Dales Festival of Food and Drink to be discontinued

The Dales Festival of Food and Drink. Photo: Guy Carpenter.

Organisers of the Dales Festival of Food and Drink in Leyburn have announced the event is to be discontinued after 18 years.

The event was first held as a response to the 2001 foot and mouth outbreak.

It was felt something was needed to help area get back on its feet.

The first event was held in Leyburn Market Place in 2002 with the aim of promoting local food and drink producers.

Despite having no track record for the event, the organisers signed up many Dales food and drink firms who set up their stalls in a marquee in the market place.

The event was a big news story with much regional TV, radio and press coverage and the organisers expectation of about 6000 visitors was hugely exceeded, some 15,000 people attending.

After another year in the Market Place, the event needed more space and moved to a site on the edge of the town where it continued to prosper, generating over the years a surplus of more than £150,000 which was distributed to local good causes.

Publicity for the event was helped by author Gervase Phinn and the late Richard Whiteley, both of whom gave several free performances to add to the festive atmosphere.

However, other food festivals were established, some with local authority financial backing, and the Dales Festival format, which required an entry fee, started to loose popularity.

In 2017, the event was downsized back to the Market Place with free entry.

However, it continued to lose money and the Leyburn and Mid Wensleydale Partnership Ltd, the not for profit charitable company running the event, have now decided to cancel the festival.

The partnership said in a statement: “The event had remained popular with the public but the absence of an entry charge made it impossible to cover costs.

“The directors of the Leyburn and Mid Wensleydale Partnership wish to thank the festival’s supporters, many generous sponsors and an army of volunteers, whose efforts enabled the event to happen and to be the big success it was for many years.”