Saturday, September 30, 2023

Mixed Reactions to Summer Food Festival

This year’s Summer Food Festival can’t really be declared a success, as there was quite a lot of criticism and complaint.  It was a glorious day, and there were arguably more visitors than ever.  It is indisputable that people enjoyed themselves.  It is indisputable that people were also disappointed.

Those who were drinking seemed to enjoy the festival more than those who were eating, or wishing they could eat the expensive food on offer, or the more affordable food of noticably absent regulars.

The bottleneck where foot traffic jams occur each year, due to locating stalls which gather queues in the centre of King Street, was eased. Unfortunately the easing was perhaps unintentional, as there were fewer stalls in every area of the town.


The exception to this was the Market Place. As usual the Black Swan was heaving as they brought the beer and Pimms outdoors, right next to the truck stage, which provided the only music of the event. Opposite the Black Swan,  No. 28, under the control of Vegan Revelation cafe, played host to Simon Pr@xis Jones’ Thrive festival, which, apart from a dubious diet cure for cancer, was composed of many warm, forward thinking local businesses.  Alongside The Angels micropub, this made for an oasis of interest, entertainment, and affordable food which was suitable for all diets.


This contrasted harshly with the dominant position of the oft reviled ostrich burgers in the centre of the barer-than-usual Memorial Gardens, making it unavoidable for those who feel upset by the positioning.  Ostrich populations are in decline within the current mass extinction, and the high level of non-meat eaters in Belper makes the positioning insensitive.


The most obvious difference between this year’s festival and previous ones, was the lack of music.  In previous years Node56 have organised busk stops throughout the town, and bands in the Memorial Gardens.  All of this was very noticeably absent, changing the mood of the event.  Node56 have been an almost invisible influence on the town, but now that they have stopped organising music for Belper events, that invisible influence is keenly missed.  Besides the truck stage at The Black Swan, and kids tv tunes on a grating PA, music was otherwise absent from the festival this year.

A highlight of the festival was The Railway, which reopened just before the festival to reveal a complete outdoor and indoor renovation, transforming the pub into a space which is destined to be popular.  Already prepared to be part of Belper community, they had a garden bar and plenty of comfortable seating.  This is the largest outdoor pub area in Belper now – a welcome addition to summer socialising.

Nourish @ No.44 offered quality handmade ice cream and street food stalls, but the access to their garden was blocked, from the street, for the event.

Most complaints have been about how little there was on offer, and the price of the food which was available.

A complaint post on the Belper group on Facebook gathered 185 comments (at time of publication), with almost all of the respondants agreeing and expressing that there was too little there this year, and that the food was way too expensive.

There were suggestions that there could be rules on how much food can be marked up.  The olive and Turkish Delight stall was singled out repeatedly as the highest overpricing, and from previous experience they also deploy tactics to pressure people into buying more than they intended.  Disabled parking was also an issue, despite the intention of accessibility with the return of Slow Shopping at the beginning of the festival.

These complaints are being collected to take to the council, although it must be noted that most of the festival was organised by the previous council.

With the greatest of good will, and pride in the town, people want it to be better than it was this year.

Despite the problems, there were still thousands of visitors to the town, socialising, relaxing in the Memorial Gardens, and enjoying their day.  However, this wasn’t what Belper has come to expect, and as a good food festival is wanted, the criticism should be taken as focuses for improving a much loved event in Belper’s calendar.

Clare Washbrook

Current Editor-in-Chief News and magazine editor since 1995 Post-grads: Literature; Theatre; Journalism, Ethics & Law Community Affiliations: Belper Goes Green, Belper's WW1 Poppies, Amber Valley Solidarity No political party memberships/affiliations.

6 thoughts on “Mixed Reactions to Summer Food Festival

  • Well I for one thoroughly enjoyed the day and really only noticed the lack of live music and dancing that normally takes place. I think the jibe about the ostrich burgers is your own personal agenda as the snide comment about the festival being organised by the previous council. The Ostrich burgers were lovely and good for you and I have a pack for my freezer

    The non meat eaters have their own cafe in town and good luck to them all I have no problem with that.

    The parking situation in Belper has to be addressed urgently, it is a disgrace. I walked there and back no problem.

    I agree the Railway looked great and well done to them.

  • If you didn’t notice there was music in nourish,s garden. And the garden was packed I think people walk round with there eyes closed. Ps I had 2 lovely burgers there.

  • Richard Pinkett

    I think a lot of the food festivals up and down the UK have had their day. They may have started off having generous portions of well-prepared food that you couldn’t buy elsewhere. But now it’s become miserly portions of overpriced food.
    The people of Belper needs to rethink the event.

  • Chris Bower

    What an absolute brilliant day and the person who wrote this article was obviously not in Belper or were they in the Black Swan. Its a credit to all the organisation team who deserve a resounding thankyou for all their hard work and long may it continue in the same manner. There was music in the town which was run by a DJ who was playing requests and all types of popular music. I suppose the author of this article will be first in line to volunteer to organise and run this event next year. My experience of the food was that the stalls were running out at 13.00 and this is no fault of the organising team and also prices are outside their control. All the people I spoke too were highly satisfied with their experince and would certainly be there next year. Another thing is your comments about Nourish should point out that it was Nourish’s own stall blocking access. It is worth pointing out that one of the Engilsh diseases is that people will always find time to complain about something yet if things are OK they will just sit back and relax, you really need to balance the number of complaints your profess to have received against the number of people who have attended the event.

  • Sue Peach

    I just walked through on my way home. Bought a pie for my lunch, to eat at home. But my first impression was “I don’t think there are as many stalls as usual”. Take a leaf out of Whitley Bay’s book: their food festival a few weeks ago, was excellent, with affordable local produce.

  • Perry Nadin

    Nourish garden was open , accessed thru their property and packed all day too. Another successful and amazing event by all who took part

Leave a Reply

GDPR, Your Data and Us:

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.