Food festival goes down a treat with crowds

Festival organisers Shelley and Mark Deakin
Festival organisers Shelley and Mark Deakin
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Scores of hungry South Tynesiders helped make an annual food and drink festival the best yet.

Organisers of the bumper Bank Holiday Proper Food and Drink Festival in South Shields says this year’s event was the biggest and best yet.

Over three days thousands of people descended on Bents Park to sample and buy produce from more than 60 stalls.

“It’s always difficult to judge numbers, but if there were 20,000 last year there must have been more this time,” said Mark Deakin, who – with his wife Shelley – are staging other Proper Food and Drink Festivals this summer in Whitley Bay, Cramlington and North Shields.

“We try to bring events to places which don’t normally have them and make it a great day out. So although it’s all about creating an opportunity for artisan producers, we also provide live music to make it a real party atmosphere,” said Mark.

Grant Henson, a South Shields businessman, visited the festival with his family.

He said: “This is great for the town. It’s so good to see so many people here. South Shields needs more things like this.”

Mel Hawkins, the events manager of The Northumberland Sausage Company, said food festivals had been crucial in the growth of her business.

She said: “Ten years ago there was nothing like this. We now have three shops but the festivals are the most important thing we do. That’s where people get the chance to taste what we make but there’s also time for a chat and a chance to build a bit of rapport."

Fellow producer Earl Gough of the Bernie Bumm Sauce Company said the unexpectedly good weather on Saturday helped bring more people to the festival. “Our sauces go from mild to wild and they were selling like hot cakes. One of our customers said he was going to put a Bernie Bumm sauce on his kippers. Now that’s an interesting combination!”

Organiser Shelley Deakin said next year’s South Shields Proper Food and Drink Festival will be even better. “We’ve got lots of experience in running events – not just food festivals – but you are always learning. This is the third time we’ve been to Bents Park. It takes a lot of hard work and time to make sure it runs smoothly, but it’s worth it when you see what a good time everybody has.”

The next Proper Food and Drink Festival takes place in Whitley Bay on 11 and 12 June, followed by Cramlington on 30 and 31 July and North Shields on 20 and 21 August.