Food and drink festival brings town to standstill

Crowds have a look at what is on offer at the Market Place stalls.
Crowds have a look at what is on offer at the Market Place stalls.

Thousands of residents and visitors enjoyed a range of tasty treats when they went along to a town centre on Saturday for a major annual event.

The third Morpeth Food and Drink Festival featured more than 100 stalls, with Bridge Street closed for the first time.

The popular demonstration kitchen pulled in huge crowds at the Market Place throughout the day, giving Morpeth’s chefs the chance to showcase their culinary skills.

Dishes included an appetising breakfast by Geordie Bangers to open the festival, some sizzling sea bass at lunch by Andrew Laurie from Barluga and to end the day two giant chocolate cakes from former Ritz London chef John McKale.

The search was back on again to find the best ‘Morpeth Jam’, which this year was accompanied by a Morpeth Scone competition. The venue for the contests was The Chantry.

Morag Thompson was the winner of the jam competition with her rhubarb and ginger offering. The scone winner was Ian Shaw, with Alison Murphy a close runner-up.

Baking competitions for young people were held at the New Life Christian Centre and earlier in the day, it played host to a cake decorating demonstration.

Delicious local produce, a children’s carousel and food to go lined Bridge Street between 9am and 4pm.

There were wines, beers, spirits, cheeses, chutneys and olives available to sample at the Town Hall and a special appearance by the Band of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers was also organised as part of the packed programme of activities.

Despite being slightly colder than the rest of the week, footfall at Sanderson Arcade – where a sausage and ale festival took place – was up by 11 per cent compared to last year’s event and plans are already under way for the 2016 programme.

The Arcade’s centre manager, Medi Parry, helped organise the event as part of the Morpeth Food and Drink Festival Committee.

She said: “We had more stalls, more attractions and even more venues involved this year and we’ve had fantastic feedback, both from members of the public and traders on the day.

“It’s even been suggested that we could run the festival as a two-day event.

“We’ll be meeting up over the next few weeks to look at how we can build on what happened on Saturday and continue to make the event a success for future years.

“It really has been a huge team effort and it’s great to be part of something where the whole town pulls together.”

The event is completely self-funded and supported through sponsorship. It is organised by Sanderson Arcade, Morpeth Town Team, Morpeth and District Chamber of Trade, the Morpeth Markets Advisory Group, New Life Christian Centre and Northumberland County Council.

The host in the Market Place this year was Steve Colman from Smooth Radio’s breakfast show and the radio station had its own chill-out area with a mocktail bar and hamper giveaway.

Morpeth Gadgy Alex Swailes was also on hand throughout the day to help with announcements.

In addition, a number of town centre businesses did a special festival offer for customers.

This week, the committee has thanked all of its sponsors – including Stratstone Tyneside BMW, Sanderson Arcade, Morpeth Town Team, Arriva, The Lamb Man and the Vaulkhard Group – along with all those who volunteered on the day and the many buskers providing musical entertainment.