TV star praises annual oyster festival

TELEVISION personality, cook, author and countryside campaigner Clarissa Dickson Wright was among the guests as Colchester's historic Oyster Feast yesterday.

TELEVISION personality, cook, author and countryside campaigner Clarissa Dickson Wright was among the guests as Colchester's historic Oyster Feast yesterday.

The co-star of Two Fat Ladies joined hundreds of guests for the famous celebration of one of the borough's renowned exports - the Colchester Native Oyster.

Held at the Town Hall, other speakers at this year's event, with the mayoral theme of “Colchester - a Caring Community” were Bonnie Hill JP, county commissioner, and Liz Mullen, broadcaster and author.

Local dignitaries, including the High Sheriff and the Lord Lieutenant, representatives of the Army and guests from Colchester's twin towns Avignon and Wetzlar joined them for the traditional event held inside the grand Moot Hall.


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The origins of the Oyster Feast are steeped in mystery, but the earliest records of a civic celebration date back to 1667, when accounts show “two hole barrels and four halves of oysters” were ordered by the mayor at a cost of 16 shillings.

The cultivation of oysters in the oldest recorded town actually predates the Romans and the shells of “Colchester Natives” have been discovered in the ancient empire's capital by archaeologists.

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Mrs Dickson Wright received a standing ovation from the guests after telling them about the success of her television series Two Fat Ladies.

A well-known pro-hunting and pro-countryside advocate, she also criticised Prime Minister Tony Blair for his Government's countryside policies.

But she did enjoy the Colchester oyster tradition. “It's a wonderful, wonderful event, the perfect English event,” she said, adding she had not found “anything better” in Britain.

Colchester mayor Richard Gower said: “The Oyster Feast is a real part of Colchester's history, it's a great honour to be part of this year's event.

“Colchester oysters are known across the globe for their high quality and the traditional feast continues to be an occasion which is greatly respected by people of the borough.”

Musical entertainment was provided on the day by the Colne Valley Youth Orchestra, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary.

Each year around 40 places are reserved for members of the public to give them access to the historic event.

Meanwhile the Labour party in the town held its traditional alternative oyster feast with pensioners enjoying a fish and chips lunch.

james.hore@eadt.co.uk

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