Flew by, didn’t it!
3-4th. We kicked off May with the Ely Food & Drink Festival with the lovely backdrop of Ely Cathedral and a chance to catch up with traders not seen since Christmas and wish them all a belated happy new year. The first time we’d done this event and the first morning greeted us with a steady drizzle as we drove up the A14, looking clearer towards the horizon only to bucket down as we were setting up! Nevertheless, it was a fantastic show, with the weather improving as the weekend went on and one we’ll definitely be doing next year.
16th Hadleigh Show. Our first “country” show of the year and what can I say? As good as last year and can’t grumble with that. Same spot next year please.
30th Woodbridge What’s Tasty Market. Hmm, maybe Woodbridge just isn’t ready for chilli sauces yet… I feel sure if we’d been selling asparagus or strawberries it would have been a stonker, but we don’t and we weren’t. No offence to the good people of Woodbridge but the demographic just wasn’t right for us. Maybe it was the setting at the top of the hill or just the time of year. Whatever, we’ll be back for their Christmas Market!
6-7th. Essex Maritime Festival, Southend Pier. This was billed as the replacement event for the annual air show, which allegedly attracted 250k people last year, so hopes were high and well, it was an interesting one to say the least.
Fab weather and a potentially fab setting, right at the start of the pier. However, as much as the sun shone down on us, the wind blew like you wouldn’t believe. Now normally, setting us a gazebo is a pretty straightforward affair, but when it’s attempted in near storm force winds on a mile-long promontory sticking out into the Thames Estuary it can prove a little more challenging. With 100lb of weights for each gazebo leg we were relatively OK but oh dear, as for the majority of other stallholders… There were bits of cloth and canvass flying around, tables blowing over, gazebos ripping, produce smashing. I felt sorry for the organisers, unlike a few others and as I understand it action was taken by some in the Small Claims Court for recompense following what proved for some to be a downright dreadful event! We did OK, especially on the Sunday when we were able to move position into one of the gaps left by stallholders not coming back for the second day, so that we were more public-facing (the first day we’d been placed off the main public access route). It’ll be interesting see whether they hold this event next year and if so what the location and layout of the “food court” will be.
For one unlucky stallholder it got even worse as I offered to help her push her cage full of stock up onto the exit ramp to pack away. I was doing the lady a good turn; it was a heavy cage-full and the ramp was pretty steep. There was no way I was going to be able to push it up the ramp so obviously pulling it up was the order of the day. But then the cage opened up and smash… Oh dear!
14th. Sudbury Food Festival. Fantastic! Again!
27-28th Colchester Food and Drink. Good. Better than last year. Someone thought it would be funny if, for a £5 bet, they drank our hottest sauce straight from the ramekin dish we use for the samples. Not exactly health and safety compliant and I did ask him not to and I did let him know what I thought of him after he’d done it. Not the first time I’ve felt like a free side show and unfortunately it won’t be the last.
1st-2nd. Royal Norfolk Show. I hadn’t planned on doing this one but got a call from a fellow stallholder who had to pull out, so nothing ventured, nothing gained and I took over his spot. My word it was hot!! So hot in fact that it seemed like a general lethargy ensued, with no-one seemingly bothered buying anything they couldn’t eat or drink on the spot. Still, met some nice people and had a thoroughly enjoyable time. Must have lost half a stone packing up, too!
4th. Tendring 100 Show. As it seems with most summers in this country, 2 or 3 days of blistering heat is followed, as standard practice, with thunderstorms and a general cooling down, and so it proved for the 100th anniversary of this event. Last year it was sweltering in the food hall. This year it was almost pleasant. I think the new lay-out helped. It certainly did with sales; our best showing at this event to date.
18-19th. Essex Food Festival. If you haven’t been to this event yet, please make an effort to come along. A fab setting at Cressing Temple Barns, a fab line up of celebrity chefs and wonderful producers, and very reasonably priced. Quite simply, our favourite show of the year. I even saw Jodie Marsh there, although it did take a couple of seconds for me to recognise her, about the same amount of time it took for me to manage to raise my eyes to her face…
25-26th. Holkham Country Show. It rained. The wind blew. Weather warnings were in force. We arrived on the Friday to be advised not to set the gazebo up until the following morning because of the forecast. Now, if I’d have pre-bought tickets for this event I’d have looked at the weekend’s forecast and turned up late morning on the Saturday for a few hours in the only reasonable-looking weather window there was and I think that’s what everyone did. Sunday was a complete washout after about 11am and we got absolutely soaked packing up. We’d intended camping on the Friday but I managed to get a last minute B&B and then again on the Sunday with a view to having a little explore of the beautiful North Norfolk Coast on the Monday, but as it was we ended up wet and thoroughly miserable back at home on the Sunday evening.
7-9th. West Dean Chilli Fiesta. Due to a mix-up on dates (my fault no doubt) Leanne couldn’t make this one, so whilst I was withering away in the face of the hot August sunshine for what I think were our last 3 good days of summer weather this year, she was living it up with a stay in London and afternoon tea at The Ritz with her friends. Still, she didn’t get to meet Darth Naga, did she? And what a thoroughly nice chap he is too. Top beard, to boot! We don’t normally do the whole chilli festival thing (a concern about over-proliferation of similar produce and the resultant competition I suppose) but boy are we glad we did this one! The only downside to the whole thing was the lack of control over noisy neighbours in the “quiet” part of the campsite, resulting in my direct intervention at 1.30am on the Saturday night and giving up altogether on the Sunday night to cart my bedding half a mile to the van and sleep in the back! If you’re reading this and as I said to you on the Monday morning, it was nice to meet you and I’m glad you had a great time but please have a little bit more consideration for your neighbours next year or at least until they start manufacturing sound-proof tents.
15-16th. Ipswich Maritime Festival. Another good one and a shame the powers that be have decided not to put it on next year in favour of something else yet to be decided. If you know Ipswich you wouldn’t be surprised if it was a traffic light festival!
30-31st. Bury Food Festival. Whoever thinks it’s a good idea to put on an outside event on a bank holiday Monday in August can only, surely, be tempting the rain gods into putting on a hell of a show. So for the second year running Monday saw the heavens open and at one point we had a river running through our gazebo. I think it stopped raining for about and hour, total, on the Monday. However, apart from that, it’s a free event for people to attend, right in the centre of town and if the weather gods were kind it could prove to be one of our best of the year!
4-6th. Chatsworth Country Fair. A last minute call from the organisers to host another chilli-eating contest unfortunately had to be turned down due to lack of time to source the chillies but, with a little more notice, hopefully next year! This is probably the biggest show of the year we do in terms of shear scale and numbers attending, although the Friday was dreadfully quiet this year. Whilst Sunday was our best day yet at this event we never quite caught up. Did thoroughly well however and it was a delight to see all the hot air balloons up in the sky first thing in the mornings, even if one did nearly land on our tent only to miss us by a few feet and crash-land next to us in the river!
12-1th. Barleylands, Essex Country Show. Bit of a disappointment compared to last year but still well worth doing, although from what I can gather from speaking to other stallholders about the success (or not) of their weekend, there may be a few less of us next year… Still, much to Leanne’s chagrin, I got to listen to Slayer’s new CD all the way there and back.
26-27th. Aldeburgh Food Festival. Our final show until November and off the back of last year’s a bit disappointing. Fantastic setting at Snape Maltings but just not the numbers there were last year, one theory being the rugby union world cup. They probably have a point. We’ll be back next year.