A Food Event for London Web

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A Food Event for London Web
A Food Event for London:
Consultation and Vision
Jim Playfoot and Henry Playfoot
White Loop Ltd
February 2008
David Smith, City of London
Introduction
This report is the result of a series of interviews held in late 2007 and early 2008 with
key people working in London on food, events or related areas. Our overall objective is
to define the nature, scope and design of an event(s) that will help meet some or all of
the objectives set out in the London Food Strategy.
The participants are listed at the end of the report. The ideas and recommendations
provided represent a distillation of the views expressed. During the interviews, clear
areas of consensus emerged: these have formed the basis of our findings. Where there
was clear disagreement amongst participants, this has been highlighted.
Report Structure
The document is divided into three key sections: Context, Vision
and Making it Happen. These are described below:
Section 1: Context
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This part of the report aims to reflect the current
situation in three key areas:
• London and national context in terms of food
and food policy: how does this impact on the
design and development of a new food event?
• A brief exploration of current food events in
London: what they offer, where they succeed/fail,
and examples of best practice
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• Broader events environment in London: how does the
current calendar influence the nature and timing of a new
food event?
Section 2: Vision
Based on the findings of this consultation and drawing on our own thinking, this is White
Loop’s vision for a new London food event(s). The focus is on identifying core
components, who the event should be for and what the key messages should be.
Section 3: Making it Happen
This part of the report reflects opinion around the key challenges of delivering a new
food event for London and identifies some of the ways in which these challenges can be
met.
Finally, we have outlined our key recommendations. This section includes options for further lines of enquiry – projects to investigate and people to talk to.
A Food Event for London: Consultation and Vision
3
Strategy Unit, Cabinet Office (2008) Food: An Analysis of the Issues
Context
Food and Eating
Food is on the agenda. There is currently a crisis in cooking: a generation has grown up
without basic cookery skills and lacking a fundamental knowledge of ingredients. The
connection between the food we eat and our health is undeniable, and the focus of
health policy is shifting ever more to preventative measures.
The Government launched its Healthy Living Strategy on 23 January 2008, and the
Cabinet Office is due to present Gordon Brown their full report on UK food in March;
the political drive to improve the diet of the nation continues to gather momentum.
Interest in the food we eat, the provenance of ingredients and the
environmental impact of our food choices are all growing apace.
Farmers markets are increasing their trade and revenues
exponentially. Sales of organic produce are rising at around 25%
every year. The notion of local food is beginning to gain
popularity and support. Supermarkets are seen in some
quarters as the bad eggs of the food world. However,
while these developments may be seen as broadly
positive, the spread of ‘foodie’ culture is creating a
divide. Consideration of, and enthusiasm for, the food
we eat does not extend to every part of society.
Fresh produce is viewed by many as expensive and
exclusive. Shopping locally and cooking from scratch are
perceived as the domain of those with the luxuries of
time and money. For some, particularly in London,
shopping locally for fresh produce is not even an option –
the shops simply do not exist. Supermarkets and convenience
stores are viewed as the cheap and easy option, and, in some
cases, are the only choice.
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That said, food is not simply a lifestyle choice. While there is some correlation between
food decisions and socio-economic demographics, this is a simplistic reading of the
facts. There are many within less affluent communities (particularly in London) for whom
fresh produce and cooking are an essential part of every day life. Equally, more affluent
sections of society (particularly high earners without children) are amongst the least
likely to buy fresh food and cook.
What is generally agreed upon is that there needs to be more mechanisms to encourage
and support people to change their behaviour in regard to the food they eat. This will
not happen over night. There is an opportunity to build on current trends in food and
cooking: the Government’s recent commitment to bring back cookery lessons for all
secondary school children represents the broad direction of travel.
Crucially, any new initiative needs to be clear about its messages (as people are
increasingly bombarded with information about food) and must focus on changing
behaviour amongst those who are being left behind by the food revolution.
A Food Event for London: Consultation and Vision
5
London Food Events: An Overview
London is a seething mass of projects, initiatives and festivals. This, in itself, presents a
challenge. A new addition to the calendar will have to battle for space amongst the
myriad other events that happen every year (and all the new ones that continue to be
launched).
