With next year being the 10th anniversary, I caught up with some visitors to ask their experience of this year’s Bolton Food and Drink Festival.
Launching in 2005 and starting off on a much smaller scale, Bolton Food and Drink Festival has grown to become the town’s largest calendar event, proving once more to be a huge hit with locals and travellers alike.
With the previous record of 130,000 visitors reportedly being smashed within the first day and many more stallholders travelling from mainland Europe and beyond than ever before, Bank Holiday weekend saw Bolton fill to the borders with visitors in search of high quality produce and creative cuisine.
Along with celebrity chefs, including Gino D’Acampo, John Torode and Michael Caines, retailers travelled from Paris, Madrid, Sweden, Italy and even Canada, putting Bolton on the map for something other than its comedians.
Whilst people might struggle to find Bury Black Pudding on the menu of Michelin Star restaurants, if Australian-born John Torode is a fan of the classic Yorkshire Pudding then we can only hope.
Visitors to the festival, Jackie and Chris travelled from Manchester to explore the delights on offer.
Jackie said: “We tend to stay closer to home because there is more choice, but the parking there is crippling. Because it is free in the centre here, we thought we’d come and have a look around as we’ve never been to the markets before.”
“It’s nice to see the town so busy. Every time we come here more shops are boarded up.”
Later I spoke to a representative from Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) about a study they were conducting over the weekend.
He said: “We’ve found that in its ninth year, the event has attracted visitors from further away and in increasing numbers.”
One of the most successful stalls of the market was The Saddleworth Cheese Company who supply a variety of classic Lancashire cheeses including the good old Lancashire Crumbly, along with the creamy and blue varieties.
I spoke to Rev, one of the co-owners of the award-winning business, who told me that the stall had sold out of cheese the day before and was on track to do the same again that day.
I was also lucky enough to catch up with Masterchef judge, John Torode to ask him about his experience of the weekend’s events.
Mr Torode said: “This food festival is brilliant. It’s great to see the people of Bolton coming together to make the weekend a success.”
“It is important that we support our local markets and that is what I am here for”.
Discussing his cooking demonstration he said: “The steak I am cooking today will be the best in the world.”
Nationally, it is no hidden secret that the thriving high streets of 20 years ago are now struggling to hold on to the big brands. Town centres are evolving into strips of pound shops and takeaways in comparison to well-known food chains or clothing boutiques.
Although this weekend happens just once a year and arguably that’s the novelty, it’s difficult to ignore the fact that locals are desperate for the town to host similar events more regularly in order to induce a sense of community spirit and excitement in a town that was once the busiest and most vibrant in the region.
Perhaps local farmers’ markets or craft fairs are just what Britain needs to lift its high streets from the dark fog that has begun to choke them.