A REGIONAL celebration of food and drink will take place virtually this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The second annual Blasu/Taste North East Wales event was to be held in October after a successful debut in 2019 saw more than 30 businesses and 400 visitors take part in a series of activities over 40 days.
Organised by Clwydian Range Food and Drink and Llangollen and Dee Valley Food and Drink (formerly the Good Grub Club), with the support of rural regeneration agency Cadwyn Clwyd, the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley AONB and the local authorities of Flintshire, Wrexham and Denbighshire, the decision has been taken to host the festival online to ensure the health and safety of participants.
Over the past three months, many companies across the region have adapted operations to continue supplying customers, in a bid to survive the impact Coronavirus has had on the economy.
And with many people relying on independent stores and producers during the lockdown period, the ‘buy local’ message is more important than ever.
Donna Hughes, Business Partnerships Officer at Cadwyn Clwyd, believes it is important Taste North East Wales still goes ahead, to mark the amazing resilience of the industry.
“The event was always about shining a light on our amazing food and drink producers and hospitality businesses,” said Donna.
“Since the onset of the pandemic they have faced huge challenges and these difficulties will continue over the coming months as we emerge from lockdown.
“Businesses have shown how crucial they are to their communities, stepping up to meet demand, increasing deliveries to help people shielding, and providing the people of North East Wales with incredible customer service and locally-sourced food and drink.”
She added: “We want to pay tribute and provide a platform for them to showcase their products.
“We had planned for this year to be bigger and better, so that’s on hold until 2021, but we can still celebrate what North East Wales has to offer and champion our brilliant food and drink producers in style.”
Final details are to be confirmed, though virtual events will include a production tour and Q&A session, a viewing of restaurants using social-distancing measures, cookery demonstrations and an interactive tasting, with samples distributed in advance.
Funded by the Welsh Government Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, via the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government, organisers want to hear from firms in the area about how they are planning for ‘the new normal’ and welcoming customers back as safely and securely as possible.
Coordinator Jane Clough said: “The online events we hold later this year will give businesses the opportunity to display and share their products, but we also want their stories.
“We are close to these communities and as an organisation have been on hand throughout to help signpost businesses to funding and support, but ultimately they have stood up and met the challenges of this Coronavirus lockdown head-on.
“Some have even seen a rise in sales and will change the way they operate in the future; others have increased production, modified machinery and technology or even started to grow and develop new ideas.”
She added: “We know many of the businesses with ideas for virtual events and stories about lockdown and how they are emerging from it, but there are many others out there; we would love to hear from any food and drink business in the area who would like to be a part of this virtual Taste North East Wales.
“We want to share with customers the lengths people have gone to in the face of adversity, how communities have come together, and how, when we needed them most, our local shops and suppliers went above and beyond for the people of North East Wales.”