Blanc breaks out the bubbly to benefit food festival

Raymond Blanc at last year’s event

Alison Isherwood, administrator of the food festival

First published in News

Organisers of Thame Food Festival struggle to break even, but this year’s event has been boosted by a local celebrity chef.

Raymond Blanc has offered to host a Champagne tea and tour of Le Manoir gardens in Great Milton for 40 guests in June, with proceeds from the £90 tickets going towards the 2014 festival.

Festival administrator Alison Isherwood said: “We depend heavily on sponsorship and Raymond Blanc is a huge draw for us. He will be doing a demonstration at the festival in September and will be interviewed by TV chef Lotte Duncan, who is a festival patron.”

Mr Blanc, a supporter of seasonal, organic produce, has also offered 10 places at his cookery school as a competition prize.

The festival, which started in 2008 with a handful of stalls, now has 150 food producers and other stallholders, who have to satisfy the organisers that they are offering local produce, or have a local link.

Ms Isherwood said: “The first festival went down very well and since then we have grown each year.

“We had aspirations that we would be a notable event in the calendar and now we take over the whole town centre.

“One of our aims was to bring people into this beautiful market town, and hopefully we are doing that. We want to put Thame on the map.”

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Last year the festival won the cultural events and tourism category of the Oxfordshire Business Awards.

Stallholder fees are kept low enough to attract small local producers, and produce less than a third of the running costs. As a non-profit making venture, the festival depends heavily on sponsorship and Ms Isherwood believes businesses are seeing the benefit of the increased footfall and opportunity to promote themselves.

She said: “All businesses are encouraged to take part by having an event on the day to attract the large crowds that are expected in the town.”

This year’s sponsors also include the Aga shop, Waitrose, and Rectory Homes, as well as local pubs and restaurants.

South Oxfordshire District Council has funded online stall booking.

Ms Isherwood said: “Thanks to our sponsors, this year we should just about break even.”

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