Wells Food Festival with Charlie Bigham’s is offering Christmas shoppers the chance to discover and buy delicious treats from local food and drink artisans, in an imaginative online alternative to the traditional Christmas market.
The Wells Food Festival with Charlie Bigham’s was originally held as a virtual event on 10-11 October and featured a live cook-a-long banquet, workshops and over 120 online food stalls from specialist producers.
Following the event’s success, Bigham’s and event organisers have decided to keep the online market open until 31 December 2020, as a way of helping growers and producers promote their wares to a wider audience of food lovers and Christmas shoppers.
Foodies can fill baskets with artisan produce from Somerset and the South West of England, from seasonal goods to gifts, including Christmas puddings by Plum Duff & Stuff, Charcuterie from Somerset Charcuterie and award-winning cheese from Feltham’s Farm, plus tipples from Fenny Castle Vineyard and Chew Valley Gin.
Having the chance to sample directly from local food and drink companies is a highlight of Christmas markets, yet most of this year’s seasonal events have been cancelled due to Covid-19, cutting off a crucial sales channel for many artisan producers.
The show of support for local, independent businesses at last month’s virtual Wells Food Festival was tremendous. Now as our focus shifts to festive shopping, these small producers need our support again, particularly as the latest lockdown impacts a crucial trading window. We’re hoping we can all do our bit to help these fantastic producers, spread some seasonal cheer and secure the future of our artisan food and drink community.
The virtual festival was an enormous bonus in the absence of the physical Wells Food Festival. It’s great that with all the effort involved it is able to continue over the Christmas period. There are so many wonderful products available in the virtual market for gifts or even to treat yourself.
As well as the online food stalls, the festival’s Tent Talks include a series of masterclasses in Christmas preparation, such as making sloe gin with MasterChef winner Matt Follas. Visitors can also enjoy highlights of the virtual Bigham’s Banquet, where 650 home cooks prepared a five-course feast alongside top chefs, including Osip’s Merlin Labron-Johnson, to raise £13,000 for Chefs in Schools.
Inspired by his travels and love of cooking, Charlie Bigham started making meals for local delis, back in 1996, with the sole aim of creating really delicious dishes for foodies – putting in all the care and attention that you would if you were to cook them yourself. Using top quality ingredients, his goal was to help people steal back some quality time by doing all the dinner prep for them. Bigham’s selection of dishes now has over 60 delicious meals, made and sold exclusively in the UK, including bestsellers such as Chicken Tikka Masala, Lasagne and Fish Pie.
In 2017, the brand expanded into Somerset with a purpose-built food production campus in Dulcote, built into a disused quarry and named Quarry Kitchen. Bigham’s employs more than 300 people in the Somerset area and actively contributes to a number of local initiatives, including the Wells Food Festival, Wells Carnival, Cheddar Valley Food Bank and Mid-Somerset Show.
This year, Bigham’s has launched Proper Puds, its first range of sweet dishes, of which its Bread & Butter Pudding was judged overall winner of The Grocer’s New Product of the Year Awards 2020. Bigham’s has also been named by YouGov as the UK food and drink brand most recommended by its customers, achieved B Corp certification and recognised as a Great Place to Work company.
Wells Food Festival celebrates Somerset’s rich farming and artisan food and drink producers as an annual food event, now in its eighth year. Historically, 15,000 visitors have enjoyed the free one-day event spanning the medieval Market Place, the Palace Green and Moat and the Recreation Ground of England’s smallest city. For 2020, a virtual Wells Food Festival ran over the weekend of 10 and 11 October, providing a regional voyage of food discovery in-lieu of the live event which had to be postponed until 2021. Run by volunteers, Wells Food Festival is a Community Interest Company, a limited company set up for the benefit of the local community.