Local food and drink producers, who attracted thousands of people to North Shields at the weekend, have spoken about their very different inspirations.
For Dominike Couchinho, of Rural Country, it is the opportunity to introduce the meats, cheese and wine of his native Portugal to the North East.
For David Carnaffan, director of the North Shields-based Salute Brewery, it is a way to help former servicemen and women bridge the often difficult gap between service and civilian life.
And for June Whiting, of The Goat Company, it is the chance to spread the word – and taste – of her high-quality meat.
The North Shields Proper Food and Drink Festival was the last of a series of celebrations of local food and drink which, this summer, has also visited South Shields, Whitley Bay and Cramlington.
The first-ever Proper Food and Drink Festival was held in Northumberland Square in 2012 and organiser Mark Deakin said its recipe for success – fantastic food and drink, live entertainment and bars – became a blueprint for the others.
“It’s always nice to come back here,” he said. “We’ve always had a soft spot for North Shields and it was great to see so many people turn up.”
Dominike Couchinho, a former architectural designer, said the Proper Food and Drink Festivals have helped him showcase his products.
He moved to the North East in 2001 and has seen the range of food, drink and restaurants increase, especially in places like Tynemouth and Newcastle. Rural Country’s popularity has grown so much that in June Dominike was able to open a food boutique in the city.
“But I wouldn’t have been able to do this without people trying my food at festivals like this one,” he said.
Salute Brewery, which works closely with the military charity Forward Assist, is believed to be the only project of its kind in the world.
“We wanted to find an industry that could offer genuine, proper and realistic work experience for people who would also enjoy what they are doing. After playing around with a few ideas, the brewery was the one that we felt was a real goer,” said David Carnaffan.
“The idea behind it is that military veterans who struggle to re-integrate and find work after leaving the services, come to us for work experience in order to be better equipped for a job in manufacturing or work in other breweries – which is a real growth area.”
The military characteristics of discipline, determination and teamwork are perfectly suited for working in a brewery, he said.
Salute Brewery’s beers Able Seaman and Bee Company – made with honey from hives which are on the roof of Eldon Square – are already proving popular with a major local pub chain as well as visitors to the North Shields Proper Food and Drink Festival.
“People like to buy local,” he said. “And you can’t get more local than us.” The Salute Brewery is located in Prospect Terrace, North Shields.
June and Martin Whiting had only sold their goat meat from their farm in Longwitton, near Morpeth, before taking part in last year’s North Shields Proper Food and Drink Festival. They sold out then and were well on their way to selling out this year as well.
“People are very conservative in their food habits – particularly when it comes to the type of meat they choose,” said June. “But they are becoming more adventurous, and once they try our meat they want to come back for more.”
Although this was the last Proper Food and Drink Festival of the summer, many of the producers will be heading to the Northumberland Village in Blyth’s Ridley Park, which is being set up in time for visitors to this week’s North Sea Tall Ships Regatta.
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