TOM Kerridge, the award-winning and popular television chef, brought his Pub in the Park celebration of food and music to Bath for the second year, filling Victoria Park with the joyful sounds of live music and people enjoying some great food and drink.
There were big names everywhere. The list of chefs who were demonstrating and had pop-up versions of their pubs or restaurants included Angela Hartnett, Josh Eggleton of the Michelin-starred Pony and Trap near the Chew Valley lakes, and Tom Kerridge himself. The music line-up featured Basement Jaxx, Gabrielle, Texas and Will Young, who wowed the audience with his energetic wiggle.
I went on the Friday night, with a friend who is registered blind. Going to a big open air event with someone who is blind gives you a very different perspective. You have to lead your companion by the hand or, in my friend’s case, she holds my arm with one hand and her white cane in the other. We decided not to take her guide dog.`
Effectively, you have to be the eyes of a second person. You have to describe where you are and what you are looking at – my friend has very acute hearing and a very good sense of smell, so she could hear the music, but not see the performers, and she knew when we were near a pop-up restaurant or passing a spice or gin stall, but she wanted to know what everything looked like.
You also have to keep looking at the ground, because you have to give your companion a running (joke!) commentary – not the easiest thing while we were picking our way across people sitting on the grass near the main stage. Most people were helpfull and friendly, particularly if they spotted the white cane, and we managed to knock over only one glass of beer (he was very good about it!)
The area around the food and drink stalls was quieter than near the music or chef demo stages, so we could move easily and were able to talk to many of the retailers and producers. We were really impressed by the care the stall-holders as they gave my friend taster tots of different gins or an interesting grapefruit aperitif (lucky thing – I was the driver), or offering tasters of nuts and olives.
Our favourite of the food stands was a Middle Eastern stall laden with spiced nuts, turkish delight, feta cheese, olives, and baklava and other pastries. They generously invited us to try everything. We did, and then we bought – you really are more likely to buy if you can try first.
One stand that caught our interest was The Soldiers Charity (formerly the Army Benevolent Fund) – the theme, appropriately for a food festival, was The Big Curry, a fund-raising event, now in its 12th year, which also supports the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity and the RAF Benevolent Fund.
The Lord Mayor of the City of London hosts an annual banquet at the Guildhall, the Big Curry Lunch, which is attended by about 1,300 people, including royalty, senior officers of all three services, politicians, business leaders and more.
There are also DIY events you can organise at home. It’s a simple idea. If you love curry (and who doesn’t?), log on to the Big Curry pages of the ABF website, to find out more. It could be an intimate dinner for four, big supper for friends and family, or a street party or buffet in the hall for the community. For more details visit www.soldierscharity.org/big-curry/get-involved/