Thousands expected at tasty Whitley Bay festival

2Thousands of people are expected to visit The Proper Food and Drink Festival when it returns to Whitley Bay this weekend.

They will be able to buy the very best in local produce from dozens of stalls, and try drinks and freshly cooked food which take their inspiration from all corners of the globe.

The festival, at the Spanish City Plaza, is free to enter and opens from 10am to 5pm on both Saturday and Sunday (16 and 17 June).

“It’s a perfect spot,” said organiser Mark Deakin.  “Have a walk along the new prom and come and see us.  We’re particularly looking forward to seeing lots of dads on Father’s Day.”

The Proper Food Festival has already visited North and South Shields this year, attracting a record number of people.  Each weekend provides a showcase for North East producers, whether they are brewers, butchers, distillers, bakers or chefs.

“Some of them have been at every event we’ve had, but there is always somebody new as well,” said Mark.

Chef Tom Batham from Newcastle made his first debut at South Shields last month.shanty-town-2

He set up his business Shanty Town, which provides freshly cooked creole influenced sea food and steak, on the spur of the moment in October. “We had some savings, I saw a flat-bed trailer and a second-hand deep fat fryer – and just went for it,” said Tom.

“I’ve been a chef for a lot of other people and worked on street food trailers before. I saw where they were going wrong, where they were going right, and how I could make it work for me and the public – and make tasty food.”

A more familiar figure at the festivals is Alyson Archer – a former manager with Greggs – who started Simply Cheesecake five years ago.

Like many local suppliers, Simply Cheesecake began as a hobby but became Alyson’s full-time job.  It is based at the Team Valley and offers 200 different types of cheesecake.alyson-archer-of-simply-cheesecake-2

“I ran it from home for the first three years and then it just got to the point where I couldn’t manage it in the house any more.  We had to get rid of wardrobes in spare rooms and put fridges in there.  It was taking over life in the house, so it was time make the jump and moving it into commercial premises was the best thing I’ve ever done,” said Alyson who lives in Gateshead.

Visitors to this year’s festivals will notice an absence of plastic.  There are no single use straws and all suppliers are being encouraged to use containers and packaging that can be re-cycled.

They will also have a chance to win a fantastic prize provided by the festivals’ new partner, Smooth Radio. It is offering a weekend for two in London, staying at the five star Renaissance Hotel with dinner at Jamie Oliver’s 15 restaurant. Travel is also included. Smooth Radio will be running other promotions and competitions in partnership with the Proper Food and Drink Festivals throughout the summer.

“We’re delighted to have them on board.  People who come to our events know that music is very much part of what we provide, so Smooth is the perfect partner for us,” said Mark.

After Whitley Bay, there are two more Proper Food and Drink Festivals this summer: Cramlington on 28 and 29 July and Blyth on 11 and 12 August.

Mark and his wife Shelley also run the ever-popular North East Chilli Fest – which this year has a new home at Meggies Burn Fields at South Beach in Blyth – and The Great North Feast, which returns to South Shields over the August Bank Holiday weekend.