'A dream come true' as the Portsmouth Chilli and Gin Festival makes its triumphant debut

IT WAS a 'dream come true' for chilli and gin lovers alike as the first ever festival of its kind descended on Portsmouth.

By Fiona Callingham
Sunday, 22nd May 2022, 2:25 pm
Updated Sunday, 22nd May 2022, 6:01 pm

After two postponements due to the Covid pandemic the Portsmouth Chilli and Gin Festival finally made its debut at historic Fort Purbook this weekend.

Across both days punters were treated to a range of artisan gin stalls, live music, cookery classes, kids' activities and, of course, some of the hottest hot sauces and chillies in the world.

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Steve Willott from Saucy Lady, based in Reading. Picture: Mike Cooter (210522)

Organiser Mark Scarborough, from Widley, was inspired by his lifelong hobby of growing chillies.

The 62-year-old said: 'I've been growing my own chillies for about 45 years.

'Over that time I've attended so many chilli festivals and I always thought: "I could do that."'

His dream became a reality aided by his friend David Macaskill and son Jack.

Former firefighter Matt Broxton from Kentish Town with his range of 'Saucy Firefighter' dressings. Picture: Mike Cooter (210522)

Mark added: 'It's amazing to finally be here. It's been so popular. We sold out on the Saturday and had about 1,000 tickets sold today.

'Everyone's having a wonderful time.'

Friends Caroline Coombs and Anne Wooller, from Cosham, enjoyed sampling all the different gins and sauces.

Anne, 56, said: 'It's great to have so many local stalls selling their produce.’

Dich Oatley from the Portsmouth Distillery gives out samples of the very first rum in English history to be made from scratch and aged 3 years. Picture: Mike Cooter (210522)

One family had travelled from Fareham for the day.

Phil Cole, 45, said: 'I absolutely love chillies. This is my dream day.

'I've yet to find a hot sauce that's too hot but I'll keep looking.'

Annira Snook (8) has her face painted at the festival. Picture: Mike Cooter (210522)

His son Nicholas, 11, added: 'I'm here for all the food.

'And I enjoyed having a go at the football competition.'

For local businesses the weekend was a 'great opportunity' to showcase what they do best.

Founder of Portsmouth-based Spice Island Chilli, Liam Coleman, said: 'We've got a range of our sauces from mild to hotter, there's something for everyone to try.

'Considering I started this business from my home and now it's at a huge event like this, it's really great.'

The day was set to culminate in an intense chilli eating contest, with several rounds leading up to the world's hottest chilli - the Carolina Reaper.

Odafe shows of the products from Tickenham based Mr Mentions Hot Sauce. Picture: Mike Cooter (210522)

World chilli-eating champion and UK 'chilli queen', Shahina Waseem, attended to present a trophy the winner 32-year-old Bradley Scarborough from Gosport.

Shahina said: 'This is such a brilliant event. I travel to so many chilli festivals every year and this one has been great.'

Members of the Big Noise Community Samba Band greeted visitors as the festival opened. Picture: Mike Cooter (210522)
Members of 'Mariachi Tequila' who toured the site entertaining festival goers. Picture: Mike Cooter (210522)