At the beginning of July, the North East saw one of the biggest Chilli events return for it’s 2nd year, the suitably named North East Chilli Fest. Seaton Delaval once again become the backdrop to weekend of sunshine and spicy fun, courtesy of organisers Mark & Shelley Deakin who run Hot Stuff Chilli Company.
The couple are both passionate about all things spicy, they set up their company after realising that their was nobody catering for Chilliheads in the North East of England. They soon progressed to organising the festival for the same reasons. The majority of Chilli Festivals traditionally are located in the south of the UK, but this is changing. Next year the Deakins are also jointly organising The Lakes Chilli Festival which promises to be a hot event too.
Seaton Delaval Hall on a regular day
The North East Chilli Fest 2012 was an event I had really wanted to attend, but due to the 700 mile round trip, I felt it was a little too much, but then I heard nothing but great things from those that attended, including Phil Palmer from the Dartmoor Chilli Farm who was quoted as saying “If Carlsberg did Chilli Festivals” (and had an 800 mile round trip!) I knew I had missed something special.
The Hall transformed
So this year I was offered a lift up to the Festival with one of the traders in return for helping them during the two days.The Festival opened at 10.00am both days and offered a park & ride scheme for visitors, which I think worked really well as last year the front lawns were utilised as car parking, potentially limiting space for vendors and entertainment. So this year there was a large area for visitors to sit and eat their food from the many hot food vendors, and generally relax in the sunshine with a pint of beer or cider.
The festival in full swing with views out to sea
This new format was a great idea as it really added to the festival atmosphere. The grassy area accommodated the main entertainments marquee where bands played and also diverse acts like Chris Cross, the human contortionist performed to the crowds.
The main chilli vendors were in the courtyard of the main building, with an outer and inner square which created a circuit to guide visitors around enabling them to stock up on their old favourites and new products.
The layout meant that no trader was hidden or missed, most of the traders were under supplied market style stalls which gave the area the vibe and feeling of a busy market. It was good to see the likes of Mr Vikki’s, Grim Reaper Foods, Chilli Junkies, Fire Foods, The Chilli Pepper Company, A Bit Chilli!, Bims Kitchen, Chilli Pepper Petes, Crazy Fred’s, Edible Ornamentals and Capsaicinoia plus m any more.
The sun shone and Mark assured me that he had ordered the weather to be nice and sunny, but not too hot! and he got it just right. When I took a walk around, it was great to see families sitting in the sun, soaking up the festival atmosphere.
A highlight of any Chilli Festival has to be the Chilli Eating competition and the two this weekend highlighted just how hot the locals like their food!, with local boy Dan Prinn from Mr Vikki’s winning on the Saturday.
Chilli eating competition winner Dan Prinn (right) with Host Rob Dumbrell
One thing that struck me, being from down south, was how friendly the people were. This also added to the festival feeling.
So thanks to Mark & Shelley for pulling out all the stops and making this years festival even better than the previous year. Here’s to 2014 and their other venture, The Lakes Chilli Festival 2014 which is being held at Dalemain Hall in Penrith on the 2nd & 3rd August.