Food with a distinctly local flavour was on the menu at a Christmas festival held at North Walsham’s Atrium arts centre on Saturday, along with 2,000 paper platefuls of meals aimed at promoting north Norfolk’s fishing industry.

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Made from decorated cardboard and paper, The seafood-themed dishes were created by local school children as part of an competition dreamed up by food and drink festival organiser Rebecca Matthews, who is manager of North Walsham’s Griffon Area Partnership.

The event, which attracted more than 1,000 visitors, was run in partnership with North Norfolk Business Forum, with funding from the Pathfinder loan and grant scheme and further sponsorship provided by local businesses and organisations.

“We were stunned to have such a fantastic turnout,” Ms Matthews said. “The stallholders all said what a lovely atmosphere the festival had and, because of that, most of them want to come back.”

Other attractions at the event ranged from a truffle-making demonstration to food tastings, with more than 20 stands selling local produce from bread, pickles and pies, to chutney, chillies and chocolates.

“The idea of the festival was to push the smaller producers, as they are the ones who need the help and, from our perspective, we want to raise the profile of North Walsham and I think we have achieved that,” Ms Matthews said.

Visitors also had a chance to drop in to the Atrium’s food technology suite to see cookery demonstrations by top local chefs, including Steven Norgate of the award-winning Beechwood Hotel, Daniel Smith of gastro pub the Ingham Swan and Stuart Tattersall from the Gunton Arms, which was named Michelin pub of the year, 2012.

Other cooks included freelancer Derrol Waller, who served up family friendly, “fast” food and Mark Rushen, of North Walsham tearooms The Cockerel, who demonstrated quick and easy to prepare canapés, while artisan baker John Watt teamed up with north Norfolk MP Norman Lamb to judge a “bread with a twist” competition.

Ms Matthews, who headed a team of organisers made up of Griffon staff Stella Shanahan and David Gosling and professional events co-ordinator April Vogel, is now looking at the possibility of running a second festival later in the year.

“The demonstrations were so packed you couldn’t get in the door, the chefs were fantastic and even though this was a first time for us, there was a relaxed, happy atmosphere and it went beautifully,” Ms Matthews said.

Atrium manager Joe Ballard said: “Particularly at Christmas time, it is really important to support local businesses and it is wonderful to see all the Atrium’s different spaces animated by local people demonstrating how it can be used to its best potential.”

The website created for the festival will be used to promote future food-related events in the area. For more information, visit www.foodanddrinknr28.co.uk.

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