The north Staffordshire market town of Stone is getting ready to welcome hoards of food lovers over the weekend of 5, 6 & 7 October as it plays host to the annual Stone Food & Drink Festival.
Following a week packed with food & drink events hosted by shops, pubs and restaurants in and around town the ‘big weekend’ itself will take place on Westbridge Park on the southern edge of town; with the gates set to open to the public at 12 noon on Friday 5th October. The main event promises visitors the chance to indulge their passion for food & drink – to eat, drink, shop, learn and generally enjoy their way around the festival site…
If you’ve yet to make a start on your Christmas shopping, this is your chance. Drawing some of the finest food & drink exhibitors from across the country, as well as a strong contingent of local producers, you’ll find the Gourmet Marquee packed with stalls selling cheese, condiments, pastries, sausages, sweet treats, pastries, exotic ingredients, sauces and more – alongside a smattering of fabulous kitchen and homewares.
Saturday visitors will also have the chance to browse the festival edition of Stone Farmers’ Market in the High Street – featuring the crème de la crème of Staffordshire farm-to-fork produce, plus to opportunity to see what the town’s exceptional range of independent shops and boutiques have to offer.
When you’ve worked up an appetite from shopping, you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to food. A host of stalls offering global street food flavours hand-picked for flavour and quality will be vying for your custom. From BBQ to Mexican, Modern British to Caribbean, Indian to Thai, every tastebud will be tickled by the range on offer. For those seeking a more genteel way to satiate their appetite, Beth Lauren Cakes’ pop-up Parlour will offer indulgent tea, coffee and cakes – alongside traditional Afternoon Teas by advance booking.
Real Ale lovers will be in heaven – Staffordshire breweries including Lymestone, Titanic, Joule’s, Weal Ales, Slater’s and Peakstone Rock will feature in Westbridge Park’s famous ‘beer garden’ area, adjacent to the live music stage. Meanwhile, local bars will be bringing ‘pop-ups’ offering everything from Prosecco and fizz to craft beers, fine wine, gins and cocktails. Barista coffees and specialist teas will also be on offer around the site to ensure everyone remains well hydrated.
Fine-tuning your cookery skills is easy at the Stone Food & Drink Festival. In the Demonstration, kindly sponsored by Willmott Dixon, free live cookery demonstrations with top local chef will take place on the hour, every hour. Friday’s chefs include double-act Allan Jones & James Jefferies of Keele Hall, freelance chef Mike Hughes who will be taking on the ‘Gourmet Marquee Sweep’ and Health Food guru Gemma Bloor of RAWR.
On Saturday, founder of Orchard Pigs Robert Didier will share the bill with Stafford College Chef Lecturer Richard Finney, Zalena Vandrewala of Indian cookery school Rose Petals & Rice and award-winning local butcher Nick Griffin before Mike Hughes once gain taking on the challenge of the Gourmet Marquee Sweep. Sunday’s line-up features Mark Rawlinson of Aston Marina’s No.26 restaurant; Moddershall Oaks’ Jimmy Warrilow; Stafford College Chef Lecturer Tom Harrison; Jack Lowndes of Stone’s Little Seeds and Robert Didier of Orchard Pigs.
The ever-popular Talks & Tastings tent will once again feature a diverse range of topics; ranging from gin, prosecco, wine and beer tastings through to smoothie making, barista skills and healthy raw food recipes. Best of all, the sessions are free to attend – so make sure you visit the website in advance or check the schedule at the talks & tastings tent on arrival to plan your day and ensure you get there in good time to grab a seat!
If you really want to get ‘hands on’ with food during the big weekend, visitors of all ages can sign up for an extended culinary masterclasses programme. Options for the grown-ups include a fish skills masterclass which will see Stafford College lecturers Tom Harrison and Richard Finney take you through the process of transforming flat and round fish into oven-ready dishes; and some great healthy raw food recipes with Gemma Bloor of RAWR. Kids, meanwhile, can join in free ‘Kiddy Cook’ sessions on Saturday and Sunday in the Little Foodies Zone. While Kiddy Cook sessions can be signed up for on the day, advance booking of the other via the website is strongly recommended.
Family visitors to the event can enjoy more than just free cookery classes – the Panic Circus Big Top will return, with Professor Panic and his clowns putting on free shows and circus skills workshop at regular intervals. The Little Foodies Zone also features pay-as-you-go craft activities with CraftyKidz and face painting from the Three Fairies. There’s a free foodie treasure trail to complete to help ensure young visitors are kept busy – pop along to Discover Trails’ stall in the Gourmet Marquee to pick up your copy and follow the clues around the site.
Live music is a big part of the Stone Food & Drink Festival and this year the Tinsley Garner Live Music Stage features a great line-up of local live acts. On Friday The Blarney Stone will play a mix of traditional and modern Irish tunes followed by pop & rock covers by party band The Formula. Saturday’s first band will be Kornerstone followed by energetic festival favourites Stone Cold Sober(ish) who’ll get the crowd warmed up before Catalyst take the stage to cover hits from the 60s to current. Sunday’s acts include local acoustic band Tequila Rose; Ed Conway & The Unlawful Men in their own words ‘taking old folk songs and giving them a respectful kick up the backside’ and the Brass Monkees – a 9-piece funk & soul outfit promising to bring the event to a close on a high.
Getting to the festival
For those travelling by car, the easiest way to arrive at the festival is by using the Park & Ride service from Aston Marina on the A51. For £2pp (accompanied under 16s free) you can hop on a shuttle bus that will drop you 100 yards from the main entrance to Westbridge Park. Your Park & Ride ticket will get you £1 off full price entry on the gate and you’ll also have a discount voucher to use at Aston Marina’s No.26 bar & eatery over the weekend. Simply follow the yellow signs to the Park & Ride!
The 2018 Stone Food & Drink festival will take place on Westbridge Park on Friday 5th, Saturday 6th and Sunday 7th October. Entry is £7pp on the gate / £15 for a 3-day pass (accompanied under 16s free) with special online discount for advance booking.