At one end of the spectrum, London is now the focus for a number of large-scale food
events. Taste of London, BBC Good Food Show and the London Food Festival are all
examples of high profile, well-publicised and attended events. This type of event usually
charges for admission and tends to be held in a single large-scale event space.
While events of this nature are successful, and offer the visitor the chance to experience
cooking and eating first hand, it is difficult to argue they are impacting significantly on
behaviour: those who visit these shows tend to be food enthusiasts, with a higher than
average disposable income. Also, staging an event at a single location presents a
significant challenge in terms of encouraging people to visit.
At the next level, there are more localised food events that tend to focus on a particular
type of food or cooking. An example of this is the Seafood and Oyster Fair at Hayes
Galleria. Launched 18 years ago by the National Federation of Fishmongers, this adopts
a now proven approach to the food festival: there are cookery demonstrations, lots of
things to try and opportunities to buy. The Seafood and Oyster Fair is free and
generates interest and revenue for both the surrounding area and those
businesses participating.
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This event is very much seen as a success although, again,
would perhaps have limited appeal to those not already
enthusiastic about food. Other similarly successful events
include the Food Lovers Fairs held in Covent Garden.
These events, like the larger events described above,
tend to be run as commercial ventures and focus on
showcasing excellence in food.
Finally, there are increasingly examples of local food
events and projects run either in collaboration with
London Boroughs or by community organisations/NGOs.
While it’s difficult to gauge the effectiveness of many of
these initiatives, their focus tends to be more around
behaviour change and engagement around food issues.
The Growing Communities projects in Hackney and Stoke
Newington represent examples of the kind of creative thinking
that’s currently going on at a local level.
The Flavas of Peckham project – an attempt to bring local food retailers and
restaurateurs together to outside-cater food inspired by the community – was small scale
in terms of business involvement and participation but presents an interesting model.
There are many other small-scale local initiatives being run within communities in
London that aim to bring people together around food, encourage an appreciation of
local food culture and support food businesses. These events provide a source of good
ideas, a bank of expertise and, potentially, a ready-made set of partners for any
community-driven initiative.
The London Events Calendar
The last 10 years has seen huge growth in the number and range of events held in
London and, in particular, those held in outdoor spaces. There is rarely a week that goes
by, particularly outside of winter, that there is not an array of events being held across
the capital. Outside of food events, there are many large-scale music shows – Party in
the Park; O2 Festival; Lovebox Weekender – cultural events – Notting Hill Carnival;
Mela; Thames Festival – and sports events – the Marathon; Tour of Britain; Boat Race.
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A Food Event for London: Consultation and Vision
Boroughs across London also run a variety of events throughout the year ranging in
scale from the large – Lambeth Country Show; fireworks displays – to the more
localised. In short, the calendar is saturated and new events are being launched every
year.
The vast majority of large events have a commercial focus. In order to ensure footfall,
they tend to require extensive marketing and, having done this, the logistical demands
around delivering the event are significant. A recent report for Tourism South East put
the cost of staging a one-off 3 day event in a single location at just over £1m. This
includes all marketing, communications, organisation and logistics.
While there was some support, during the consultation, for a single,
centrally-located London Food event, consensus was that this
would not only fail to meet many of the objectives in the
London Food Strategy but would also involve significant cost
and, even then, would run the risk of getting lost amongst
the crowded events schedule.
That said, the plethora of events across London has
been identified as a significant opportunity: catering is a
key part of every major event held in London and yet
the food offering available to those attending is of varying quality and rarely reflects the cultural diversity of
London’s food landscape.
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Even events sponsored by London’s government institutions
have little or no presence from locally sourced, culturally
appropriate, sustainable producers and caterers. As it is within
the authority of local and regional Government to influence the
design of any event held on its land – and that covers the majority of outdoor events held in London - there is clearly an opportunity to significantly improve the
food offering at existing events. An approach to doing this is outlined in the next section.
