What to Expect from The Yorkshire Dales Food and Drink Festival
The Yorkshire Dales Food & Drink festival has grown into the largest in the UK and we caught up with organiser Rachael Higgins to find out what we can expect from the line-up this July
Seven years on from when the festival first started, the event has grown beyond its founders’ expectations – and at its core is an experience and vibe you won’t find at any other festival in the UK.
Your experience begins from the minute you step into the field, where everyone is greeted at the gate like family, by the family behind the event. In 2016, Rachael and her husband Andy Higgins were chewing over an idea for an event they could stage – the type of event they’d want to take their family to. Somewhere they could have fun, dance under the stars, enjoy good food and relax with a beer in a camping chair, while watching their kids run around having the best time. A few months later Rachael was negotiating with celebrity bookers and calling all the producers they knew from across the Dales. That summer, 10,000 visitors came to the inaugural Yorkshire Dales Food & Drink festival.
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‘We literally sold out,’ Rachael says. ‘It was crazy and completely unheard of for an inaugural event. Most well-established food and drink festivals today don’t even attract those numbers,’ she says. ‘The first event was held at Skipton Auction Market and we had more than 200 food and drink exhibitors, plus James Martin and The Hairy Bikers cooking on stage. We had to transform a small area where they held the cattle for auction into a kitchen, and we built everything from scratch.’
It was clear Rachael and her team needed a bigger venue. In 2017 the festival moved to its new home, Funkirk Farm, a sheep and dairy farm just outside Skipton. The team transformed the fields into a foodie heaven and this time James Martin and John Torode were headlining the chef’s stage, along with 250 exhibitors, cookery workshops and live music.
Now the festival attracts in excess of 30,000 festival-goers and Rachael, Andy and their three children move onto the site three weeks before the festival starts to oversee the mammoth build.
This year’s event will up the ante once more. The three-day festival, which kick-starts the summer holidays, will take place from 21st–23rd July and will feature an all-star line-up of celebrity chefs, including Yorkshire’s James Martin, Si King and Dave Myers from The Hairy Bikers, and Gino D’Acampo. Visitors can get up close and personal with the three legendary chefs in the Big Top theatre kitchen, watching them create their favourite dishes as they inspire and entertain the crowd.
The weekend starts with a live music line-up on the Friday night which continues through to Saturday and Sunday evening with fantastic tribute acts including Wannabe Spice Girls, Katy Perry, We Are Champion Queen and Take That Live, alongside renowned artists DJ Gok Wan, Pat Sharp, Brutus Gold’s Love Train and The Zoots Sounds of the 80s.
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‘The festival is quite simply part of my family, we love it! Every year our team work really hard to make it bigger and better, coming up with new and exciting things to ensure we have something for everyone,’ Rachael says. ‘There is always so much to see and do, from fabulous celebrity chef cookery demos to dancing the night away with your family and friends. And what’s special is so many people come back year after year. We always see so many familiar faces in the crowds and some have been coming since the very first festival!’
Rachael and her team have also made sure kids love the festival as much as grown-ups, with a whole host of activities to keep them entertained. Kids can build sandcastles in the giant sandpit, ride on farmer John’s mini tractors, become a budding chef in the kid’s cookery school, meet some furry friends at the petting farm and dress up for the princess party. It’s not just kids either –dogs are part of the family too and are welcome everywhere at the festival.
There are plenty of options for a sleepover, including space for motorhomes, caravans and campervans. Visitors can stay on site and sleep under the stars amongst the stunning backdrop of the Yorkshire Dales, or stay in one of the luxury glamping tents where you can enjoy three nights ensuring not a single second of festival fun is missed.