.
“In years one and two we invited a lady I had never heard of before. I had never read any of her books, never seen her. She loved the festival and we loved her. Her name was Mary Berry. After her second appearance in October 2006, she launched quite a well-known cookery programme…”
Although Mary isn’t likely to be in attendance, there will be plenty to see, do, buy, eat and drink at this year’s Festival – we look forward to seeing you there!
Stone Food & Drink Festival
Westbridge Park, Stafford St, Stone, ST15 8