Birmingham’s annual food festival has been axed in favour of a new website marketing the city as a tourist destination for foodies.
Despite Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool, Sheffield and Newcastle all having annual festivals that show off the best produce from their local areas, Birmingham’s Food Fest has been ditched, with Marketing Birmingham claiming the city’s food scene is too diverse for a single festival.
Ironically the move comes in the same week that council leader Sir Albert Bore announced plans to make Birmingham a ‘Festival City’ with a big promotional push jointly with civic and business leaders.
Marketing Birmingham, which runs the Visit Birmingham website, has previously attempted an annual event showcasing the city’s culinary offerings, first launching Taste of Birmingham in Cannon Hill Park before replacing it with a 10-day city-wide Birmingham Food Fest.
But instead, Marketing Birmingham is this year launching a summer campaign around a new website “Birmingyum”, promoting a ream of food and drink events across the city, including this weekend’s Colmore Business District Food Festival, next week’s Brindleyplace Chilli Festival, the following week’s Birmingham Beer Bash, and August’s International Food Fair.
The site also lists restaurants, bars, shops, markets, cookery and cocktail classes, and tastings and tours, as well as video recipes and cooking tips from some of the city’s most popular chefs.
Ian Taylor, commercial director, says Marketing Birmingham first started using the city’s food industry to boost tourism six years ago but claims Birmingham has seen dramatic change since.
He said: “We made a conscious decision to use food to drive visitors to Birmingham, especially overnight visitors, with a number of events including the BBC Good Food Show through to Taste of Birmingham.
“With Taste of Birmingham the idea was to get people to come and sample a taster of the city’s high end dining for themselves.
“It was in Cannon Hill Park, not in the city centre, and a lot of people felt it wasn’t representative of the overall food scene.
“So we then took a conscious decision to move the strategy on.”
Marketing Birmingham triggered an escape clause in its contract with the festival’s franchise owner Brand Events to scrap Taste of Birmingham after just two years.
It was replaced with Birmingham Food Fest, a tital uniting 10 days of events across the city. But after two years that has also been scrapped in favour of the Birmingyum national and online marketing campaign, with adverts expected to appear in The Guardian and BBC’s Olive magazine.
Mr Taylor said: “The perception of the city as a culinary destination has never been higher. We have changed people’s perceptions and we now need to get them into the city, into restaurants, into markets and meeting producers.
“We have a tremendously strong story to tell, with everything from Michelin-starred restaurants to streetfood, markets and producers but it’s very difficult to pull together everything we have in the city because the offer is so broad.
“It feels a better proposition for visitors if we’ve got stuff happening over a long period of time right across the city, to encourage people to come and explore that for themselves.”
He added: “We are responding to what the industry has told us.
“We have a very good relationship with restaurants, producers and suppliers who tell us we need people in our businesses throughout the year not just for a one-off event.”