Festival working up a hearty appetite for change

THE Aldeburgh Food and Drink Festival set out to change attitudes to food.

It was launched in 2006 and before long had established itself as a national foodie mecca, attracting some of the top names in the industry to its Snape Maltings home, and enriching the region’s tourism offering.

Those behind it, including local food champion Caroline Cranbrook, wanted people to reconnect with the countryside and the food it provides, and show the strong connection between food and the towns, the villages, the countryside, the rivers and the sea.

It has achieved all this and more – bringing to the fore Suffolk’s diverse and important contribution to food and drink production and, through Snape Maltings’ high profile as a centre for music and focus of the Aldeburgh Music Festival, adding yet more glamour to an already rich mix of cultural offerings.

The festival, and the new food and drink conference which was launched last year at the event, now has many fans, including Richard Ellis, the new chairman of Visit East Anglia, who believes it has a “significant” impact on the local economy.

“The Aldeburgh Food & Drink Festival has grown very rapidly from its inception in 2006 into a significant event, recognised nationally,” he says.

“That is testament to the passion, energy and commitment of the organisers. It makes a significant contribution to the local economy, bringing in both staying and day visitors to the area.”

Most Read

The second Aldeburgh Food and Drink Festival conference takes place at Snape Maltings next Friday. Last year, it focused on the need to change people’s eating habits, while this year the theme is Suffolk and the Sea and the need to use maritime resources more sustainably along the vulnerable East Coast. Again, among those leading the charge is Lady Cranbrook.

Among of the speakers at the conference will be New York-born environmental lawyer and chief executive of environmental law group ClientEarth James Thornton, who was described in the New Statesman as “one of the 10 people who could change the world” and has fought polluters through the courts.

He will be discussing the Common Fisheries Policy, which he believes gives the wrong incentives and requires almost half of fish caught to be thrown back dead.

Also among the line-up will be Orford landowner Sir Edward Greenwell, a former president of the Country Land & Business Association, who will talk about the threat from the sea to Suffolk farming, and Dr Stuart Rogers, divisional director for environment and ecosystems at the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) in Lowestoft.

Marine biologist Dr Jason Hall-Spencer, associate professor at the School of Marine Science and Engineering, University of Plymouth, will be examining how newly-discovered marine species and habitats are being put under threat worldwide and Jeremy Ryland Langley, a specialist buyer of fish and shellfish for Waitrose, will put the case for responsible sourcing and Waitrose’s fish sourcing policies.

The festival itself, which attracts a host of fringe events, is a feast of delights, from the Marriages Cake Competition on Saturday, to cookery demonstrations from a host of celebrity chefs and foodies.

Food writer Matthew Fort, food and drink editor at The Guardian newspaper, and Richard Bertinet, winner of the BBC Food Champion of the Year 2010 and owner of The Bertinet Kitchen Cookery School and Bakery in Bath, will be among those taking to the stage.

Henry Racine, chef/patron of Racine in Knightsbridge, who is also a published author, will be promoting traditional French cuisine.

Celebrated local chefs, including Michelin-starred chef Galton Blackiston, who is an author and owner of Morston Hall, in north Norfolk, Madalene Bonvini-Hamel, head chef at The British Larder near Woodbridge, and EA Life cookery writer Emma Crowhurst, will be spicing up the weekend with their recipes and tips.

Food writer and broadcaster Tim Hayward will be compering on the Courtyard Stage on Saturday.

He will also be holding a food writing workshop on the Sunday.

Also in the Sunday Valentine Warner, chef, broadcaster and author, will be on the Marquee Stage on Sunday. The cook, a keen outdoors man, recently took viewers of the Yesterday channel on a culinary exploration in Ration Book Britain and also hosted BBC2’s What To Eat Now.

Mike Keen, head chef at The Brewery Tap in Ipswich, Sten Stavevistsh, at the Lemon Tree in Framlingham, and David Grimwood, headchef/patron at The Froize Inn at Chillesford, will also join the line-up.