Cornwall Living

Come rain or shine

Jude Kereama considers Cornwall’s festival scene, and reflects on another successful (albeit wet!) Porthleven Food Festival.

Words by Jude Kereama

We all love festivals. Living in Cornwall, we’re lucky to have some of the best in the country right on our doorstep. And whilst each is different, with its own identity and following, what they all have in common is a special feeling that attracts revellers from far and wide.

Here in Porthleven, for example, our very own food and music festival has been going for 14 years, and it just gets better and better every year. In fact, just last year, it won Gold at the Cornwall Tourism Awards for the best and most popular festival!

I remember when the idea first came about. I suggested to some friends of mine that we start a food festival; one of them suggested adding music, and so the first Porthleven Food and Music Festival was born. Together with a very small committee and a lot of locals chipping in to volunteer, the first festival took place on the village’s harbour head. It was blowing a gale and our marquee almost took off! The event was opened by Antony Worrall Thompson and myself to a very packed tent full of local suppliers and locals eager to see what the event was all about. Obviously we thought it was a success, otherwise we wouldn’t have kept it going, and I myself have been personally involved in its annual planning ever since.

Today, the festival attracts huge numbers of visitors, who venture to Porthleven to watch the best chefs in the UK demonstrating their incredible skills, as well as the great bands that play on numerous stages around the village. Every chef we have demonstrating is absolutely phenomenal, and this year’s event was no exception. Particular highlights included Tom Barnes, Head Chef at the UK’s number one restaurant, Lenclume, with three Michelin Stars. James Knappett, with two stars of his own, also appeared, as did fellow Great British Menu chefs of mine like Adam Handling, Josh Eggleton, Andy Tuck, Guy Owen, Elly Wentworth, Charlotte Vincent, and a whole lot of other exceptional culinary talents from around Cornwall.

The music was brilliant too, with plenty of different bands and DJs getting the crowds dancing. Over the course of the weekend, there’s always so much to see and do, with plenty of food stalls, feast nights, a farmers market, kids entertainment, and for the real culture vultures, ‘Question Time’ sessions with various artists and chefs. We also host street performers around the harbour head, but perhaps the most impressive thing – that which we’re most proud of – is that all of this is free to enjoy!

Today, my role is to invite the various chefs each year and ensure they’re well looked after. As you can imagine, this is pretty tough work; whilst they are all highly entertaining, it’s a long weekend and so it can become very tiring for all involved. That said, it’s always lots of fun catching up with them all. It’s very rare that we all have the same time off (given the infamous working hours of our profession), and so we tend to get a little carried away!

Porthleven Food Festival kicks off festival season in Cornwall, taking place just after the Easter holidays. We pick this time so that it doesn’t coincide with Flora Day in Helston –– another huge event, just up the road in Helston. It works well, however, given the time of year, it can mean that we are at the mercy of the weather, as this year’s event certainly proved. On the Saturday, it tipped down, but festival goers refused to let that dampen their spirits or stop the crowds coming. It was a very successful festival again. It’s an event we’re all immensely proud of; I already have some great ideas for next year, and I’m looking forward to inviting another top-class line up of chefs to Porthleven. With Porthleven Food Festival done, each year I look forward to other foodie festivals around the county. St Ives, Rock Oyster, the Padstow Christmas Festival – all are fantastic events that I absolutely love. St Ives Food Festival on Porthminster beach takes place right on the water, as does Rock Oyster Festival, which welcomes festival goers to the banks of the beautiful Camel Estuary. Padstow Christmas Festival has an insane collection of the best chefs in the UK, and it really gets the Christmas season off to a great start, with amazing demos and a fabulous Christmas market.

To be honest, there are lots of fantastic festivals that I would love to go to but haven’t gotten round to attending yet. You never know – with the weather looking set to shine, perhaps this year I’ll get the chance.

Kota and Kota Kai
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