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Summer in the Park

Sleuth takes a break from his Friday slot and asks whether Saturdays’ Platt Fields festival was any good

Published on July 15th 2008.

Summer in the Park

Sleuth, usually confined to a Friday column on Confidential, took his composite self down to Summer in the Park this weekend. This was a Manchester Food and Drink Festival bash focusing on music and food at Platt Fields Park. Sleuth got there early on the Sunday with a couple of kids he’d stolen, this was after all supposed to be a family event.

He then talked about how some people think the best way to kill a lobster is to boil it alive. “It’s not though,” he said. “This is how you do for Lobby.” Then with the lady still holding the beast, he twisted the animal sharply, separating the head from the body.

Sleuth was immediately comforted by the fact that proper attention to detail had been paid to the geography of the site. The beer tent was in the middle of the festival area – ale has always been at the heart of British culture – so it was nice to see it so well represented here.

The most tedious argument in food at present is about buying local and regional – a big theme at this event. Sleuth reckons it only matters if the local and regional stuff is any good, otherwise it becomes one of those big soppy middle-class concerns – a created worry in a largely worry-free life, otherwise we’d all give up our air-mile busting coffee, wouldn’t we?

Which might be a good thing. At least we’d drink ale all the time then, as we did until the mid-nineteenth century. This would be fine for us: ale is among the food and drink products we do better than any other region in the UK. Here at Summer in the Park there were 19 local breweries represented. Sleuth enjoyed a very feisty Bank Top Blonde or seven.

The food shacks, arranged to the south east of the site, were doing a roaring trade. The long line of local eateries was impressive, including the Market, Moso Moso, Chaophraya, Croma, Evuna, Ning, Shimla Pinks, the Mal Brasserie, Tampopo, Wagamama and Marmalade.

But he was more surprised to see venues such as Carluccios, Brasserie Chez Gerard and Grill on the Alley taking part. These are venues more associated with corporate business lunch Manchester rather than indie events such as this. Bless ‘em for giving it a go.

Sleuth can report that the Thai green curry chicken and the beef curry at Chaophraya were both on glorious form. The snails from Chez Gerard were disappointing, weak little non-entities.

Sleuth missed a great moment on the Saturday in the chef demonstration tent. David Gale, the well-known loony currently finishing off the menu at the Podium restaurant in the Hilton, showed how to kill and cook a lobster. He asked a gentle lady folk member of the audience forward, got her to stroke the live lobster and give it a name – unimaginatively she chose ‘Lobby’. Very inspired.

He then talked about how some people think the best way to kill a lobster is to boil it alive. “It’s not though,” he said. “This is how you do for Lobby.” Then with the lady still holding the beast, he twisted the animal sharply, separating the head from the body.

As Gale continued with the demonstration, Lobby’s claws continued to gently wave and twitch at the unnerved audience. Good lesson though. Sleuth thinks food preparation has become too pre-packed and sanitised. Gale showed just how visceral it really is. Alison Seagrave from Harvey Nichols was a bit of a star too.

The music element of the festival was less stirring than the food - largely because the sound from the two stages clashed, creating chaos at times. The Josephine Oniyama Band impressed as did the charming Sophie’s Pigeons. Gideon Conn was as..er..interesting as ever. Apparently I am Kloot on the Saturday night had been good.

Sleuth welcomed the fact that the music hadn’t been ramped up too loud – although amplified bass is still a pain in the arse for essentially a family mixed age group event. In fact Sleuth thinks all the music should be of the unplugged variety next year until about 7pm.

The folks at the Holy Trinity Church located 50 metres behind the main stage seemed to agree with Sleuth over the bass. There were breaks in performances when services were taking place. Perhaps the organisers missed a trick and should have put hymn-singing on at these times. Still, given the holy pauses, Sleuth was amused to see the Channel M banner over the stage which read, ‘Music for the Masses’ – apparently not. Or at least not for Anglican services.

The big bore and the only real criticism of this laid-back, easy-going festival was the kids’ tent. Sleuth had two lads with him. Activities such as the Vegetarian Society’s ‘Play your veg cards right: a fun and educational card game about seasonal produce!’ (that’s their exclamation mark) unsurprisingly failed to interest them. In fact it was a perfect combination of propaganda and total tedium. Sleuth nearly complimented them on the achievement. The boys ended up on the bouncy castle which they deemed, “The unbounciest ever."

