A special indoor market will showcase more than 40 indigenous food producers and suppliers from throughout the West of Ireland during this year’s Galway Food Festival, taking place from 13-17 April.
The new ‘Halla Bia’ market at the former Print Works on Market Street highlights Galway’s need for a similar permanent market, according to festival organiser Heather Flaherty, who noted that the initiative will be a highlight of this year’s event.
It will showcase the best of Irish artisan produce from 14-16 April from 10am to 6pm during the Festival.
“Halla Bia, Galway’s first indoor market, I think will highlight the need in Galway for that type of space permanently because it’s a really, really great place for small businesses to start,” says Heather.
“For small food businesses and drinks businesses, it’s perfect because you get to interact direct with customers and sell the products without a huge amount of risk and we’ve found from year one that with the festival, the small companies have actually gotten a leg up and gotten some leverage.”
That leverage has seen those small businesses network with retailers and customers, forming new working relationships and growing their businesses. Heather cites Galway’s Dough Bros as a prime example.
“You see the success of the Dough Bros who openly attribute the food festivals with part of their success and Galway Food Tours, which started in the first year of the Galway Food Festival, so if we had that kind of platform permanently in the city it would just be phenomenal.”
Galway’s designation as European Capital of Culture 2020 and Region of Gastronomy 2018 are also the “fruits of the labour” of Galway’s thriving food scene, notes the chef, who runs Builín Blasta Café in Spiddal.
“The brilliance of Galway, the food culture, the arts, the literature and the celebrations that we have throughout the year, I think the likes of the Region of Gastronomy and Galway 2020 are the fruits of the labour that have gone before.”
The designations are a just reward for the hard work done in Galway throughout the year according to the chef, who says they will also serve to grow the existing festivals.
“It’s a real pat on the back for Galway volunteers and the people who work hard to make the festivals happen. Just in April alone we have one festival every weekend and it’s absolutely fantastic and we have that throughout the summer too.”
Festival goers can expect an increased programme of new and exciting food events at this year’s Galway Food Festival which takes place over the Easter Bank Holiday weekend, from tomorrow, Thursday 13 April, to Easter Bank Holiday Monday, 17 April.
With more than 100 events on offer, including food tours, talks and cookery demonstrations, Heather says “there’s really something for everybody”.
Now in its sixth year, Heather says the event is continuing to go from strength to strength.
“Every year people just get inspired,” she explains.
Asked if it’s difficult to keep the festival fresh, she replies, “The diversity of food is phenomenal so as a chef you’re always learning and growing. You have new ingredients and new inspiration so it’s actually challenging to limit it if you can believe it.”
The theme of this year’s festival, ‘Food and Community’, promises to offer visitors and locals alike a taste of the different food cultures in Galway.
One of Heather’s “pet projects”, Breaking Bread, aims to embody the festival’s theme of community. The outdoor feast takes place on Easter Monday from 2-5pm at Fishmarket Square, Spanish Arch, and will showcase and celebrate the diverse community groups in Galway through a shared love of food - one thing all cultures have in common. Community groups ranging from Lithuanian, Chinese, Mexican and several others will bring traditional and modern dishes to share with the public.
“It’s something I’ve wanted to do from the first year I joined the festival,” Heather says.
“I always wanted to do this community feast and I always had this vision of a real communal atmosphere and celebration of food.”
The event is being hosted in partnership with Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture and is part of Cruinniú na Cásca, a Creative Ireland initiative of nationwide celebrations taking place on Monday, 17 April, a new annual Culture Day to improve access to cultural events for children and communities.
Galway Food Festival runs from 13-17 April. More information is available at www.galwayfoodfestival.com. See the Galway Independent’s special festival feature on pages 29-36.
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