Brighton cheese lovers left feeling Blue after festival fail
What’s got Brighton so cheesed off? (Hint: It rhymes with The Schmig Schmeese Schmestival)
What is it about cheese festivals?! We don’t seem to have much luck in Brighton.
Let me take you back to last summer to set the scene. Around June time, social media was awash with excitement about an upcoming cheese festival to hit Victoria Gardens. The organisers, CheeseFestUK, opened a pre-registration booking system, for the keenest of cheese eaters to get tickets for just £3. Teaser videos were released, promising “all your favourite cheeses” including camembert, mozzarella sticks, nachos, fondue and more. You might remember that things didn’t quite go to plan come August.
Day one of the “sell-out” festival saw tickets sold on the door into an already overcrowded area, hot food queues over one hour long in baking heat and vendors selling out barely hours into the day. All of this and not a mozzarella stick or baked camembert in sight. My friend Aisling had been unlucky in getting caught up in day one’s madness and quickly wrote a blog post to vent her disappointment. It went viral and got picked up by both local and national press – which is just proof that you should never piss off cheese lovers amirite?
CheeseFestUK apologised, citing unexpected demand (yes, really), and, after a slightly less chaotic second day (but still shit nonetheless as that is the day I visited), essentially disappeared from social media until they began promoting their next city. At the same time, another cheese festival organiser, The Big Cheese Festival, had got wind of this massive cock-up and swooped in to steal the limelight with a PR stunt in the form of free tickets for all affected. And so, seven months before their event was due to take place, Big Cheese Festival had everyone’s attention.
Things seemed a little odd when I realised my tickets had never been sent across by January, but The Big Cheese Festival assured me it was due to an incredibly busy few months and felt they had “established an incredible mix of artisan cheese, boutique cheese farmers and a plethora of the gooiest contemporary cheese vendors and are ridiculously excited to bring them all together in Brighton”. Fair enough, I thought, roll on March then.
Which brings us to today. We rocked up to Hove Lawns and blinked a little at the huge, empty grassy area that had been fenced off. I reminded myself not to worry, because 70% of the festival was to take place under cover (according to the update below), and we plodded through the mud.
In reality, the site consisted of approximately four cheesemongers, four actually-cheese-related food stalls with queues already snaking around the lawns, some beer tents and a couple of random burger and chip vans.
To be clear and fair to the cheese vendors, these were authentic sellers from Sussex and beyond with an interesting selection of cheese, and opportunities to try before you buy. The barrier to this, sadly, was the density of crowds around each stall, clambering to spear some Sussex Charmer with their toothpick before moving onto the next. And I suppose you couldn’t blame them really; it was unclear to me what ticket holders had actually paid for, as it’s safe to say there was definitely not £22 worth of cheese or chutney samples on offer.
Brandon and I walked past the few food vendors, deciding which we wanted to eat. We noted the halloumi fries and mac and cheese stalls looked very familiar to that of CheeseFestUK, the deep-fried cheese doughnuts stand didn’t take card payments and the BBQ shack was too busy for us to even reach the menu. After a lap of the site, stopping to buy some Saint Giles from The Cheese Hut (Hove-based, FYI) and sage and onion gouda from the Cornish Gouda Co., we walked straight out. Heading straight to Twitter and Instagram stories to warn other cheese fiends (because where else), I saw I wasn’t alone.
What can we learn from these fiascos? That a lot of people really fucking love cheese, for one thing, and will rant about it on Twitter. But it seems even the most “experienced” event organisers can’t bring the gouda home. So why are we letting these events exploit our love of delicious food cheese, when we could be celebrating our favourite local suppliers? Let’s not let these events tarnish our great love affair with cheese, like it has for this guy.
You’ve ruined cheese for me you bastard!!
— Robert Morgan (@robmorg22) March 3, 2018
Were you at The Big Cheese Festival? Tell me about your experience in the comments below or Tweet me over at @thirdplacebtn.