A Food Event for London: Consultation and Vision
7
Sir Don Curry, Chair of the Sustainable Food and Farming Delivery Group
Vision
Analysis of our discussions, and of the context outlined in the previous section, have led
us to the conclusion that there are principally two approaches that should be considered
by London Food as a means of working towards the objectives set out in the London
Food Strategy:
• Launch a new annual food event, aimed at, and driven by, London’s local
communities
• Launch a London Food-branded social enterprise which works with existing events
to improve the food they serve
Vision 1: A London-Wide Community Food Event
A high-impact, low-cost event delivered in the community by
local partners
The event should engage local residents, connect them to
ingredients available locally, demonstrate how fresh food
can be prepared and provide an experience for the
whole family. The five key messages the event should
focus on are as follows:
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1 Fresh food is good food: by buying and cooking
fresh food, you will be improving your health and
the health of those you cook for
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2 Everyone can cook: cooking does not have to be
complicated or expensive – simple home cooking is
cheaper, tastier and healthier than the alternatives
3 Fresh food is available on your doorstep: good quality,
affordable ingredients can be bought from your local shop. This is
convenient, supports local business and fosters a sense of community
4 Be proud of your community’s food: London is full of great cooks, buying and
cooking a huge range of fresh food every day, and full of great food shops. Be a
part of it and celebrate it
5 Good food is for everyone: eating well and cooking from fresh ingredients is not
a lifestyle choice – it should be seen as a right, not a privilege. Every single
member of the community should want and expect to eat well
In addition, the event should have the following characteristics:
• Enjoyable; exciting; appealing to people’s curiosity
• A celebration of the community
• Provide basic information around fresh food and cooking
• Reflect the food cultures within that community
• Use event as a platform to encourage local food businesses to become more
sustainable
A Food Event for London: Consultation and Vision
9
• Engage with all members of the community, including children and the elderly,
low income families, single mothers and recent immigrants
• Directly challenge perceptions of fresh food as being expensive and inconvenient
• Place local food retailers at the heart of the event
• Be participatory – give people the opportunity to eat and to cook
• Educate without preaching
• Connect the food being served with locally available, affordable ingredients
• Tap into food skills and knowledge within the community
• Involve food services (restaurants etc) as well as food retailers
• Connect with local schools in the design and delivery of the event
• Focus on taste
• Be aspirational
• Give communities a feeling of ownership over the event
• Is free to all
• Run for a minimum of 3 years
In light of this, any event may include some of the following elements:
• Food theatre – allowing local food businesses/chefs to demonstrate how to
prepare and cook their ingredients
• Promotions within local food businesses – highlighting the fresh food they sell,
giving suggestions for recipes, offering price comparisons with ready-made
versions
• Development of a community menu – school children consider the food cultures
within their community and develop a locally appropriate menu that can be
cooked on the day
• A community feast – bringing people together to eat food that reflects the food
traditions within their community
Some other issues that will affect the impact and success of the event:
• Location: this should be outdoors and in the heart of the community. Potentially,
this could be on the grounds of a school. Or it could be located at a street
market, or an appropriate community space
• Timing: an event should be held during warmer months – this enables the event
to be at least partially outdoors and will encourage participation. The scheduling
of any event should also bear in mind other local/regional events
• Promotion: the language used to name/describe the event is vital – words like
‘food’, ‘community’ and ‘local’ are all potentially problematic in terms of their
connotations. The naming and promotion of an event should be inclusive, fun,
positive and not worthy or foodie.
The ‘Make it Happen’ section of this report provides more detail on how an event like
this can be and should be delivered.
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A Food Event for London: Consultation and Vision
Vision 2: London Food-branded social enterprise
The second mechanism by which London Food can achieve some or all of the objectives
in the London Food strategy is by involving itself in the catering of existing London
events. The benefits of this approach are that this could be seen as a ‘quick win’ – by
engaging with existing events, the burden of management and promotion (and the
overall cost) is significantly reduced.
Also, existing events offer huge benefits in terms of guaranteed footfall and,
consequently, the potential impact across London could be significant. However, that
said, this approach would be less likely to tackle hard-to-reach groups on the basis that
one’s attendance at any event is self-selecting and unless the event is free and on your
doorstep (as the event in Vision 1 would be) many of the Londoners in most need would
not be reached through this approach.
While there is some debate about how this would happen, the following idea best represents the thinking of participants.
