No Surprises Living In Devizes: Food festival heads glorious season of events

The Grand Market is on May 13 with 40 stalls in the Market Place. Picture: Devizes Food Festival


SO, did everyone have a nice summer?

Hopefully it’s warmer by the time you digest this column [clearly you didn’t check the forecast before submitting this… shivering editor], especially since we’re entering silly festival season

Back in my youth, which wasn’t as long ago as you might think, festivals were far and few between. Nowadays Wiltshire hosts so many it’s amazing there’s a field left to grow a carrot in, or flatten crop into a circle.

You’ve got The Fieldview Festival near Chippenham in August, Womad at the end of July, Swindon Literature Festival starts on May 1, Salisbury Arts on May 26, Chippenham Folk and Iford Arts the day after that.

Vintage Nostalgia is in Warminster on June 2, Blue Sky Festival in Corsham on June 13, Melksham’s Party in the Park is on July 15 with Swindon Pride on the 29th and Edington Music Festival on August 20.

There’s even a Daily Mail Festival in Chalke Valley; no seriously, it promises history lectures, walks, readings, airplanes, tanks and tents. There are soldiers and sailors listed, but no sign of tinkers and tailors, if you trust a line-up backed by a notoriously fibbing rag.

Round our way, the May 20 sees the awesome Concert and the Kings rocking against cancer, with Alison Moyet, Sweet and Gerry and the Pacemakers.

Concert at the Kings goes from strength to strength

Even Manton has itself a festival on July 1, with Toyah headlining. We’ve Devizes’ Arts Festival running from June 1-18 with political comedy from Matt Forde, a history of architecture talk by Dan Cruickshank and plenty of jazz hands and dancing.

No dancing on an empty stomach though, first we have… No, not the amazing Urchfont Scarecrow Trail which is this weekend, with erm, scarecrows heading the bill; don’t know about you but I couldn’t eat a whole one.

I’m talking about The Devizes Food and Drink Festival, so close I can virtually smell the barbecue sizzling, just have to chip the ice off it. Food, drink and festival; these are a few of my favourite things.

Oh yes, from May 6-20, Devizes is alive with the tastes and smells of a variety of fantastic grub; I’m unsure if I can consistently eat during that length of time but I’m willing to give it my best shot.

Hosting dinners at people’s homes akin to the tacky social/cooking afternoon television show “Come Dine With Me,” has proved popular and tickets have sold out despite a lack of mildly amusing Dave Lamb narrating over the revelation your host is a cross-dresser, after the customary exploration of their pants draw.

Despite my general abhorrence of the show, the dinner party hosting idea on a local level is, of course, a great way to meet people. If it were me hosting I’d serve my delicacy of haricot beans with a tomato reduction, served on a bed of finely sliced and lightly toasted wholemeal le pain; yeah, it’d be beans on toast all round; can’t beat it.

There was also dinner at a pop-up restaurant in Erlestoke Prison you could have attended but has sold out. You could have been dining on culinary delights created by prisoners; without porridge. This one’s not for me, I mean, would they let me back out?

However, on May 10 you can partake in a coffee appreciation at Sprouts or attend a literary themed three-course dinner at Devizes Books, with a book quiz and a menu inspired by classic literature. While a ‘Charlie & the Chocolate Factory’ inspired dessert sounds superb, a ‘Grapes of Wrath’ finale?!

So it’s gin tasting at the Vaults, wine at Edwin Giddings, while the town hall has a Lebanese buffet with belly dancing. At least let me into this one to show off my Goonies-styled truffle shuffle eh? No? Oh, back to the McAlester Pen for me and Tom Joad then.

The Kennet & Avon café hosts a food quiz, is that like the cream cracker challenge? Or how about Gianni’s Sicilian Festival at Dolcipani; forget the dancing, my belly is rumbling just contemplating that one. The Bistro at Vaughan’s Kitchen offers us a meal from the Regency age and a period cooking class too.

Cocktail evening at the Town Hall and Mussel Madness at the wonderful Times Square on the Friday, May 19, is followed by the last day where Netherstreet Farm Cookery School invites you to make a burger using Galloway minced beef produced by the farm, and there will be beer too.

Meanwhile the fantastic Black Swan promises an Argentinian Meat Feast Barbecue and the wonderful Rowdey Cow hosts an Italian Supper with Lucia Pupilli performing jazz.

Now let’s be honest here, you know me; events at The Devizes Food Festival come with a price-tag, but you’re sure to get an entertaining evening and some glorious food and, with the organising and effort the team put in, these things don’t work out cheap. If you are unable to fork out (get it?) the main event is FREE; from 10am-4pm on Saturday, May 13, the Grand Market, with over 40 stalls offering an amazing range of local food and drink items; this is a must for your diary.

I feel we should be delighted events like these are happening on our doorstep, but if it was me arranging it, I’d have to get all the food together on one big table and have a giant Bugsy Malone style food fight at the end; that would be Devizes to a T.

How do you feel about that Devizes Food Festival, something for next year perhaps?!

More information about the food festival here

DARREN WORROW

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