Al fresco dining for the festival-goer

26th August 2005 at 01:00
The first folk festival Steve Heap ever attended was at Keele University.

That was back in 1965, and today he is director of FolkArts England, the national development agency for folk, roots, traditional and acoustic music. "When I started going to festivals," he says, "it was really plain and simple. There were some burger bars, but not many. We didn't even have hot dogs. What tended to happen was that the guy who sold food outside the cinema got the job of doing it on the site.

"Quite often, especially at northern festivals, you got things like the mobile fish and chip van that went round the streets. But there was not much else going on, and people simply catered for themselves, just repeating what they were doing at home.

"But in the Seventies, the mobile business started to take off. More burger bars appeared, and then things like jacket potatoes. There were such things as Food For Folk, a group of guys in the West Midlands who knew how to cook up a barbecue and converted themselves into a festival catering outfit.

They introduced the curry, and before you knew it, you had a roast going, and barbecue chicken as well.

"In the late Seventies, the demand for a decent and more dedicated vegetarian option started to blossom, and that really took off during the Eighties to the point now where a vegetarian caterer must have a separate grill; some festivals even have vegan caterers. And gone are the days when you would just ask for a coffee. The list of different varieties is now 25 items long."

Where to go

* This bank holiday weekend sees the 41st Towersey Village Festival, near Thame in Oxfordshire, where as well as enjoying dozens of big-name folk acts, festival-goers can concoct their own five-day picnic from no fewer than 15 different food stalls. As well as a range of vegetarian dishes, the menu includes Mexican, French and Indian food, potato wedges, jacket potatoes, crepes, baguettes, burgers, hot dogs, genuine ice cream ("You can't get away with Mr Whippy stuff any more," says Steve Heap), fresh doughnuts, specialist confectionery and "real lemonade made on the spot".

For details, visit or call 01629 827016.

* BunkFest 2005 (music, dance, steam and beer...) is at Wallingford, Oxfordshire, from September 2-4 (

* The Fylde Folk Festival, near Preston, Lancashire, runs from September 2-4 (

* The 17th Off The Tracks Festival ("21st century eclectic roots global trance dance fusion...") is at Castle Donington, Leicestershire, from September 2-4 (

* Bromyard Folk Festival in Herefordshire runs from September 9-11. Visit for details.

* For details of the Tenterden Folk Festival in Kent (September 30 to October 2) visit

* The Both Sides Of The Tweed music festival is at Selkirk from October 7-9 (

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