Back in the day, there were only a few summer festivals to choose from. If you wanted rock music? It was Reading or Glastonbury. Literature fan? Cheltenham or Hay. Foodie? Abergavenny or Ludlow.
Now, the festival season stretches from April to September. And they cater for every type of festival-goer on a whole new scale. Gone are the cheapo burger vans and beer tents. In are the organic sausages and artisan mead. But which are best for food-lovers? Lottie Storey gives her guide to the South West.
Forage and feast at Abergavenny Food Festival
Started by a couple of farmers to showcase British produce and restore consumer confidence in the wake of the BSE crisis, Abergavenny Food Festival now attracts over 30,000 visitors to its annual event. As well as plenty of brilliant British food to sample, you can expect kids’ activities, masterclasses, hands-on cookery lessons and topical debates from top national and international chefs, food heroes and writers. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Jamie Oliver, Monica Galetti, Jane Baxter, Jose Pizarro and Valentine Warner have all appeared on the bill in previous years. The 2018 line-up includes Anna Jones, Grace Dent, Honey & Co, Skye McAlpine and Sybil Kapoor.
Abergavenny, Monmouthshire. 15 & 16 September 2018
Food for thought at HowTheLightGetsIn
Set on the edge of the Black Mountains next to the River Wye, HowTheLightGetsIn is a magical weekend of philosophy and music, ideas and culture. And food. As well as all that fodder for your brain, the festival’s four course long table banquets will keep your tastebuds awake and your belly full. Lavish lunches and midnight feasts are accompanied by live musicians. Perfect for chewing the fat with fellow festival goers around the communal table. Just as you can choose to watch comedy or science, the food menu is equally diverse. After a fallow year, the details are still TBC but HowTheLightGetsIn promises ‘exceptional eateries’ across the two festival sites. And if previous events are anything to go by this is one is not to miss.
Hay-on-Wye, Brecknockshire. 25-28 May 2018
Family fun on the farm at Valley Fest
When a festival takes place on a community farm, with the slogan ‘Get on my land!’, you know you’re onto a winner. Luke Hasell put on the first Valley Fest back in 2014 as a way to honour his parents and their love of good food. This celebration has grown into one of the south west’s best loved festivals. With Chew Valley Lake as its view, Valley Fest is firmly establishing itself as a Somerset stalwart. And local foodies agree.
Think freshly cooked organic local food, cookery classes with top chefs, and the chatter of everyone sharing food at the festival’s Midnight Feast and Sunday Picnic. Every food stall at Valley Fest this year is organic. Luke has offered traders discounted rates so they can guarantee to keep their prices low for festival-goers. Plus this is a true family festival. Kids adore the freedom of the fields, activities and family-friendly line-up. And to top it off, Farmdrop will also be making an appearance so look out for us!
Chew Valley, near Bristol. 3-5 August 2018
Seafood and chefs at Port Eliot Festival
Set on the Port Eliot Estate – family home to generations of the St Germans family – this is a Cornish festival worth trying. Swim in the estuary, picnic under a 300-year-old tree, rock out at the Park Stage, canoe on the river, catch an intimate gig in the church, watch a cooking demo in the Big Kitchen and dance ‘till the wee hours in the Boogie Round. And it wouldn’t be a Cornish foodie event without a Stein in attendance. This year it’s Jack (Rick’s middle son). The programme also includes other names from the restaurant industry like Russell Norman of Polpo and Paul Ainsworth of No.6, Padstow. Representing Bristol are local heroes Claire Thompson and Freddy Bird.
St Germans, Cornwall. 26-29 July 2018
Run away with the circus at the Hauser & Wirth Summer Party
A festival weekend set in the grounds of Hauser & Wirth in Bruton, Somerset, this Summer Party celebrates 250 years of circus. Expect performances, family activities, vintage fairground rides, arts and crafts workshops, face painting and that all important local food and drink. The gallery’s in-house restaurant, Roth Bar & Grill, focuses on ethical, sustainable food year-round and will be serving a wood-fired feast from the Outdoor Kitchen on both days. Food is sourced from Durslade Farm, their own kitchen garden and surrounding orchards. Local suppliers will also be serving up tasty treats for visitors to enjoy. Bands will serenade your circus fun on both days. And don’t miss the firework spectacular on Saturday night!
Bruton, Somerset. 14-15 July 2018