Foodies from across the county made a culinary pilgrimage to Poundbury on Saturday for a slice of the annual Dorset Food & Arts Festival.
The free event saw crowds throng around the many stalls that lined Queen Mother Square, well before the official 9am opening.
Steeped in glorious morning sunshine, over 50 stalls were groaning under the plentiful bounty of the very best that Dorset has to offer. The festival offered a unique opportunity to meet and chat with local food producers and pick up produce that would be difficult or impossible to find elsewhere.
Established larger Dorset producers rubbed shoulders with smaller cottage industry producers and here lay the charm of the Dorset Food & Arts Festival. This sixth consecutive event featured a treasure-trove of goodies that kept your senses tingling with the incredible sights, sounds and of course smells.
Like any good home, the heart of the action took place around the kitchen. In this case it was a mobile food kitchen that hosted cookery demonstrations from top chefs and food producers.
Festival patron and celebrity TV chef Lesley Waters opened the festival and then cooked up a storm in the demonstration kitchen in front of an enthralled crowd who sat and listened intently while on hay-bales. It was a perfect mix of anecdotes from her career and essential cooking tips that mainly used local produce that could be sourced from the surrounding stallholders.
With the crowd numbers swelling towards midday, not even a surprise downpour of rain could dampen the festival spirits. New for this year was a major arts exhibition that was held in the Jubilee Hall that adjoins the Waitrose building in Queen Mother Square.
Boasting the cream of Dorset’s art community with paintings, ceramics and photography on show and a demonstration from one of the counties best known potters, Bill Crumbleholme.
Not to mention live music from the multi-talented Tim Laycock and the Ridgeway Singers.
With the weather taking a turn for the worse, the arts in the Jubilee Hall became a bustling focal point for the festival. While many festival-goers took the chance to duck into one of the many drink stalls and take advantage of a glass of the locally brewed beers and ciders.
With the rain easing off, the feel-good community atmosphere continued with a large serving of music and performing arts from the outdoor stage. The entertainment came courtesy Dorchester Performing Arts group, Amy and the Twins and Pop Club, a 12-piece made up of local teenagers.
The festival is a partnership between Dorset Food and Drink, Dorset Farmers’ Markets and the Duchy of Cornwall, with support from the county’s leading food and drink businesses and the Poundbury business community.
Since its earnest beginnings as a celebration of Dorset artisan products and music during the Olympic Games in 2012. The Dorset Food & Arts Festival continues to excel at promoting and celebrating all that’s good about Dorset produce.
The event has also raised thousands of pounds for Weldmar Hospicecare Trust and many other local causes such as Fortuneswell Cancer Trust, the Dorchester Opportunity Group and the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution.
Produced exclusively for this year’s festival was the new Dorset Food & Arts Festival recipe book.
This collection of recipes was a tribute to committee member and festival founder Jo Yeatman who sadly passed away in May.
Proving a real hit, the book was snapped up by many visitors to the festival and is still available to buy now from the festival website at £5.
The proceeds go directly to the Dorset Farmers’ markets to continue Jo’s legacy for years to come.
Despite the unpredictable weather, this year’s Dorset Food & Arts Festival proved to be a real treat that will keep visitors coming back for more.
For more information please visit the website – save the date for next year’s festival on Saturday 4th August 2018.