On Wednesday the news broke that Marketing Birmingham had decided to wind down the Taste of Birmingham festival which happens every July in Cannon Hill Park. I for one am glad to see the back of it, and it seems I’m not the only one. To be fair I only went once in 2009, before that I couldn’t afford it, and in 2010 I got as far as the gate, and turned back. Although the food I had was undeniably good in 2009, the shiny corporate schmaltz left a rather sour taste in the mouth, and as for the producers area (easily missed, tucked away in an awkward corner), there was barely a Birmingham producer to be seen, perhaps because of the ridiculously high weekend rates to hire a spot. What the festival has done though, is help raise the profile of Birmingham as a rising star in the fine-dining world, and that isn’t a bad thing. I have for years wanted to get my act together and run a fringe festival somewhere nearby at the same time, featuring great small-scale producers, organisations and chefs from in and around Birmingham, but alas I have never got round to it.
Perhaps now I won’t have to. Accompanying the news of Taste’s demise, was the hopeful news of a brand new food festival for Birmingham which will take place in October 2011. Marketing Birmingham are at the reins again, and are promising the festival will “celebrate the city’s diverse gastronomy and ensure visitors experience more of the city’s restaurants and local food and drink producers”. According to Richard Mccomb the festival will be city-centre based, which although a little disappointing for those of us out in the villages, is understandable for the first year of a new thing. Fortunately Marketing Birmingham are encouraging input from the earliest possible stage and have put a suggestions page up on visitbirmingham.com. If you want a food festival that truly reflects Birmingham, I strongly encourage you to have your say – at the very least it gives you the right to have a good moan in October if it’s not what you wanted, but at the most it’s a real opportunity for us to help shape an annual food event we can be proud of.
I’ve put my tuppence in – I suggested that we turn the outdoor bullring markets into a street food market in the evenings – taking inspiration from Marrakech’s great Djeema el Fna street food market, we could turn an unused spaced into a vibrant evening destination for great rustic food and entertainment (any snake charmers out there?!). It would both complement and juxtapose the new Spiceal Street developments at the Bullring, and could be an excellent grassroots contribution to the festival. Comments welcome!
4 thoughts on “Taste no more…”
I definitely welcome this news. Taste of Birmingham was corporate, overpriced and sterile feeling.
I think an event that combined a farmers market with an amazing street food event in the evenings would be extremely popular, and show off our great local produce and talent.
Street food should definitely reflect both the city’s multiculturalism and the abundance of local produce and producers from the neighbouring counties. The key local restaurants could also be represented.
But there should also be a firm emphasis on quality and locality.
Food at the Birmingham International Food market and the “German” markets was both pricey and poor quality, heated from frozen. Proposals should be judged on locality, seasonality, ingredient quality and freshness.
I only went to Taste once and had a blast. It was y’know, a treat. A pricey one perhaps, but treats often are. To me it seemed pretty full of ordinary brummies who were treating themselves too. Strikes me Marketing Birmingham are spinning a line here just to get out of a contract early. They seem unsure about what kind of Birmingham to promote in terms of food culture; that’s worrying. One year it’s all corporate, the next it’s all local – I do wish they’d develop an evidence base so we’d know for sure.
If the reality of Taste was that local producers were priced out of it then that’s a shame but I for one had a blast as the wife and I got drunk on cider and as many free wine samples as we could lay our hands on.
Yeah in 2009, the food was definitely good, and no doubt the event was always well organised and a decent treat for those going. However for me it didn’t live up to it’s name, it wasn’t a taste of Birmingham. As far as I understand it, Marketing Birmingham inherited a bit of a beast two years ago, and did what they could with it in terms of lowering the prices, which was a good thing. Hopefully now there’s a chance for consultation, there’s a chance for the new festival to offer a real taste of Birmingham, and the stall costs won’t be quite so astronomical. A friend looked into it last year and an average stall was coming out at not far off Â£1k for the weekend. The only way you can make money on that is to sell hot food (which you’re not allowed to unless you’re one of the chosen restaurants), or to sell processed food with a large profit-margin. There’s no way a fruit and veg producer or baker could make any money on a stall fee like that. And therefore there were virtually no ‘ingredients’ to be found anywhere at the festival, only readymade products, which is such a shame seeing as Birmingham’s surrounded by such productive farmland. Ah well, hopefully the new festival will be a treat and allow some of the smaller producers etc to get on board.
Hmm, food was fine at Taste, I quite enjoyed myself. But I left still hungry and about Â£100 lighter.
Could have spent the same cash on a few lobsters, a forerib of beef and a bottle of Burgundy and stayed at home!
Or had a decent restaurant meal.