Sowing the seeds…………
The pretty coastal town of Emsworth with its array of independent shops and renowned restaurants and pubs has long been a destination for food lovers. There is little doubt that Emsworth is a unique place, positioned at the top of Chichester Harbour, this picturesque, old fishing town would be just as happy sitting by the sea in Cornwall or even Brittany. In the main the fishing boats and its once famous oyster industry may have gone, but Emsworth, unlike so many similar communities has still managed to maintain its sense of place. There are very few small towns left on the south coast that can still offer two family owned butchers, a greengrocers and a fishmongers as well as a monthly Market Day. Add into the mix some of the area’s finest restaurants and some wonderful traditional pubs and you can see why Emsworth is cherished both by its residents and visitors alike.
Emsworth participation over the last three years in Love British Food’s “British Food Fortnight’ has in many ways just underlined what a special place it is. Having won the national ‘Bringing Home the Harvest’ competition in 2014 and being runners up for the last two years has of course been a great achievement but in many ways the real achievement has been to bring a community together and allow it to celebrate itself through food. When you think about it ‘Food’ is a language we all speak. We may have slightly different takes on it but in essence we all have a shared interest, whether as the French would say ‘you eat to live, or live to eat’. That ‘shared interest’ is at the very heart of what the Emsworth British Food Fortnight is all about. Having been in existence for 3 years, its not about making it bigger and better - its about making it more inclusive, more accessible for young and old, for resident and visitor.
So with that in mind, planning has already started for this year’s event. A small committee has been assembled and as ever the question was ‘how to involve more people, more local businesses, more local producers’. The first stage was to unveil this year’s logo, which encompasses our three main themes –
#Community #Education #Celebration
Those three themes can then be used as building blocks under which to incorporate many of the main events. Once you have the main events in place it’s a little like laying the table - you can invite local business, community groups and individuals to get involved, to come up with ideas, promotions and British food related activities.
Community is what binds a place together and there are many ways to bring people together but it’s constantly a thought as to how we can increase this involvement. The local Churches organise an inter-denominational open air Harvest festival to conclude the Emsworth British Food Fortnight. During the fortnight we enlarge the local Food Bank Collection points and at that Harvest Festival we build a ‘food mountain’ out of those donations and then donate this produce to the local food bank group. This has been hugely successful over the last 3 years, leading to the creation of a permanent food bank collection point, and we intend to build on this with more community groups this year including the many care homes in the area.
Education is so important when it comes to food and the Emsworth British Food Fortnight has developed a close working relationship with local Primary Schools and Colleges of Further Education. We go into those local primary schools and deliver food education workshops for the pupils. Four local Colleges each take over Emsworth’s premier hotel, the Brookfield Hotel, for a lunch service when they not only devise a British themed menu but also prepare it and serve it. This year we plan to take that further and involve cooking classes & activities for pre-school children as well.
Celebration is ultimately what its all about - celebrating Emsworth, its people, its business and the surrounding regional producers - and of course there is so much to celebrate! In previous years we’ve organised markets, wine tasting, beer festivals, a charity seafood lunch cooked by Emsworth chefs and served on the historic quay. It’s about allowing people to celebrate and whether it’s with a glass of Hampshire sparkling wine or local grown fruit or vegetables, there is literally so much to celebrate!
Lastly no event of this nature could be organised without the support of both volunteers and sponsors. Emsworth is lucky to have that sense of community and as such a really strong core of volunteers. With sponsors it’s all about working in partnership. It has to work for both parties and we are delighted to announce Montezuma’s Chocolates once again as our main partner. Locally based and surely one of the most innovative chocolate makers in Britain - what’s not too like? We also have a wonderful range of other supporters to whom we are not only grateful to but perhaps most importantly enjoy working with – The Brookfield Hotel, The Portsmouth News, Henry Adams, Monster Creative and Hambledon Vineyard.
We are sowing the seeds right now for another successful Emsworth British Food Fortnight, working with the community to highlight Emsworth and of course British Food.
Alistair Gibson 29th April 2017