A couple of weeks ago I received a pleasant surprise. It was an email the organisers of the EDP/Adnams Norfolk Food and Drink Festival asking me to become one of three volunteer festival ‘Champions’. Not for my talents in the kitchen but to champion the festival – and those producers taking part – as well as other food and drink events that celebrate our local culinary delights throughout the year.
So why me?
The simple answer is, because of you – my twitter friends and blog readers. Apparently some of you were kind enough to put my name forward. And the fact that there are nearly 4,000 of you (mostly from East Anglia) means that between us we have a reasonable amount of social media influence – between us we can talk to the world.
Now, if you follow me on twitter, it will come as no surprise to hear I would have supported the festival anyway. In fact, my tweets about local food and other cultural events were probably among the reasons you decided to follow me in the first place. However, I consider it a huge honour to be asked to be an official Champion, so naturally I said ‘Yes’.
Not only am I proud to promote my home county – but I am also flattered because my fellow champions – Charlie Hodson and William Gribbon – are local food heroes in their own right. Charlie is the talented head chef at The Grove in Cromer, which recently won two rosettes from the AA – he is also a Cromer lifeboat crew member. While William is manager of Heygate Farms Swaffham, which introduced the Norfolk Peer and Norfolk Keepers potato brands to UK supermarkets.
What will I do as an #NFDF2014 Champion?
As mentioned, the role is completely voluntary – however it comes with some responsibilities. The main ones are to encourage people to enjoy the festival events, to sign up for the festival newsletters and to join the #NFDF2014 Taste group, which will give them access to invitation-only events and special offers. I have also agreed to write two or three short articles for the newsletter and to talk about the festival at any opportunity (so you won’t be able to shut me up).
Since this is a voluntary role, I won’t be swanning round the county over-indulging on a large expenses account (my waistline couldn’t take it for a start); as such, my articles won’t be exotic restaurant reviews. Instead, I expect them to be mainly about my experiences of buying local food and drink during the weekly household shop – the shops and markets I use and their suppliers. However, I also hope to visit the Norwich Research Park to find out more about the Institute of Food Research‘s role in developing more nutritious foods (and to see how we compare to other European countries) – so that might also feature at some point.
Obviously, if you run a local market or have a stall on one – please tweet me when market day is coming up so I can RT for you. Likewise, if you are – or know – a good supplier of local food and drink – or know of someone who is doing a great job encouraging people in Norfolk to eat healthy, local produce – then please let me know (by adding a comment to this post or tweeting me). And if you happen to run a large food or drink processing company in the area and want to tell me about it, I’d be happy to hear from you.
Why am I doing this for free?
The main reason I said yes, is because (aside from enjoying eating and drinking) I think such events are vital to our local tourism and hospitality industry, which employs something like 10.5% of the workforce in the region (Norfolk and Suffolk). They encourage people to #VisitNorfolk and #VisitNorwich throughout year, every year. But they are also important for local people because they bring the community together, encourage young and old to take more of an interest in what they eat and drink, and improve our quality of life.
At the same time, food, drink and agriculture interests me because it is another of the main sectors for our local economy. Agriculture alone accounts for some “5,000 businesses across Norfolk and Suffolk”, which “employ around 20,000 people”, while “related sectors employ a further 94,000.” At the same time, food and drink is a part of the region’s tourism offer, “with 29% of the estimated £4bn sector relating to food and drink purchases.” (Source: New Anglia LEP.)
This will be the 10th Norfolk Food and Drink Festival (thank to the lead sponsors – EDP24 and Adnams) and with your help we hope to make it the most successful one yet. Not only should it be great fun but it should also help boost the local economy – which means more jobs for people of all ages, particularly apprentices from our colleges. The main festival runs from Saturday 30 August to Sunday 5 October – and involves numerous events across the county – so take a look today and start making plans to make the most of it now.
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to post them under this blog or tweet them to me. I will do my best to reply. Future blogs be about the festival – and other food and drink related stories from around the county – I hope you enjoy them.