Thousands of visitors turned out for the Leamington Food Festival which served up a weekend of foodie fun in the Pump Room Gardens.
Two days of sunny weather, more than 130 food producers and traders, live music, demonstrations and a kids’ cookery school meant huge numbers of people turned out to the event which is organised by BID Leamington with the support of local businesses.
On the Live Kitchen the excitement was tangible as Sean Hughes went one better than last year to land the crown as the Aubrey Allen ‘Home Cook of the Year’ at the Festival.
Sean won by a single point after finishing as runner-up in 2018, the narrowest winning margin in the six-year history of the competition which is the centrepiece of the festival.
The Home Cook of the Year is one of the highlights of the weekend, and Hughes found a novel way to try to escape the stress of producing three courses of restaurant-quality food in under two hours.
The project manager, who lives in Kineton, said: “I did the Wolf Run yesterday but to be honest I just kept worrying about my chocolate fondant all the way round the run.
“I was really pleased with the way it went but I was not sure I had won it until the results were read out.”
Sean, who was cheered on by wife Lou and six-year-old son Jacob, urged others to enter the competition in 12 months’ time.
His main course of beef was described by Clive Fretwell – who had worked for Raymond Blanc in senior roles for almost 30 years – as “perfection on a plate”.
The festival, which is in its 12th year, attracts around 25,000 local people and visitors to the town.
As well as featuring many local favourites, the festival welcomed a number of new businesses including the Cellar Club, the Clarendon, Bar & Block, the Steamhouse and Hart & Co with a fabulous beach themed stall.
Alison Shaw, BID Leamington project manager and festival organiser, said: “We could not have been more pleased this year as the sun shone for most of the weekend which meant there was a great turn out for our traders, exhibitors and demonstrators.
“The festival not only highlights many of the fantastic food and drink businesses we have in our area, but it’s also a great opportunity for people to visit and enjoy the town centre and we spoke to people from all over the country.
“Running for the second year, we offered spot prizes and the opportunity to win a £150 Food Hamper filled with local treats to those travelling to the festival by train and there was a great take-up which was really pleasing.
“We also have great support from Leamington businesses and hugely appreciate the support we get from a wide range of staff and volunteers who help make the event such a resounding success.”
Food Festival: Pictured, the popular band ‘Chasing Deer’ made up of members Rob, Peter and Adam entertaining the crowds.
Temperatures are forecast to rise at this year’s ‘Summer of Fun’ in Leamington with a celebration of Brazilian music and dance spicing up the festival line-up.
The Brazilian Festival was a new event for the town and featured live music, performances and workshops representing the rich and vibrant culture of the South American country.
It took over the Pump Room Gardens on Sunday, June 9, and be one of many free-to-attend events happening in the town centre up to September, billed as the ‘Summer of Fun’ by BID Leamington.
Cars at the Spa is another first-timer for the ‘Summer of Fun’ and the classic car rally on Sunday, June 30 will also be held at the Pump Room Gardens.
The Brazilian Festival and Cars at the Spa will fall on the weekends either side of the oldest event, Leamington Peace Festival, which celebrated its 40th anniversary last year and is one of the UK’s longest-running free festivals.
Leamington Peace Festival is always held on the weekend before the Summer Solstice and returns to the Pump Room Gardens on Saturday, June 15 and Sunday, June 16.
The Big Victorian Picnic will take place on Saturday, July 27 to mark the completion of work to restore the Pump Room Gardens to their former glory.
The Pump Room Gardens will also host Leamington Carnival on Saturday, July 13, Warwickshire Pride on Saturday, August 17 and Leamington Food and Drink Festival on Saturday, September 7 and Sunday, September 8.
Art in the Park will return to Jephson Gardens on Saturday, August 3 and Sunday, August 4.
Alison Shaw, project manager at BID Leamington, said: “This year’s ‘Summer of Fun’ is set to be the biggest and best ever with new festivals being added to the programme.
“Together they attract tens of thousands of local people and visitors to the town centre, and offer something for everyone with a broad celebration of art, culture, food, drink, and entertainment.
“BID Leamington is delighted to be supporting each one and once again organising the Leamington Food and Drink Festival which in its 12th year will feature some 130 exhibitors and attract over 25,000 visitors alone.”
The Brazilian Festival will be the climax to the Brazilian Culture Week, which was first brought to the town in 2016 by the Brazil Culture & Arts Community.
Project manager Leandro Menezes said: “The Brazilian Festival will be a great way to celebrate the end of the Brazilian Culture Week and will showcase performances from the workshops held, including Samba and Capoeira.
“It will be a fun way for the whole family to experience Brazilian culture and heritage with bands, dancers, food and drink and more.”
Cars at the Spa is being organised by the Rotary Club of Royal Leamington Spa and will raise money for local charities.
