Bakewell Show - Food and Farming marquee is back

Michael Shirt of Stanedge Grange Butchery at Newhaven which won seven awards at Bakewell Show
Michael Shirt of Stanedge Grange Butchery at Newhaven which won seven awards at Bakewell Show

Wedding cakes made of pork pies? Sculptures modelled in cheese? Bar tenders flipping glasses during cocktail demonstrations?

Ah, welcome to the Food and Farming marquee at Bakewell Show.

Here, in this much-loved attraction, organisers seek to show visitors the link between plough and plate. And they do it in the most eye-catching, headline-grabbing ways possible.

This year that will include a four-tier pork pie cake (stop slobbering at the back) and workshops where youngsters are shown how to make models from cheese, as well as the traditional judging of the best meat, cheeses and dairy products.

“So many people today think their food just comes from supermarket shelves,” says Mary Morten, Bakewell Show president and member on the Food and Farming Committee. “And at a show like this it’s important to emphasise and educate that’s certainly not the case.”

The fact that this is the marquee’s landmark 25th year at the show is testament to its success.

“The idea first came about because there was a British food and farming exhibition in Hyde Park, London, in 1989,” explains 73-year-old Mary, a farmer’s wife who has been involved with the show for more than 40 years.

“Organisers of that encouraged all agricultural shows to put on exhibitions, and we thought it would be a good idea for Bakewell. It’s been going ever since.”

That first year was somewhat small scale compared to today. Back then, cheese tasting was held in what was little more than a one metre-wide makeshift tunnel with a plastic strip doorway. There were just 16 entries.

Today, however, the whole thing takes place in a specially air-conditioned marquee. There are 26 classes of dairy competition and almost as many for meat and meat products.

A children’s choice means one cheese is recommended by a specially selected panel of youngsters - “they normally go for something quite mature like a bit of Stilton or cheddar,” notes Mary.

And this year, things have expanded slightly. For the first time ever cooking demonstrations with local chefs will be held in a special second tent.

“We’re looking forward to it,” says Mary. “We’ve been going 25 years, and hopefully we’re here to stay now.”