A collaboration between local farmers, producers, artists, restauranteurs, allotmenteers and the local community in Peterborough are the winners of the Love British Food 2015 Harvest Heroes competition, run in conjunction with The Telegraph. The small coastal town of Emsworth, last year’s winner, came a very close second with another awe-inspiring effort that reached even further into the local community and beyond.
The competition, now in its third year, acknowledges the people who organise the most imaginative and inclusive celebrations of local food and the harvest. Entries were received from across the country and included outdoor Harvest services, apple days, community lunches, food festivals, activities in care homes and school enterprises. Other finalists that caught the judges eye included a collaboration between 36 schools and Whole Foods Market, a Hampshire village food celebration, a ‘town meal’ held in Middlesborough and Weston Super Food Festival in Somerset.
Alexia Robinson, Founder of Love British Food commented on the success of the competition: “Three years ago we set out to inspire people to connect with the food in their local area. Now, in 2015 the competition has surpassed all expectations – we were thrilled with the response this year. Every entry is imaginative and inspiring and, most importantly, wide reaching with an educational message. Harvest Heroes is having a very real impact in communities. Long may it continue!”
The winners were chosen by a panel of judges led by The Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; Raymond Blanc and his son Olivier. Together they were looking for events that strengthened the local community, educated people about British food and eating locally, and supported the economy.
Raymond Blanc said: “Once again, having to judge these awards has been a difficult task. The entries have been so strong – each one has had such a positive effect on those involved. What we are witnessing here is a revolution – not a French Revolution, but a very British one! We are reconnecting with food as part of our culture and our everyday life.”
The Peterborough group’s outstanding winning effort celebrated food, the land and the unique role agriculture has played in the development of the town. A series of events filled the city centre with sights, sounds, tastes, smells, songs and dances of the countryside. They included a farmer’s market, Harvest wain procession, barn dance, Harvest supper, bread making workshops, and traditional craft demonstrations. Historically, Peterborough’s city centre food and craft market was reinstated after 50 years!
On Saturday evening, a spectacular parade of Harvest costumed-characters from dancing cart horses to pagan goddesses wove its way through the streets. It handed over to the Harvest stage in Cathedral Square for a night of foot stomping folk rhythms from around the world.
Sunday saw a huge outdoor dinner created by artists Lucy and Jorge Orta with discussions on local food production, consumption and distribution. 500 people were seated to enjoy ‘conversation starters’ baked into loaves of bread. The meal was cooked by head chef at Clarkes Peterborough who specialises in locally sourced produce and was supported by a team of volunteers from local colleges and learners at HMP Peterborough prison.
Mark Richards, Director of arts organisation Metal and organiser of Harvest Peterborough, said “We are utterly delighted to have won the 2015 Harvest Heroes competition.The inspiration for the weekend was all around us. Agriculture and food production has played such a unique role in the history and development of the city. Peterborough is surrounded by the Fens which grows over a third of all the vegetables produced in England, enough wheat annually to produce 250 million loaves of bread and accounts for about half of all Grade 1 agricultural land in England. Also, many of the culturally diverse communities migrated to the city to work seasonally on the land. Yet it was apparent that, for many people, the relationship to the seasons and understanding of where food comes from is being lost. So, we decided to create a cultural festival that would bring communities together to celebrate their shared cultural heritage and also discuss real issues about localism, seasonality, food production and distribution. It was great to see that the different aspects of the festival attracted people from all walks of life.”
Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss will be presenting the winners with a special handcrafted award on Wednesday, and commented: “From artisan producers to projects linking to our agricultural heritage and the Great British Menu, these awards capture the exciting innovation currently transforming our £100billion food and farming industry in the UK.
“Harvest Heroes celebrates all that is great about our fantastic food and drink – it comes as our farmers are enjoying their biggest grain harvest for 20 years and just two weeks after I brought together the nation’s greatest food pioneers to help lead the Year of British Food in 2016. This year’s entries were extremely impressive and I’d like to congratulate everyone who entered – each one of them is playing their part in making us a great food nation.”
The newly crowned Heroes will also be treated to a behind-the-scenes tour of the Michelin Starred Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons gardens, where a member of the expert team will reveal more about Raymond Blanc’s new National Heritage Garden over a delicious breakfast.