Henley is in for a fortnight of feasting with the first Eat! Food Festival this summer. From the 15th to the 29th of June, the new festival will celebrate local stars in Henley’s food and drinks scene, from restaurants and chefs, to brewers, bakers and baristas. The creative two week schedule includes a heap of talks and tasting opportunities, a sprinkling of demonstrations and workshops, and a big pinch of food-themed fun — the perfect recipe for edible excitement!
The Eat! Food Festival intends to shine a light on local businesses, including those that don’t necessarily involve food and drink. Sponsored by a number of Henley-based businesses — the Regal Picturehouse cinema, Hobbs of Henley, Brakspear, the Kenton Theatre, the Henley Card, and My HOT Kitchen — the event stays true to its promise of local partnerships and features. Many of these sponsors will also feature in the festival line-up: the Picturehouse will show a variety of tantalising foodie films; the Kenton will host live, on-stage cooking demonstrations (a first for the theatre!); and Brakspear will craft a special beer specifically for the festival. Perhaps most intriguing is the Henley Card’s ‘Food Safari’ tour, an access-all-areas peak behind bars and into kitchens, with ample opportunity for taste-testing!
The event is the brainchild of Philippa Radcliffe, who ran a number of similar festivals in Reigate before returning to her hometown of Henley. Describing the thought process behind the project, she said, “Eat! Food Festival Henley is all about celebrating all things food & drink locally, whether it be restaurants, cafés, coffee shops, pubs or supper clubs, workshops, butchers, farmers or artisan producers as well as community food projects. It is important that we support our food providers and producers locally, regionally and nationally. It is important to learn and know where our food comes from, how it is treated. Eat! Food Festival is passionate about supporting field to fork and nose to tail eating, how to grow and prepare food as well as looking after our environment and sustainability.”
As much as the festival has been designed to champion local food and drink, it was also important to the organisers to make it inclusive and accessible. A number of the programmed events are free to attend, including the fortnight’s kick-off in Falaise Square, ’The Big Feast’. This opening celebration on Saturday 16th June will feature local food and drink establishments, exclusively from within a 10 mile radius of town, allowing festival-goers to soak up the sumptuous offerings of proper Henley-based businesses. Similarly, the festival will close with a ‘Riverside Fiesta’ on Saturday 29th June, which will see Mill Meadows flooded with street food stalls, artisan producers, and live music for a closing party. Hobbs of Henley will also be providing a floating gin bar to finish the festival in style.
With its roots planted firmly in the local community, the Eat! Food Festival looks set to recognise the treasures of Henley food and drink establishments. Philippa Radcliffe expressed, “We believe it is important to provide access to food, the joy of eating it, cooking it, learning where it comes from and how as a community we can work together, share the love of food and above all ENJOY EATING AND DRINKING IT.”
If you are interested in trading at the festival, would like to get involved, or want to read more about the event, visit the website for further information.