BIG READ: The rise of festivals that give you food for thought.
Last weekend it was the Isle of Wight Festival that drew thousands of people to party at the annual musical extravaganza.
Festivals are always a popular way to spend a weekend – friends from all over can meet and enjoy something memorable.
But not every festival is about fist-pumping rock and the hottest pop artists. In fact, what’s been steadily growing over the past few years is the popularity of food festivals – and Portsmouth seems to have become a hub for them.
Some of these festivals celebrate the food that is cooked by chefs from a wide array of backgrounds, taking influence from around the world; others focus more on individual foods and the different types, how it can be cooked and so on..
This weekend sees the return of the Portsmouth Seafood Festival – an event that brings lovers of all things seafood together to share their passion.
Also commencing this weekend is the Hampshire Food Festival, with 60 events taking place from July 1-31.
The annual Southsea Food Festival will be taking place next month as well – with around 40,000 people expected to descend on the area over the course of the weekend.
Organiser of Portsmouth Seafood Festival John Pryde believes that the reason why events such as the Seafood Festival have been becoming more popular for how they teach people to cook different foods that they otherwise might not attempt at home.
He says: ‘Portsmouth Seafood Festival 2018 is a festival for everyone, offering excellent opportunities to showcase the finest seafood produce around and engage with other sea-foodies.
‘We have hand-picked seafood vendors and traders based on their expertise and variety.
‘These are people who are passionate about seafood, whether they fish for it, prepare it, package it, or teach consumers how to cook it.
‘The outdoor stage will showcase seafood cooking with fire, flame and smoke with the outstandingly talented Cornelius Veakins, who will be preparing a range of seafood from the Solent.’
Part of what has made food festivals so popular is the rise in popularity of street food.
This on-the-go style of dining and the variety available in Portsmouth means that food festivals are beginning to pack out the annual calendar.
Pete Hunt from Need Street Food says that this variety hasn’t gone unnoticed by Portsmouth’s food fanatics.
He explains: ‘Street food in general has become much more popular as of late.
‘This weekend we have the Portsmouth Seafood Festival, we have a number of street food events in the city and, of course, the Southsea Food Festival next month, which is always a fantastic event for Portsmouth.
‘The whole idea of street food is growing into a lot of different places and Portsmouth is certainly no exception.
‘It’s become a big part of music festivals such as Victorious, which now have a huge food angle – which is certainly something we’re happy to see.’
These food festivals, Pete says, lean into the idea that people generally have a lot less time to set aside for meal times, and so the ‘grab and go’ ethos of these festivals has become more appealing.
He says: ‘I think people have got less time on their hands these days so having food on-the-go is key for them.
‘These dishes are not only significantly cheaper than the ones you’ll find in restaurants, but are also a very high quality.
‘People tend to hone in on a certain product and so that’s what these street food chefs do as well, meaning that they can perfect the food that they serve to customers.
‘You will often find that people use old family recipes and so on – it’s that experience of cooking and the history behind it that seems to draw people in.’
According to Pete, these food festivals are certainly here to stay, as they only become more well-loved by the community.
He says: ‘If you’re at a food festival with your friends, you could have BBQ ribs, a friend could have a burrito and another friend could be walking round with a vegan dish in their hands.
‘It’s great to not only have something there that you know you will like, but to also have the opportunity to explore different foods and find something new.
‘These food festivals are a great opportunity to try a new type of food and as they grow in popularity, so will the amount of options available.
‘I think street food is much better than sitting in a restaurant and so that has allowed the food festivals to grow in tandem.
‘There is also a huge events calendar in Portsmouth now – people like to see new things and food is certainly a really great way of bringing people together. It naturally facilitates events so it’s not much of a surprise to see so many events now taking place.'
Pete is one of many foodies that can be found at Portsmouth Seafood Festival in Gunwharf Quays this weekend.
The Seafood Festival, which is open from 10am-8pm on Saturday and 10am-7pm on Sunday, will see thousands of people in attendance.
Pete says: ‘We’ll be down at the festival, as with a lot of other companies – and everyone will be offering something a little bit different.
For us, we’ll be serving up fish finger sandwiches, but they will have a bit of a twist to them. They’ll be quite high-end fish finger sandwiches with some exciting flavours to create a top quality product.
‘Its’s an event that we’re really looking forward to and we can't wait to see everyone else down there too.’