Didy Ward is the Chair of the Bungay Events and Business Association. Ahead of the association’s inaugural Food and Drink Festival this weekend, she explains what she loves about the town – and why the Waveney Valley ripe for a new annual street market
Having visited Bungay for a few years, when we visited my in-laws in nearby Earsham, we always knew we would retire here. The opportunity came earlier than we thought when my career in market research took me into a freelancing route – and I could do that anywhere! We jumped at the chance to downsize and found our little house in Bungay very quickly. I immediately became involved in the local community through joining various organisations before becoming a Town Councillor. After two terms I stood down and having opened a shop – Moth Crafts – in Bungay I joined the local business association. I now Chair that association: the Bungay Events and Business Association (BEBA).
What does your job entail?
Now I am retired I have more time to devote to ‘town’ activities. BEBA runs the street markets and when the last organiser of those wanted to step down, I stepped up to run them. We used to have three a year: the Garden Market in May, an Antiques Fair in July and the Christmas Market in December. Just before I took over running the markets, BEBA agreed that Black Dog Events should run the Antiques Fair. Sadly, that is no longer run as a street market which has left a gap in our street markets calendar.
How have the past couple of years been for businesses in the town, with the pandemic?
Like all towns, Bungay saw some closures due to the pandemic, but it also saw some new businesses opening. We do have a few empty shops – but they remain empty primarily because the owners are unwilling to invest in the repairs needed to make them lettable. We do have people who are actively seeking decent retail premises in the town. Most businesses adapted to the pandemic well, changing their business habits to keep everyone safe and making deliveries rather than relying on people coming to their shops.
What do you love about Bungay as a town?
We first fell in love with Bungay as visitors: the quirky shops, the relaxed atmosphere, the historic buildings and the chickens on the roundabout – sadly, they are no more. Since moving here, we have discovered so much more. We didn’t realise there was a castle here at first and that there are so many great walks, especially along the river. But most of all it is the strong community spirit there is here.
When did the idea for the Bungay Food and Drink Festival come about and will it be the first one of its kind?
Bungay did host a Food and Drink Fair a few years ago, paid for through an EU fund and many of the stallholders who were there will be at our new Food and Drink Street Market. The idea has been bubbling under for a while but with everything now back to normal, we felt this was a good time to launch it, especially as we no longer have an Antiques Market in Bungay.
When and where will it take place and what can people expect on the day?
To launch the new Food and Drink Street Market we are creating a Food and Drink Festival this year, with other activities going on around it. In the lead up to the weekend, and following, many of our local cafes, pubs, restaurants and food and drink outlets are holding special tastings and tours, or themed events and there will be a week-long exhibition on the history of food and farming in the Waveney Valley in St. Mary’s church starting on Saturday October 22. Also on the Saturday, in the afternoon at the Fisher Theatre, will be a debate where many of our leading food producers will discuss how climate change, the energy crisis and biodiversity loss are affecting how our food is produced.
The Food and Drink Street Market itself is on Sunday October 23, where the best food and drink sellers from across the region will line Earsham Street in Bungay, which is always closed for street market days. At the same time, on the Castle Bailey, just behind Earsham Street, there will be entertainment, a cookery theatre and some other stalls. We want the event to be as inclusive as possible so we shall have a Skills and Training tent for those interested in taking up a career in hospitality, as well as a ‘jobs vacant’ board, and Waveney Food Bank will be there demonstrating on how to rustle up tasty meals from the kinds of things that get donated to the foodbank.
Is there an abundance of local food and drink producers that need shouting about?
There certainly is and many of these will be taking part in the event. They include Fen Farm – home of the famous Baron Bigod cheese; Old Hall Farm – which supports, and practises, regenerative farming; Wakelyns – who have promoted agrofarming for many years and Hodmedod – who have pioneered and championed the greater use of pulses (both sustainable and nutritious) in our diets.
Will this be the first of many such events, if all goes well?
The Food and Drink Street Market will join the Garden Market and the Christmas Market as the third fixed annual street market in Bungay.
The inaugural Bungay Food and Drink Festival takes place on Saturday October 22 and Sunday October 23, 2022. On the Saturday, An Authors, Artist and Agriculture Exhibition will take place at St Mary’s Church, from 10am-4pm; and Food and Farming in the Waveney Valley – The Big Debate will take place in the Fisher Theatre, from 1-5.30pm. On the Sunday, The Food and Drink Street Market will take place in Earsham Street, from 9am-4pm and at Bungay Castle Bailey, from 10am-4pm. As part of the Festival Fringe leading up to this weekend, many cafes, pubs, restaurants and food and drink outlets are hosting special events. Visit Bungay Street Markets on Facebook and bungay-suffolk.co.uk to find out more.