Any bank holiday worth its salt has a festival. And last Monday in Harrogate was the whole salt, chips, vinegar, and everything.
Harrogate does the beautiful and classy thing very well, and since 2013 various national polls have voted it the ‘happiest place to live’ in Britain. So the cool vibe of the UK’s only national street food festival – the StrEatfood Festival – slots in very nicely with the North Yorkshire town. This is its third year, but first time at the Great Yorkshire Showground. A sound move I’d say: parking was ‘a piece of cake’. Entrance was a fiver for me, and my incredibly long Youngest Offspring slumped the appropriate amount to look her under 13 age, in order to go free. I do like a child who is a bargain.
Our bags were checked by security as we entered, which confused my child. I made a quip about the drugs that I was planning to sell, which caused her to pull a concerned face, which caused me to pull one in turn. Does my child really think I might sell drugs?! In Harrogate, goodness me! Clearly yes.
In much the same way a blanket of heat envelopes you as you step off the plane to start your holiday, so did the melee of street food scents here encase you as you enterted. You could almost see them spiral up from the vintage camper vans, quirky horse boxes and bijou trucks and snake towards you: earthy Ivory Coast spices; smokey Yorkshire beef; rich, sweet Churro batter, with the fresh fizz of Prosecco wafting gently behind.
We stood a moment just to take it all in. The choice seemed endless: Greek, Indian, Carribean. Just needed Central African Republic and Richard Osman would be happy.
We set up camp and had a bit of a sniff around. I was very tempted by the Lebanese food – partly because I’d recently had it at a friend’s party in London. He’d hired a Lebanese caterer to set up in the street outside his house. I kept going back for helpings because Wayne Sleep lives in his ‘mews’ and I thought I might spot him. (I know, I live a small life.) But there was only some bloke from Hollyoaks, who joined us, and I had no clue who he was. But at least I became very familiar with Lebanese food.
But the smallest hooman of the family wanted a Yorkshire pudding wrap (I’m trying to Northernise her a bit: on our last visit up North, as part of her indoctrination, she had one of those massive Yorkypuds in York.) We present ourselves to the Yorkshire pudding man, however he only had beef left. Youngest Offspring announces that she doesn’t like beef. What?! Since when? Are you my child?? I glance vaguely round the field for another child… I can only apologise to you all; I will rectify this at the earliest opportunity.
So, we disappoint the vendor and make our way next door. She wants a burger. I highlight to her that it’s made from 100% Yorkshire BEEF. Sigh…I’d have taken a photo for you, but it was scoffed faster than you can say ‘I love beef’.
The festival is the brainchild of Cathy McConaghy of StrEat PR, who herself started up as a street food seller after a big change in her life. But it’s not my story to tell, so here’s her blog. It’s inspirational and a kind of against-the-odds tale that, like the best tales, involves a trundle wheel. For younger viewers, who have never operated a trundle wheel at school (and right there is a huge gap in your education, and your life skills), I give you a picture of one.
We mooched about the field, which was alive with street performers, entertainers, vintage fair rides and one of those stationary bungee jump things.
The bubble making lady was rather clever – I am tempted to get a fishing net and try what she did at home. Just on a quiet Tuesday or something.
It was the music that really made the festival for us. I mean it is quintessential to a festival isn’t? An alternative brass band, called the Baghdaddies, playing a fusion of music styles, including Madness. Good choice.
A well coiffed DJ on the stage. And an acoustic guitarist called Jonny Skinner, whose rich voice entertained us with the likes of Foo Fighters, The Kinks and Coldplay. At the risk of becoming all poptastic, here’s a snippet for you to guess the song. What is it? And band? Both for the full mark. No half marks mind.
All in all, not too shabby a way to spend an afternoon, not too shabby a way to eat a large helping of Churros. Well, maybe we had two helpings. Maybe…