A new future for the Liverpool Food and Drink Festival

It’s always sad when a local business closes but in this case it gives us the opportunity to rethink the background and purposes of the Liverpool Food and Drink Festival and bring it back to its local producer/customer links

It’s always sad when a company goes into administration and that is true of the company behind the Liverpool Food and Drink Festivals which folded yesterday.

However, in this case there may be a silver lining. I have been concerned for the last couple of years about the Festivals. The original idea was that it would give a chance for local restaurants and food and beverage producers to be able to exhibit their products and attract local customers. These customers would continue to use those companies and buy their products on a permanent basis. To make this work it needed to be cheap for the producers and free for the visitors.

Of course, the long-term purpose of this was to produce local food chains whereby local businesses would develop and would both keep their profits in Liverpool and bring back their profits when they expanded outside the City

In recent years this was far from what happened. It became a money-making venture in its own right. There was an expensive entrance fee and the vast majority of exhibitors were representative of large chains which have a Liverpool presence but not a Liverpool base.

The fact that there is now no contract in place means that the Council once again has freedom to restart the venture with its original aims of localisation. It also gives a chance us to choose a new location for its revised format. Nowhere better in my view for trying this than Calderstones Park. We need to look again at Calderstones Park in light of the decision of the High Court Judge to quash the planning applications by Redrow Homes for 13 acres of the Park.

In the view of the Lib Dems all our Parks should be run by locally led, none profit making companies rather than the Council. This is not only our conclusion but was one of the recommendations which was given by the Green Space Review which was delivered as an independent report 3+ years ago and which has sat on the shelf ever since.

So, it would be great to move it to Caldies. Will it work there? I don’t know and we won’t know unless we try it out. 4 years ago, Cllr Makinson and I held a day-long consultation exercise in the Park and sent out 10,000 survey leaflets in the areas closest to the Park. It was clear from this that the users and local residents want to experiment with new ideas to raise the revenue the park needs and increase the number of people who use the Park. Food based activities were one of the most popular options.

So, what do we do next?

  1. Ask Liverpool Markets to take the lead in developing an event in September.
  2. Bring together local producers such as those who sell at the Farmer’s Markets to see what they would like and how much they think they could pay.
  3. Bring together locally owned restaurants and small chains of restaurants to see what they would like and how much they think they could pay.
  4. Involve Independent Liverpool who do so much to promote local inter-trading to develop a plan for marketing the new concept both to potential stall holders and then to the wider public to come along.

I believe that this approach will work and would be enthusiastically supported by producers and public alike. By leaving out the frills of celebrity chefs and the like and the concomitant expense we can produce a cost-effective future for a revived food festival. That festival could then be at the heart of wider attempts to promote local food chains which would decrease food miles and increase the circulation of Liverpool cash in the Liverpool economy.

If you are a local producer or restaurant owner or are interested in taking these ideas forward from any angle please contact me at richardkemp68@yahoo.co.uk

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About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperson on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and four grandchildren.
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