Pioneering Bristol Food Connections festival will put city on global food map

March 13, 2014

Bristol businesses have been urged to help thrust the city into the international spotlight as a global food capital by backing the first Bristol Food Connections festival.

The ambitious, city-wide event aims to celebrate and showcase Bristol’s many vibrant cultures by bringing communities together around something common to them all – a love of good food.

Staged in collaboration with the BBC, city council, Business West and Bristol University, and already backed by a number of local businesses, the pioneering festival – taking place between May 1 and 11 – will set out to build on Bristol’s pioneering attitude to food.

Organisers promise to engage with, and support, the whole range of food-related businesses and groups in the city – from its already-established food festivals and independent food and drink producers and retailers, to its burgeoning foraging, local-growing and street food projects.

Events will be affordable and accessible to all with the emphasis on knowledge, participation and fun, say its organisers.

And for businesses, getting involved will not only help establish the festival in its first year but the huge international publicity for Bristol and its food culture that it will generate makes it an ideal profile-raising platform. Already committed to support the event are accountants PwC and dairy producer Yeo Valley.

The idea for Bristol Food Connections came from former BBC Bristol head of production Kalpna Woolf, who told business leaders at its launch at Watershed yesterday: “Be a trailblazer and help put Bristol on the food map.

“This event will stand the test of time. It will be inclusive and reach out to all communities. We are going to make so much noise it will reverberate around the world and you will get fabulous profile for your organisation.”

She said the festival would reach out to all cultures and communities in a city where 90 languages are spoken. “We know that we don’t often hear from some cultures in our city,” she said. “We are going to use food to find out about these communities and break down barriers.”

The festival would put the spotlight on education and nutrition and sustainable food production. The BBC has committed to back it for two years – meaning the second event will take place during Bristol’s year as European Green Capital 2015. This will allow it to look in depth at sustainability in food and help make Bristol the UK’s leading city in this vital issue.

Also speaking at the launch was Tristan Hogg, founder of Bristol food institution Pieminister. He said the city was a fantastic place to launch and grow a food business – not only because of its proximity to great local produce but because of its strong food culture and the fact that interesting people with lots of ideas were drawn to the place.

“People from outside don’t have a lot of knowledge about Bristol,” he said. “They know about Clifton because that is where they want to live and they know about St Paul's because of the riots.

“They know we’ve got a big bridge and we’re a little bit hippy. But we’ve also got a great lifestyle, great food, music and great diversity and culture.”

He said unlike a lot of 'foodie' events, Bristol Food Connections was determined not to be elitist.

“This isn’t just about getting middle-class people involved with food,” he said. “It’s about getting everyone involved and celebrating Bristol’s great diversity.”

Festival curator Lorna Knapman added: “Food Connections is the perfect opportunity to join the dots and work together as a city to inspire and get people excited about good food. It’s so important that we look at the bigger picture when it comes to food.

“What we eat, how that food is produced, with whom that food is eaten. The lifestyle we have around food, exercise, making sure everyone has enough to eat are all so intrinsically linked. Bristol has a vibrant food community and unique food culture and that needs to be seen and celebrated.”

Business West and Bristol Chamber of Commerce director James Durie called on businesses to get involved.

“This event will be good for Bristol and good for business,” he said. “Food is a great way to bring people together from all walks of life and from different communities. And during the event all the BBC will be talking about is Bristol, Bristol, Bristol – so it’s a great opportunity for our city and our businesses.”

The food and drink industries were vital to Bristol, he added, as they employed one in 10 people in the city. So supporting the festival would also strengthen the city's economy.

The BBC’s celebrated Food and Farming Awards will be held in Bristol for the first time in 14 years during the event and dozens of TV and radio shows from primetime national BBC productions to local ones will be broadcast over its 11 days.

The BBC will also be hosting one of the main sites of the Food Connections Festival on the waterfront.

The festival will also harness other events taking place in the city during the 11 days. These include the Bristol 10K and Bristol Walking Festival, helping to connect the dots between food and exercise, along with the established Eat Drink Bristol Fashion festival in Queen Sq.

The Food Connections team wants to hear from communities, individuals, restaurants, producers, chefs, volunteers and anyone interested in being a part of food connections.

To find out more about the festival, including events around the city, and to get involved, visit

Pictured: Bristol Food Connections team and speakers at the business launch at Watershed Photo: Jon Craig

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