A social enterprise, branded London Food, which provides food businesses in London
with the training, facilities and support to become outside caterers. This may involve the
purchase of food ‘vans’ in order to provide a means by which the London Food offering
could be delivered. By creating an enterprise of this nature, London Food could have a
significant impact in the following ways:
• Provide opportunities for small London food businesses to expand and
engage with new markets and partners
• Create an environment within which new skills can be
learnt, shared and, crucially, put into practice
• Develop a model of operation that reflects the
characteristics London Food are seeking to promote
amongst food businesses across London – healthy
food, locally sourced ingredients, sustainably
managed, ethically run
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• Create a compelling mechanism by which local
food cultures in London can spread beyond the
boundaries of their locality and promote
themselves to other parts of the capital – bringing
London together around a shared food culture
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• Become a highly successful, self-sustaining
enterprise that can, over time, develop into a strong brand
amongst the public and event organisers
• Provide London Food with a recognisable and respected presence across the
London events scene and support the ongoing promotion of key messages and
projects
Such an initiative should focus on approaching food businesses from the perspective of
a diverse range of London’s food cultures, giving them the means to understand how to
develop an outside catering business and position them to tender for contracts with
London events.
In doing this, London Food could define the nature of these catering offerings, focusing
on the sourcing of local and regional ingredients, supporting local food businesses,
reflecting the diversity of London’s food culture and encouraging participants to operate
in a sustainable and ethical way. As explained in the Context section of this report, the
design and delivery of many of the capital’s events can also be influenced at borough
level and through government projects such as Events for London which, working with
key partners, provides a central point of access for skills and support that may be
required for events that take place in London.
The challenge with this approach is that it is, in effect, a business. While, over time, the
A Food Event for London: Consultation and Vision
11
business will become self-sustaining, initial investment may be high and ongoing support
will be required in order to guarantee the success of the project long term. Such a
scheme could be augmented by information around sourcing of produce, further
exploration of London’s food cultures and support and advice for food businesses
interested in working towards the “Local to London Food Standard”. Sustain have
recently developed a set of criteria by which a food business can be assessed as
sustainable. This could also form a part of any scheme developed.
This approach has the potential to change the way many events in London are catered.
It would rely on the development of a branded social enterprise which implements
standards around the supply of healthy and sustainable food at events. There may be
some issues around how such a scheme would be policed, although this is not viewed as
a significant downside. However, adding to the food-related standards currently being
used in the industry could cause some confusion. To avoid this the brand should be
linked to Local to London, the brand being developed under the Local Food
Infrastructure Project as part of the London Food Strategy.
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A Food Event for London: Consultation and Vision
Heidi Truman, Visit London
Making it Happen
In discussing how to implement the ideas described in the previous section, we
encountered a variety of comments, some describing what it will take to make the idea
happen, some focussing on potential barriers to success, and some highlighting further
knowledge required. These comments are represented below:
Implementing a London-wide Community Food Event
The following are identified as key elements in the successful delivery of a community
led event:
• Use the network and expertise of existing contacts: many of those
who took part in this consultation are well-placed to play some
role in the design and delivery of an event such as this.
Define the roles clearly and build consensus
• Develop the right partnerships: there is, as previously
mentioned, much work already going on at
community level involving many talented and
enthusiastic people. Engaging with these networks
is vital as a way of understanding the local
context and, in particular, in providing help and
assistance in terms of delivery
• Appoint a single organisation to drive this
forward: to ensure that this event delivers,
responsibility for overall management needs to sit
with one organisation. Trying to implement this by
committee will not work
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• Recruit individuals and organisations who have energy and
enthusiasm: part of the success of any event will be in getting
people there and in giving them a good time when they are there.
If the organisers are not enthusiastic – or in some way connected to the area(s)
covered - the event will fail
• Identify a small number of key messages and communicate them clearly: there
is a danger that, in trying to meet too many objectives, or address too many
different agendas, the event loses its clarity and direction
• Incentivise the involvement of local food businesses: even though an event such
as this will provide increased business opportunities for local shops and suppliers,
they may still be reticent to get involved. Demonstrate what’s in it for them
• Start small and build over time: it is essential that there is funding in place for at
least 3 years: it is in the nature of an event such as this is that it will grow
exponentially with each returning year
• Develop a model that is flexible: every community in London is different.