Next time let’s have better food fun. A food fight maybe, or throwing rotten veg at a Hollyoaks cast member imprisoned in stocks (we could all join in – maybe with coconuts). But anything less limp and dreary, anything more active: kids like to be entertained not lectured. Fortunately Sleuth’s charges found their own fun, they went round the site popping balloons on the food stalls.

The other criticism is over the entry price. £11 and £6 in for adults and kids respectively was too steep. Way too steep. That needs to be looked at. The price excluded a lot of people.

Otherwise Summer in the Park was a very good first stab, the grub was excellent. Sleuth says let’s build on these fields of food, these meadows of music for next year. Get some proper kids activities in, a few stronger bands and then we could etch this on the yearly calendar of summer things to do.

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27 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

BevJuly 15th 2008.

If in doubt, criticise the vegetarians, eh? I spent enough time in the 'Kidz in the Park' tent, trying to prise my three children away from the 'Play Your Veg Cards Right' game and we're not even properly veggie. They won enough tomato seeds to fill an entire allotment and there wasn't even the slightest hint of 'propaganda' as Sleuth so uninsightfully put it. There certainly wasn't much else going on in the kidz area! Perhaps those adults with sleepy children needed to pull themselves away from their pints and the 'Kidz' Disco, which was crammed with grown ups trying to 'get down with the youth' for a boogie (much to the embarrassment of their children!)The entry price was rather steep too - don't think I'd pay that again! Also note to the organisers: how about offering a supply of drinking water instead of charging over a pound for a small bottle! And did nobody think about trying to recycle the mountain of plastic waste generated by the weekend event? Hardly think that black bin bags are the way forward!Finally.. agree with Sleuth when he talks about food preparation being over sanitised and pre-packed.. but lobster, come on! Would love to see you getting the kids to eat that in their local school canteen!

AnonymousJuly 15th 2008.

I didn't bother going. The event seemed to be advertised with mixed messages: a family event, but a music event at the same time? It should have been one thing or the other methinks.You'd be charged hefty entrance fee & then have to fork out even more for food & drink once there, at probably hefty prices?The feedback from punters, above, is interesting & enough to make me think I might give it a go next year. But unless they sort out things for kids to do, preferably included in the admission price, it doesn't sound much like a family event to me.Beer & restaurant food isn't (small) kid friendly & paying for my child to go oon yet another bouncy castle does not justify the entrance fee.Just my tuppence worth.

PaulJuly 15th 2008.

I fancied seeing both Frost and Fretwell (who were not coincedentally, I say, put on seperate days). The food was a side point but guess what, I couldn't afford to do both days (having forked out to a proper gig on Friday night) so I didn't go to either! Saturday wasn't nice weather and by Sunday I'd lost interest and with Frost on at 8:50pm I couldn't be bothered driving up and paying in just for him.Sure I'd talked myself out of it but it was way too dear - a fiver tops would have been a better priced event.

SusieQJuly 15th 2008.

Agree with everyone here who has said next year needs to be better. We were looking forward to sampling lots of different foods but a) it was all full meals and b) there was bugger all for vegetarians. The only foodie who seemed to have got the fact that people like to sample lots of different foods was The Market Restaurant, with their starter and dessert platters (very good they were too). The producers section seemed to have disappeared. The kids section was c**p - we had kids aged 0-5 and there seemed only to be a tent showing a cartoon (when it was hot and sunny outside) and a teeny tiny bouncy castle. The bar was also a bit... lacking. Terrible sound bleed from the two stages, questionable daytime music and too pricey an entrance fee. Also, a bike park would have been fab for people cycling in - we had to leave ours chained up outside... Needs to work much harder if it's going to succeed and I'd think twice about going again next year.

Burt CodeineJuly 15th 2008.

A good start perhaps and hopefully can be built on for future 'summer in the parks'. Agree with the price - even purchasing the discounted price online it was indeed a little steep. We went on the saturday when the weather wasn't too great, but that aside it didn't really capture the glorious (and free) 'picnic in the park'. Maybe they can utilise the lake area and those great little pockets of land/gardens surrounding them for next years festival (if it should go ahead).With the price keeping people away (bad timing with the free Chorlton festival taking place down the road?) I had this feeling of a large field, largely empty - a few more larger tents/events spread out, a review of the pricing and incorporation of the lake area (or solely the lake area) and it might just thrive for years.The food and drink were very special mind ('True Grit' and 'Chief' were quite special brews...).

