The ever-popular annual Aylsham Food Festival gets under way on 4th October with a packed programme of events. Two ‘firsts’ this year are a mobile cooking academy, on loan from kitchen appliance manufacturer AEG, and a series of junk percussion workshops presented by Britain’s Got Talent semi-finalists Bang On!
The 40ft long AEG mobile cooking academy vehicle opens out into a state of the art demonstration theatre and the Food Festival has taken full advantage of the facility by inviting ten top local chefs to show off their skills. The academy will be based in the Courtyard at the National Trust’s Blickling Hall on Friday 4th and Saturday 5th October with demonstrations running all day from 10.30am and 9.15am respectively. It’s all free and there’s no need to book, just drop in. There will be a free minibus service both days, running from Bure Valley Railway station, via Aylsham Market Place, to Blickling Hall. The full programme is available on the organisers’ website, www.slowfoodaylsham.org.uk
Bang On! will be presenting their unique junk-inspired rhythms on two days. Starting on Saturday 28th September at Aylsham High school, the duo will run three free workshops, at 9.30am, 11.30am and 2.00pm. They are open to people of all ages and you don’t need any musical experience or ability to take part. Everything will be provided and you can book your place by going to the Slow Food Aylsham website as above. The duo will return to the town on Saturday 5th October for two afternoon workshops, this time in Aylsham Market Place, followed at around 3.30pm by a special grand finale performance when all those who have taken part in the two days of workshops will be invited to participate. If you don’t want to join in, just turn up to any of the sessions to watch and see if you can stop your feet from tapping!
In the weeks leading up to the Food Festival, there will be two competitions on offer. The first, aimed mainly at children, is the Snail Trail. The Snail is the symbol of Slow Food Aylsham and there will be 15 of them (cardboard, not real!) to be found in shop windows around the town. Find all 15 and you are entered into a prize draw to win a fantastic Snail Hunters hamper. Entry forms available from TSB Bank in the Market Place and Digby’s Bon Bon in Red Lion Street.
The Lunchbox Challenge is the second competition and this is open to everyone. It asks entrants to make a lunchbox item that contains fresh fruit and the prizes on offer are an ice cream maker for the kids plus a coffee maker for adults, both donated by AEG. Judging will take place on 5th October by Town Council Chairman Eileen Springall and vicar of St Michaels Church, Revd Andrew Beane. Entry forms available from J B Postle in the Market Place and Food Lovers Café in Penfold Street, or go online to the website as above.
The Friday Aylsham Country Market in the Town Hall is a regular feature of Aylsham Food Festival and producers are promising a host of delicious tasters as well as their usual mix of homemade cakes and savouries, alongside plants, eggs, fresh cut flowers and craft items.
Aylsham’s FARMA-accredited Farmers’ Market will be in the Market Place on Saturday 5th October and there will be some additional stalls for the Festival, not all necessarily under the FARMA umbrella. The Market will be accompanied by the fab One Foot in the Groove jazz band who will be playing until 11.30am, prior to the Bang On! experience.
Saturday morning will also see Kids Cooking Workshops in the Town Hall, run by members of Slow Food Aylsham.
The Festival Gala Dinner at Aylsham High School will cater for 120 diners, up from 100 in previous years. Despite this increase, tickets sold out almost as soon as they became available, reflecting the quality and professionalism of the students at the school who not only source, prepare and cook the 5-course meal but serve it as well.
Alongside the Dinner, the Big Slow Breakfast on Sunday 6th October is the most established and popular event in the Festival’s three days. Like the Dinner, it caters for 120, this time in the Town Hall, and is a very relaxed, informal affair with ‘Full English’ cooked by Slow Food Aylsham members and friends.
Aylsham Food Festival, whose Patron this year is Steve Thorpe FIH MCGB, Head of School at City College Norwich, is aiming to stage a weekend of food and fun, most of it free, for the Aylsham community and beyond. It is an integral part of the county-wide Norfolk Food & Drink Festival which, together with support from AEG, J B Postle, National Trust and Creative Arts East, will ensure that its appeal will go beyond Norfolk’s borders. Have a look at the website, www.slowfoodaylsham.org.uk for more detail and don’t miss this unique experience!