Therefore, what works in one location may not work as well in another. Identify
and develop core elements for an event and help local delivery partners shape
these to their needs
A Food Event for London: Consultation and Vision
15
• Avoid duplicating the effort of other projects: with the range and variety of
initiatives aimed at encouraging healthy eating, it is vital that any new event
builds on existing work and compliments it where possible/relevant
• Put time and effort into identifying the right location: where a event is held has
a significant impact on the level of participation. The success of any event will, in
part, be measured by the numbers it attracts
• Evaluate every event and feedback into subsequent years: only through
understanding and learning from what worked and what didn’t will the event
become successful over time
Barriers to Success
The following are identified as potential barriers to the successful delivery of a
community led event:
• Laws around usage of tables and chairs outside: some Boroughs operate tight
rules on the use of tables and chairs in outdoor spaces. This could be a threat to
the idea of a community feast
• Dealing with London Boroughs: whilst some London Boroughs would be receptive
and supportive partners, others – those less enthused by the London Food
Strategy – could prove to be more hindrance than help
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• Identifying appropriate businesses to take part: as engagement
with business is a key strand to this idea, the net should be
cast wide in terms of selection. However, there are many
instances where a shop may sell some fresh food but
would not be viewed predominantly as a fresh
food retailer. This could be both complex and
problematic. Some convenience franchises, for
example, stock good quality, fresh produce
(Budgens/CostCutter) but some within the same
franchises don’t
• Getting businesses on board: while it’s difficult to
know what the response of food businesses will be
to this idea, there is a sense that many small food
retailers in London are not proactive in the
promotion of their business and some may actually be
suspicious of anything that looks like a drain on their time
and resources. This event must be pitched to them in the right way
• Alienating those who you are trying to engage: anything remotely connected to
fresh food or ‘real food’ is automatically seen by some as being not for them. As
mentioned previously, the language around any event, and the communications
approach, is vital
• The geography of London: it is difficult, in certain parts of London, to clearly
define an area in which to focus activity. The borders between Boroughs are not
always a useful indicator of what constitutes a community – the food shops in
Nunhead, for example, are technically in Southwark but their clientele is drawn
equally from Lewisham, the border to which adjoins the main shopping street.
Additionally, some communities are defined around large estates or boundaries
not recognised by conventional geographical criteria
• Dealing with ‘food deserts’: in basing at least part of this event around
engagement with local food businesses, it becomes difficult to deliver in
communities where there are little or no food retailers. These areas are, in fact,
some of the most in need
16
A Food Event for London: Consultation and Vision
• Local/seasonal/sustainable could all be a problem: many of the food businesses
in London do not currently offer fresh food that is any of these things. In fact,
many of the food sub-cultures within London could not cook and eat the food
they do without a significant proportion of their raw ingredients being imported.
The approach should be to help businesses understand how they can move
towards a more sustainable mode of operation
Implementing a London Food-branded social enterprise
This involves the setting up of a social enterprise that supports and facilitates London
food businesses to become ethical, sustainable outside caterers and to develop a set of
standards as a model for the catering of London events that drives change and helps
and encourages events to provide a better catering offer, more in line with the objectives
of the Food Strategy.
This approach requires a sound understanding of the following:
• Cost, design and maintenance of equipment: as it may be necessary to buy
(rather than rent) the equipment required to deliver this idea, an understanding of
what is needed and where it can be sourced is essential, as well as how and
where the equipment will be serviced and stored.
• Food and hygiene standards: as many of the prospective participants in this
enterprise will be new to outside catering, relevant training will need
to be provided in order to bring their skill sets up to the required
standard.
• Appropriate and experienced management: developing
a social enterprise such as this requires, like any
business, considerable management and
understanding of the logistics and the market.
• Local to London brand: coordination with the brand
being developed under the Local Food Infrastructure
Project as part of the London Food Strategy.
Barriers to Success
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The following are identified as potential barriers to the
sucessful delivery of this idea:
• The lead times on event design and sign-off: while it seems
clear that some influence can be brought to bear on the catering
offering of London events, the timing around this is vital. It may already be
too late to impact on events happening in 2008.
• The outside catering market place: food concessions are big business. How these
concessions are granted, who is involved and what the costs are will all have
significant impact on any social enterprise, as well as affecting the manner and the
extent to which London Food could involve itself in the catering of future events.
• Competitive tendering issues around the catering of local/regional government
backed events: while these events represent a significant opportunity, it may be
difficult to guarantee a presence at these events as this may contravene
competition rules.