Mike Hoyland, one of the organisers, said: “We will have over 100 classic cars, mostly from the Warwickshire area, ranging from pre-war Bentleys to military Land Rovers and an old Vauxhall Viva.
“There will be classics that will remind people of family cars they had when they were young, and ones that people will say they’ve always wanted. With entertainment from local bands and food and drink stalls, it should be a fantastic day.”
For more information about ‘Summer of Fun’, visit https://www.royal-leamington-spa.co.uk/whats-on/
The sun shone through for the Leamington Food and Drink Festival as a fitting finale to the town’s scorching ‘Summer of Fun’.
Blue skies on the closing day of the weekend showcase of food and drink, now in its 11th year, saw the Royal Pump Room Gardens bursting with foodies and flavour.
The festival lived up to its reputation as one of the country’s best autumn food festivals with a spoilt-for-choice range of exhibitors dishing up tastes from near and far, from local beer, cider and wine to global cannoli, jerk chicken and churros.
A feast of local chefs showed off their culinary skills with demonstrations in the Live Kitchen over the two days – but it was time for the best amateur cooks to shine on Sunday with the the return of Home Cook of the Year.
A record number of entries to the competition, run by Aubrey Allen with festival organisers BID Leamington, made it tough to pick three finalists to go head-to-head in a three-course cook-off in front of crowds at the festival.
And the decisions didn’t get any easier when Sean Hughes, Tim Robbins and Trudie Udell stepped up to the plate to wow the judging panel of Russell Allen, managing director of Aubrey Allen, Clive Fretwell, executive chef at Brasserie Blanc, and Sophie Hyam, Home Cook Winner 2017.
It was Tim, a University Hospital Coventry doctor from Leamington, who was crowned this year’s champion.
Congratulating all three finalists, Sophie said: “The competition was amazing and there were so many different dishes with great flavours and combinations, but Clive, myself and Russell all agreed that the overall winner was Tim.”
Tim said: “I’m a little bit shocked! I was not expecting it by any means but I’m really delighted. It’s been such great fun and I would encourage anyone to enter next year.”
Alison Shaw, project manager at BID Leamington, said: “With the diversity of exhibitors this year, it really has lived up to its reputation as one of the best food festivals around.
“Many of the exhibitors sold out on the first day and had to replenish their supplies overnight which is a great sign of how well it’s gone.
“New for this year was us offering a free drink to anyone travelling to the festival by train and there was a great take-up which was really pleasing.
“It’s topped off what has been a memorable ‘Summer of Fun’ with Leamington Peace Festival, Leamington Carnival, Art in the Park and Warwickshire Pride, and our thanks to all of the volunteers who have helped make them all such a resounding success.”
A clothing repairs and alterations business has sewn up 20 years of independent trading in Leamington.
Stitches is celebrating two decades in the town centre – and is the first to be recognised in a new initiative by BID Leamington to mark retail milestones.
Husband-and-wife Subhash and Arvinda Gohil, known as ‘Mr and Mrs Stitches’, moved up from London around 12 years ago to take over the shop in Park Street which was originally opened by three of her uncles, the Supeda brothers Naran, Kantilal and Naresh.
The business continued to be a family affair with their son Manesh and daughter Minal growing up behind the counter where they learnt the trade from their parents.
It has expanded over the years and they opened a branch in Banbury seven years ago which is now run by Manesh and his wife Shilpa.
Subhash said: “Originally the shop was run by the three brothers who had been in the tailoring business in Leicester for 40 years. They wanted to go into clothing alterations and visited Leamington and saw the opportunity here.
“At first they opened on Regent Street but were only there six months as Kantilal spotted this shop on Park Street. They ran it together as a family for years until Naran and Kantilal decided to retire. Naresh carried it on and then we took it over about 12 years ago to keep it in the family.”
The family prides itself on its quality, expertise, service and speed which it believes has resulted in a growing loyal customer base with some even known to have travelled from as far as London, Slough, Liverpool and Swindon.
Deborah Callaghan, who lives in Leamington, is one of the most long-standing, and regular, local patrons.
She said: “I have been going to Stitches since it first opened. I often re-design my clothes to get the right fit or to recycle old ones into a new style, and Subhash is able to undertake pretty much any challenge and with a professional finish.”
BID Leamington has presented Stitches with a certificate and window sticker to celebrate its anniversary, and now plans to recognise milestone years of other businesses.
Stephanie Kerr, executive director of BID Leamington, said: “It’s important to celebrate our businesses that have managed to stay on the high street for so long, particularly when competition is tough for both independents and national chains.
“Stitches is proud to have been independently trading in Leamington for 20 years and we are delighted that it is the first to be recognised in this new initiative to support and promote our town centre business community.”