JoshJuly 15th 2008.

My mates and family enjoyed the veggie card game too, and kept coming back for more. It was far more entertaining than the 'painting with food' activity offered by the stall nextdoor! What was that all about? Think I may need to learn a lesson or two from the veg brigade as the meaty takeaway I had left me feeling a little rough the next day... Think this festival was trying too hard to get everybody in. Next year, spread out more and allow more space for families and another space for food and drinks. The soundclash between the two stages could've been avoided too!

crazyjohnJuly 15th 2008.

We didn't go as we went to Dance Valley in Amsterdam. It costs us £68.00 each to get there and we were hammered the whole time. Definitely go back next year so I can avoid BEV's moaning. Looks like a top event!

AnonymousJuly 15th 2008.

A food festival where you can only buy full meals? A drink festival where the wine tasting costs £5 and is over before mid afternoon? A music festival where one stage drowns out the other? A family event where the children are sidelined to their own small tent? This festival promised so much but unfortunately did not live up to the expectations. I really hope the organisers do it again next year, but just with a little more thought...

AnonymousJuly 15th 2008.

It wasnt for kids. It was poorly marketed. More for fans of local bands who can see 5 or 6 top players in one place for £20.Top days. Both. :-)

cloudhuggerJuly 15th 2008.

I too went on the saturday early in the day 11.00 when it was advertised that breakfast could be got at that time.....most of the food stalls weren't set up properly, the ones that were couldn't start cooking until they had been checked by health and safety....one of the gazebo's was blocked off(health and safety again) the tea tent hadn't unloaded all the produce from a van at the back........then the wait for hot drinks was about half an hour as they only had one person serving.....the place set up for the kids wasn't yet set up properly the bouncy castle wasn't even blown up properly....i paid for 3 adults and 1 child overall price £39 WHAT A RIP OFF!!! i ended up phoning my sisters and telling each not to bother coming and bringing the kids, we too did the wine tasting (rip off) if you bought a bottle of wine you got the £5 fee off; but what they didn't tell you was you had to drink it there & then you couldn't take it out of the tent..... the music on the side stage was drowned out by the band practising on the main stage......they will need to get their act together to attract mine and my siblings custom next year.

AmyJuly 15th 2008.

I really hope this becomes an annual event - I thought it was the best way to spend a Sunday afternoon!

AnonymousJuly 15th 2008.

Fretwell alone will cost you the price of a weekend ticket! You dont sound like the right man for the job to me!Thou a fair point here - I think the marketing was too foody and not music enough. I personally didnt eat in the venue (went to rusholme instead for a propper sit) yet the music line up was first rate (regionally) and probably a good £100 worth should you have bought separate gig tickets.Hence why they sent Sleuth with 2 boys and not 2 hot chicks in tight pants :-)... Next time Sleuth eh :-)All you needed was a £10 for your 5 beers (yes £2 a pint) and a place in the sun.I'm going again.x

Rob CotterillJuly 15th 2008.

I found it somewhat disappointing, especially for £11. Accepting that Saturday was a bit of a washout and people were huddling for warmth under the gazebos, where were all the local producers that were promised? OK, so we had a pie stall, a fresh veg stall and a couple of cheese stalls. Apart from that, there were assorted confectionary sellers, and a cloth bag seller.Considering the great range of food producers we can boast in this region, it was a bit of a let down. I left early and went shopping at the Farmers Market in town. Now, that was good.

AnonymousJuly 15th 2008.

his event was advertised as a family event with plenty of entertainment for the kids. We took three kids and basically there was nothing on offer for them. The price of a family ticket - £25 was excessive. The organisers need to offer more imaginative kids entertainment if they want to attract families next year.

jenfarJuly 15th 2008.

I agree about the prices being too high and the literature did not mention that the prices on the day were so much higher.Now whilst we went on the sunday and had a wonderful day what with the weather and the good bands I think it was grossly missold. If it had been sold as a music fesitval then I would have thought it was great.But the 'huge' kids section really didn't happen and what was on offer held the attention for almost 5 minutes, the farmers market was one you can visit for free in Manchester and I was totally unimpressed by the food and wished we had stopped in Rusholme for a curry or brought our own picnic.The stages did need to be further apart the sound clash was a problem.It really didnt compete with FEAST festival earlier in the year

Karen HandyJuly 15th 2008.

