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!