Subhash added: “We would like to thank all our loyal customers for their support over 20 years.
“We look forward to many more years, with our son Manesh helping us to take the family business further forward and perhaps one day his daughter Nivah, who is not yet two, becoming the fourth generation.”
To mark the anniversary, Stitches is offering customers 20 per cent off repairs and alterations with a minimum spend of £20 at the Leamington store between July 18 and 21, and a celebratory glass of champagne.
PICTURE CAPTION: Pictured, from left to right, are Stephanie Kerr with Subhash and Arvinda Gohil, and Shilpa and Manesh Gohil with their daughter Nivah.
June marks the first month of Royal Leamington Spa’s ‘Summer of Fun’. Until September, the town centre will host a feast of yummy, action-packed community events. If you’re ready to experience summer vibes like never before, make sure to put these dates in your diary!
Kicking it all off on June 16th and 17th was the Leamington Peace Festival! One of the UK’s longest running free festivals. It takes place each year on the weekend before the Summer Solstice, filling the Pump Room Gardens, in the heart of Royal Leamington Spa, with a brilliant mix of family friendly activities, free workshops, Peace talks, live music, vibrant local stalls, campaign groups, healing treatments and a wide range of vegetarian food stalls.
In July, Leamington Carnival will meander around the streets of Leamington on Saturday the 14th. With spectacular floats, drummers, energetic dancers, colourful costumes, live bands and much more. This is your chance to be part of this fun community event, celebrating the town’s diversity, creativity and energy whilst supporting local charitable organisations. The Carnival will wind its way to the Royal Pump Room Gardens where the celebrations will continue at the Summer Festival with 50 local stalls, food for all appetites, entertainment and Barkers Amusements Funfair will be there to welcome you!
Make sure you’re ready to get creative in August when Art in the Park returns for its fifth year on 5th and 6th in Jephson Gardens. The theme this year is about ‘Trees’ to celebrate Leamington’s historic Jephson Gardens, a hidden tree paradise and host to a magnificent 4 day ‘Festival of Oaks’ in Victorian times. Enjoy a jam-packed weekend of art, creativity and fun as over 120 local makers, musicians and performers show and display a mix of crafts and arts and to fuel the fun a little more, local eateries will provide a variety of high quality food and drinks for all appetites.
Warwickshire Pride, Saturday 18th August, has continued to go from strength to strength; getting bigger and better each year, while retaining its identity as a grassroots, community Pride event. Warwickshire Pride is now an established festival in Warwickshire’s event calendar, welcoming masses of people each year for a celebration of LGBT+ culture.
Now in its eleventh year the annual Royal Leamington Spa Food and Drink Festival will take place over the weekend of September 8th and 9th at the Royal Pump Room Gardens. Visitors will find an exciting variety on offer, with exhibitors displaying culinary skills and cuisines ranging from delicious Caribbean food to gourmet toasties, to Indian street food and Persian delights accompanied with an array of local brews and exotic aperitifs.
The Home Cook of the Year, organised by Aubrey Allen, also returns to crown Leamington’s finest amateur chef who will be judged on a three course cooking challenge and children will also be able to get their hands dirty by cooking scrumptious dishes at the kid’s cookery school all washed down with local live entertainment to enjoy all weekend.
To find out more visit peacefestival.org.uk/; www.royal-leamington-spa.co.uk; www.leamingtoncarnival.org.uk; www.artinpark.co.uk; www.warwickshirepride.co.uk; & www.leamingtonfoodfestival.co.uk. Admission is free.
Today it was announced that Leamington’s House of Fraser store will be among the 31 House of Fraser stores are set to close nationwide.
Stephanie Kerr, executive director of BID Leamington, said: “We are sad to hear the news of House of Fraser as it has been in the heart of Leamington for some time. This is a decision that has been taken nationally and is affecting stores right across the UK
“Our thoughts are with the staff as we have come to know, there is something wonderful about them and their commitment to serving the customers of the town.
“In recent months, BID Leamington has supported House of Fraser’s efforts to collaborate with independent businesses in the town to showcase the local offer and enhance the shopping experience.
“This type of creative partnership is something we are keen to foster as our independent sector is particularly important and continues to prove itself to be agile and innovative.
“The BID has been recently renewed and an important part of our role is helping to support businesses and guide change so we will also look to reach out to the landlord and other partners to do this.
“After ten years of the BID, we also know that Leamington is a wonderful, creative town with a lot happening and the people of Leamington will help us achieve this.
“The BID Leamington Board will meet next week to look at how we can support this transition and there is a lot of business talent and creativity locally to draw from.
“Our approach has always been to ‘roll up our sleeves’ and work together to ensure the town center thrives.
“It is also more important than ever that as a community, we support the businesses we know and love.”