Frightened by the horsemeat? Getting sick over GM crops? Brighton & Hove Food & Drink Festival has been promoting local alternatives for over a decade and this Easter’s Spring Festival brings a full week of events to central Brighton (see website, FYI below). Managing director Nick Mosley is your guide.
How big is the festival now?
We run two festivals each year, the Spring Harvest and September’s Autumn Harvest, engaging with around 350 local food growers. We also run the weekly Churchill Square Farmers’ Market, and from 20th April we’re running another major monthly farmers’ market on Old Steine, which has been two years in the planning.
What are the consumer benefits of buying local?
We should all be eating more locally and seasonally, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy food and drink from abroad. Globalisation has meant that many of the poorest in the world are entirely reliant on the West buying their produce. To turn our backs on them would be sentencing them, their families and communities to abject poverty or worse. The ethics of food are an absolute minefield and there’s no easy solution. The festival obviously celebrates local food and drink, and creates ways for consumers to engage through our events and farmers’ markets, but until local food supply chains are established then we’ll never remove the dominance of the big supermarket chains and the convenience and economy they bring.
How have recent meat scandals affected local producers?
The horsemeat scandal has probably been a good thing on the whole. It’s made consumers from all walks of life think a little harder about what they’re putting into their mouths and what they’re feeding their children. It’s not only an issue about horsemeat entering the food chain, it’s also about the crap that goes into cheap meat produce – if you saw it in its raw state it would probably make you heave. We don’t like to preach about what people eat, however animal welfare, sustainability and locality are all seeping into the popular consciousness and that can only be a good thing. We don’t need to eat red meat every day of the week – there are plenty of delicious and healthy alternatives out there. But I’ve no issue with eating horsemeat as long as it’s not pumped full of veterinary drugs and
is correctly labelled.
How does the festival reflect changing public tastes?
When the festival was founded a decade ago, local food wasn’t really on the table. People enjoyed good food, but I don’t think they thought too hard about where it came from or the methods used to produce it. An interesting example of a local food we’ve nurtured is the Sussex wine industry. We’ve always put local wine at the heart of the festival events and it’s pleasing to see the profile grow not only in our region but also nationally and internationally.
What do you think about the minimum alcohol pricing proposals?
Ultimately it’ll only affect the poorest in society: middle class drinkers are easily going to find a few more pence for a bottle of wine. I think we should probably be looking a little more cleverly at this, perhaps reducing tax for on-sales in pubs and bars but increasing tax for retailer off-sales. Brighton is packed with off-licences and corner shops that are selling the cheapest alcohol out there, and for some reason they all get 24-hour licenses, whilst restaurants still struggle to gain a midnight liquor license. The mind boggles.