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The Salisbury Food & Drink Festival

The Salisbury Food & Drink Festival is essentially the result of a meeting of two minds. The Economic Development Unit of Salisbury District Council has been working with the Wiltshire and Swinton Rural Regeneration Partnership to obtain funding for a project to promote local food and drink producers. Following discussions with the Salisbury Tourism Partnership, instigated by James Brook bank of Café Med, the two groups have joined forced with the aim of creating the ultimate celebration of local food and drink.

The benchmark of all food festivals is the Ludlow Marches Food and Drink Festival, which is recognized as the premier and longest established event of its type in Britain. Every September, food and drink aficionados flock to the small market town of Ludlow in South Shropshire for a weekend celebration of the superb food and drink produced in the Marches – the counties on either side of the border between England and Wales. The area has an abundance of good natural ingredients and many independent producers and suppliers who take pride in presenting visitors to the Food and Drink Festival with the highest quality.

The Ludlow Marches Food and Drink Festival has grown from small beginnings as a one-day event in 1995 (with 20 stalls in the Market Square and Ludlow College), to a three-day event in with over 110 stalls in the grounds of Ludlow Castle, the adjacent market square and a host of locations throughout the town. In just 500 visitors were attracted to the Ludlow Food Festival. By, this figure had grown to 13,000 and this was in the face of the outbreak of foot and mouth disease. Overall satisfaction with the event is extremely high with 67% saying they couldn’t think of any improvements to make it more successful. Of the remainder, inadequate car parking and queues were minor gripes. The aim of the venture within Salisbury is to emulate the success of the Ludlow Festival, learn from the successes and perhaps accelerate to a similar position to Ludlow within a shorter space of time.

Salisbury and South Wiltshire is not known for its good food, but the potential is there. Ludlow was in a similar position in the mid nineties, but today the town has more restaurants with Michelin stars than any other town or city outside of London. Not only does this attract a large number of visitors, but also a huge amount of national and international media coverage. A great deal of pre-planning has already gone into the Salisbury Food & Drink Festival 2004, with representatives from the Salisbury Tourism Partnership, Economic Development and Tourism Unit, other units within Salisbury District Council and various members of the local business community organizing events. Essentially the aim is to make this an annual event, and perhaps (like Ludlow) form a private company. The event is scheduled to take place over a weeklong period in September, coinciding with British Food Fortnight and was officially launched on Tuesday 20th April. Many of those who attended the launch – farmers, restaurateurs, businesses, and local producers – have offered supported by hosting an event or have already generously sponsored Food & Drink Festival activities.

The events confirmed so far are:

1. Farmers market
2. Producers
3. Cookery Demonstrations
4. Farm Tours
5. Restaurant Trails
6. Mad Hatters Tea Party in Old Wardour Castle
7. Beer Festival
8. Banger & Mash – barbeque and fireworks!
9. Waiters/Bar Tenders Race

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