Leeds Indie Food Festival Returns To Celebrate All That’s Delicious About Our Corner Of The World.
Last year’s debut event smashed all expectations – and this year, with official council support, it’s promising more events, more supper clubs, more workshops and more tastings than ever. And we’re proud to be a media partner.
From Victorian banquets at Whitelocks to street food paired with craft beers at Bundobust, this is a festival that takes the best of the city – and the county – and lays it all out for us to tuck in and feast like Yorkshire kings and queens. So, before we roll up our sleeves, a chat with Festival Director Matt Dix is called for.
Was the first event everything you hoped it would be?
“Definitely more. When we started exploring the idea of a new food festival for Leeds we thought we might be able to convince some of our friends in the industry to run a few cool things, maybe a dozen events tops. Then we asked the Leeds food and drink community if they wanted to join in, and the result was over a hundred events with over a hundred businesses participating. It was pretty mind blowing really.
The businesses really embraced it too, which might have been the most satisfying thing of all. Our friend John, one of the founders of North Bar, hired a mini bus and took festival goers on a mystery drink-along tour of their six bars. That was a boozy one. Ellie from The Gallery at Munro House put on an edible art exhibition of works by Tracy Emin and Grayson Perry. Ben at Patty Smith’s cooked everything from the film ‘Chef’ and served it to cinema-goers at the exact moment it came on screen. That was when we realised we might have been onto something special. We’re pretty sure we’re the UK’s only truly independent food festival run on a city-wide, multi-venue basis.
What have you learned in the last 12 months?
A hell of a lot. The festival is free for any independent business – that’s part of our mission, to be free and transparent – but we’ve learnt why traditional food festivals often charge big pitch fees for businesses to be involved. Promoting food and drink is an expensive business,but we got very good at blagging free publicity and bothering people into interviews and coverage. This year, we’re really happy to say we’re supported by Leeds City Council and Leeds BID, so we can run the kind of fun, independent festival that Leeds deserves. Tom Bridges, LCC’s Chief Economic Development Officer, has been a big supporter from day one.
We’re chuffed Tom thinks we’re playing our part in getting Leeds going. They know Leeds’ independent food and drink scene is something special so it’s heartening to see them backing the businesses involved. Most of all, we’ve learnt that most people just want a bit of support, a bit of enthusiasm and a chance to show off what they’ve got going on.
You’ve decided to shake things up this year? Why?
We’ve certainly streamlined things. Last year, the festival was delivered by a team of six, all fitting it around our day jobs.
We’d not expected the festival to be so popular, so it was a bit of a shock in the end. We quickly realised that Leeds Indie Food required a more professional commitment, so now the team is just three – Simon Fogal deals with with marketing, press and sales, I run the project itself as Festival Director, and Lil Dix, my partner, takes care of written content and social media. We’re still not really paying ourselves, but it’s my job for half the year and it’s a pretty awesome way to earn a (tiny) living. Other than that, we’ve been telling everyone ‘we’re not going bigger, just better’. That’s just been blown out the water,though, because we’ve finished scheduling everything and we’re on just over 140 this year. Bigger and better it is.
What’s new this year that you’re most looking forward to?
The biggest news for this year is that we’re running an awesome little beer and wine festival on the middle weekend. It’s called Keg Vs Cork, and we’re pitting the city’s best craft beer bars (people like Bundobust, North Bar and Northern Monk) againstwine from the likes of The Reliance and Latitude Wine. It’ll be intimate, informal and special – miles away from beardy beer fests or snobby wine tastings. The edible art exhibition is back, but they’re creating a representation of the entire city – not just a few art works – and it’ll be a walk-through installation in the centre of town, not tucked away in Ellie’s love art gallery. Our friends Norse, who popped up at Leeds Feast (our big closing street food party run with Belgrave Music Hall) are back this year with a fifty (yes – 50) course tasting menu with matched drinks.
That’s bigger than anything Leeds saw in 2015. We’ve also got a great lineup of thought provoking events planned.Laura Ager, an independent film programmer, has come up with a #LIF16 Film Fringe packed with controversial and challenging documentary screenings. School Diner is a street food festival just around the corner at our local primary school, because getting kids interested in food is really important to us.”
Fancy attending? Bitten are offering you the chance to win festival passports for you and four friends – giving you the opportunity to supersize your food festival experience. We’ll also throw in a Goody Bag, Tote, Tee and Mug – what more do you need? All that’s left to to do is email [email protected] with the subject line LEEDS INDIE FOOD. Make sure that you include your phone number and address in your email. Winners will be announced Friday 6th May. See you there.
Leeds Indie Food
Images by Tom Joy.