There has been intense debate amongst the team at RCHQ today. Whilst our first official Food Fair was held in 2014 we have been throwing all sorts of events, big and small, for the last 20 years. Trying to remember just how many and what they were has created much discussion. There have been fairs, festivals, parties, dinners and sports days, always centred around food and drink but often with music, entertainment and tradition woven through too.
It is one of the things I think we do very well and as a long standing member of the team I have been involved in more than my fair share of them. Like the Spring Into Summer Fair from our 2008 TV series “River Cottage Spring” celebrating all the wonderful produce you would expect at that time of year. I can still remember the effervescent elderflower champagne (brewed and bottled by our expert forager John Wright) and nestled in big tin tubs of ice, waiting to be uncorked by Hugh and the team and served to our guests. I may have tried more than my fair share of the bubbly.
The Strawberry Fair the following year was an even bigger success, captured on “River Cottage: Summer’s Here”, with strawberry plants growing all over the farm in readiness for the event. There was a welcome return for our high octane Produce Exchange tent where guests arrived with something home grown or made, ready to swap with each other. I was bowled over by the variety of produce and the passion from those who were taking part. We stacked up hand baked sourdoughs, delicious cakes neatly wrapped in brown paper, jewel like jars of preserves made using treasured family recipes, seeds lovingly harvested and a tree. An actual tree.
We have celebrated bonfire nights, both on and off camera, survived a gale blowing through our Christmas market, basked in the mellow fruitfulness of an Autumn Fair, devoted an event to pumpkins and chillies and cooked feasts for members parties. It was devastating when we lost our beautiful 18th century threshing barn, the venue of our cookery school and restaurant, in a fire in early 2012. Thanks to the vision and commitment of the team, we set up a temporary space in one of the fields and threw a big party to celebrate getting back up and running. When we moved back into our rescued and renovated barn we threw another party, to signal the return and commemorate our 10 year anniversary at Park Farm.
So as you can see, we do love a knees up. It’s how we will be approaching our Food Fair this May, with extra special plans to focus on River Cottage over the last 20 years. I have also specifically requested the return of the Produce Exchange (see picture above with me in the background trying to work out a barter) and maybe even the renowned cider circle. I’ll keep you updated.