Gastronomic gathering proves to be a moveable feast

Staffordshire’s largest gastronomic gathering is set to be an even bigger celebration in 2022 – but is switching seasons for one year only.

Traditionally staged each autumn, the Stone Food & Drink Festival will become a summer celebration for Staffordshire, with the 2022 Festival now taking place between 15 and 17 July.

A feast of food and drink, the Festival has grown from humble beginnings 16 years ago, when it was held in the town’s Georgian High Street and the Crown Hotel ball room, to become one of the region’s biggest events of its kind, staged at Stone’s Westbridge Park, the town’s largest park.

But because of plans for a major makeover of the park, scheduled to take place over the autumn, this year will see a one-off seasonal switch from October to July.

While the date may be changing, the venue, and format, remain the same, and for 2022 organisers say they want to make it the biggest yet.

After going online in 2020 during the pandemic, the Festival returned as a three-day event in October 2021, with a packed programme, and this year the aim is to offer visitors even more by creating extra space for traders, both indoors and outside.

Originally created to promote the town, attract visitors, and boost local businesses, over the years it has become a firm favourite for foodie fans far and wide, and helped put Staffordshire on the map as a food and drink destination.

Showcasing the county’s finest culinary talent alongside the very best artisan produce, the Festival features live cookery demos and talks, tastings, street food, family fun and live music. Among favourites are The Staffordshire Beer Garden, with local brewers creating a haven for real ale fans; the Live Music Stage, featuring local bands and tribute acts over the ‘big weekend’; a Demonstration Kitchen, celebrating local chefs as well as familiar faces from TV shows; and a Little Foodies’ Zone, for family entrainment.

The event also sees Stone’s pubs, bars and foodie businesses get into the festival spirit with a week-long programme of quizzes, themed meals and special offers leading up to the weekend Festival.

Stone, itself, has a strong food and drink reputation, especially for brewing, and last year saw the long-awaited return of a Staffordshire brewery to its original home after 50 years, selling beer first made by Augustinian monks.

After a major renovation project to breathe new life into the historic Crown Wharf, Joule’s Brewery opened its flagship Brewery Tap at the canal side venue last summer. The brewery can trace its roots back to the 18th century when it set up in Stone, alongside the Trent and Mersey canal, where beer has been brewed since the 16th century. In its heyday, with giant warehousing along the Stone Canal Wharf, Joule’s became the first English beer to be exported to the US (https://bit.ly/3Keq3Pa).

Meanwhile, the planned makeover of the town’s Westbridge Park includes proposals for a new multi-use games area, children’s playground, and outdoor gym as well as improved landscaping, picnic and seating areas, along with a dedicated space for events to take place.

For ticket prices, and details on the Food & Drink Festival, visit www.stonefooddrink.org.uk

More information about visiting, and staying in, Staffordshire, at www.enjoystaffordshire.com

Photo: Martin Robinson