• Supporting the ideas beyond set-up: both approaches outlined would require
ongoing funding and support. The development of a London Food- branded
social enterprise could, over time, become self-supporting. And the implementation
of a London Food Standard would require some level of maintenance support
beyond the initial investment. Both are long term projects that are considerably
weakened as propositions were the funding to only be short term.
A Food Event for London: Consultation and Vision
17
Aravinda Berggreen, Shoreditch Trust
Recommendations
Throughout the consultation, it became clear that there were many individuals,
organisations and projects that could be helpful or complimentary to anything London
Food support. There were many calls for coordination across events in London, therefore
we suggest collaboration is the way forward. Below is a list of potential collaborators
(outside of those who contributed to this report) and, beneath that, examples of projects
and events that could be instructive in the design of a new London event.
Potential Collaborators/links
• Thames Festival/Coin Street Events
www.thamesfestival.org
• Wayne Atkinson, Lower Marsh
• London PCTs
• London Boroughs
• Events for London
http://business.visitlondon.com/events_for_london
• Slow Food London
www.slowfood.com
• Year of Food and Farming
www.yearoffoodandfarming.org.uk
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• London Mela
www.londonmela.org
• British Food Fortnight
www.britishfoodfortnight.co.uk
• London Sustainability Weeks
http://lovelondon.london21.org/page/64
• London 21
www.london21.org
• Well Being programme
http://www.londonshealth.gov.uk/well_london.htm
• London Health Observatory
www.lho.org.uk
• London Civic Forum
www.londoncivicforum.org.uk
• Fairtrade
www.fairtrade.org.uk
A Food Event for London: Consultation and Vision
19
Based on analysis of the interviews conducted, we believe that, in order to maximise
impact amongst specified target audiences, the development of one London-wide
community-based food event represents the best option.
When choosing this event we recommend that you;
1. Define the roles clearly and build consensus
2. Build on existing work
3. Ensure overall management sits with one organisation
4. Identify your key audience and messages
5. Involve local food business
6. Allow the event to grow exponentially with each returning year
7. Be flexible
8. Look at work already going on at community level involving many talented and
enthusiastic people
9. Evaluate and get feedback for subsequent years
By developing a model, a set of supporting materials and an overarching brand, and by
engaging with partners and initiatives already running (see below), London Food could
begin to achieve some of the key objectives in the Food Strategy and, in the process,
launch a valued, trusted and scaleable project that could, over time, become an
example of best practice in this area.
Exemplar Projects:
• EC1 Timebank
http://london.timebank.org.uk/
• Growing Communities
www.growingcommunities.org
• Bring a Dish event
• Community Food Enterprise
http://www.community-food-enterprise.org.uk
• Apple Day
www.commonground.org.uk/
• London Freewheel
www.londonfreewheel.com
• East Midlands Food & Drink Festival
www.eastmidlandsfoodfestival.co.uk
• DOTT 07
www.dott07.com
• Toronto Food Policy Council
www.toronto.ca/health/tfpc_index.htm
• Melbourne Food
www.melbournefoodandwine.com.au
• Damson Day
www.lythdamsons.org.uk/damsonday.asp
20
A Food Event for London: Consultation and Vision
Contributors
We would like to thank the following for their invaluable
input into this consultation exercise:
Roma Backhouse, Director, Bloomsbury Festival
Jenny Bates, Friends of the Earth
Tom Beeston, Local Food Project: London & South East
Aravinda Berggreen, Project Manager, Shoreditch Trust
Diana Bird, Managing Director, Wedge Card
Dr Martin Caraher, Associate Dean/Reader in Food and Health Policy, City University
Carolyn Clarke, Deputy Chief Executive, Shoreditch Trust
Sir Don Curry, Chair of the Sustainable Food and Farming Delivery Group
Henrietta Green, Director, Food Lovers Fairs
David Hornby, Commercial Director, Visit London
Louise Horner, Cabinet Office (Food Strategy Team)
Rachel Hughs, Marketing Manager, Shoreditch Trust
Kate Lees, Food & Obesity Manager, Government Office for London
Patrick Loy, Manager, Events for London (Acting)
George Raszka, Food Advisor, Green Group
Ben Reynolds, London Food Link
David Smith, Director of Markets, City of London
Heidi Truman, Major Events Manager, Visit London
A Food Event for London: Consultation and Vision
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