I went to the Vegetarian Society’s ‘Play your veg cards right: a fun and educational card game about seasonal produce!’I had to wake my daughter up half way thorugh

DamienJuly 15th 2008.

Sunday was a very good day to go indeed, entrance fee as sleuth said was to hiigh. Advertised was wine tasting which sounded like it was free but this was five pound a person. The babies disco at 1pm was far to small of a tent for the people there. The overall day was good, and thankfully the sun was shining or else it could of been a bit of a disaster. Food was great and the beer was quite cheap and i loved the tea in the park with the blueberry cake. Overall i would go again but not sure what the entrance fee convered. I did hear that there was something last year at the park which was free to get in. Is there a reason we now have to pay a tenner?

davis_john99@yahoo.co.ukJuly 15th 2008.

I think Sleuth probably spent all his money going to see Neil Diamond

GoffeyJuly 15th 2008.

We went on the sunday and had a great time, though when we arrived they had run out of wristbands. The security on the gate kept everyone amused, but they were told not to allow people with tickets in, unless they had a band. Surely to recommend that people should keep their tickets in their pockets to produce would have made more sense, as within 30 minutes there were about 30 people who had pre-paid waiting?Other than the wristband fiasco (really, why did it take over 45 minutes to procure some additional ones, and why weren't there enough in the first place!), it was brilliant. Great food and good beer at reasonable prices, put it on again next year, and hopefully it'll stay dry both days

DanJuly 15th 2008.

Sunday was a great day and we thought the ticket price was about right (ok, I've got 2 young kids so they were free). There were a few gripes (lack of childrens food, baby disco closing between 2 & 4 to show a DVD, music stopping for church) but overall it was great. Prices were reasonable (£2 for a pint of ale and £4 for top notch food) and I introduced my kids to dancing to reggae in the sun - thanks Mr Scruff!

markJuly 15th 2008.

not beeing a masive fan of the food and drink events i was a bit sceptical but wanted to see how it was to be done with such a huge amount of food! we went on sunday with the misses and me and the three boys who enjoyed the first few hours of running arround, the food offerings were very good and no one realy trying to rip you off (except the gate) but as you said the only downside was the lack of activities for the kids we whould of stayed longer if they had more to do! well done

Paul CarterJuly 15th 2008.

That's me on that first photo, I'm a bit blurred but its definitely me, towards the back with my daughter. Yup, that's me on that photo alright.

AnonymousJuly 15th 2008.

Great idea, but my main beef is do we really need another rock/indie festival for goodness sake. You've got families coming, good food - let's have an acoustic festival instead. Could cover all kinds of music - nice chilled atmosphere for families. And yes, the only act I wanted to see was Josephine Onimaya - but £9.50 is a bit pricey no matter how good she is!

DaveJuly 15th 2008.

We went with 3 under 10s (free) on Saturday, they definitely had a fun time, yes, even enjoying the veggie card game and collecting the goodies. They seemed to have a bit more going on the Saturday for young kids, but on the Sunday the weather made up for it. As some others have pointed out, to a regular live music fan the entry price was a bargain - £17 in advance for the whole weekend - that's what one gig at the academy usually costs. Not only that, £2 for a proper pint and £4 for decent, varied food? And a fantastic tea & cake shop to hang out in? I've been recommending it to people and I hope they put it on again next year.

JinkiesJuly 15th 2008.

Did you go on the Saturday Sleuth? Sunday was by far the better day I think. Yes entry might be a touch steep but once inside the gates everything was far cheaper than I expected. Imagine my shock when I bought a beer for and all it cost was £2.50, not to mention food for £4, four english pounds. Compare that to beer/food prices at other recent platt fields events and yes, it's more to get in but the benefits are reaped on the inside. David Fox from tampopo as the highlight of my day, and we made the dish he demonstrated that night. I would've liked some random entertainers walking around, mabye a bit of a circus show, but I loved it. Well done whoever was behind it :)

JontoJuly 15th 2008.

£11 for all that music? I think Sleuth needs a pay rise, I've paid more than that for I Am Kloot alone!

JohnJuly 15th 2008.

You really cant be serious complaining about the price of entry. You could buy your tickets in advance for £9.50 - thats without any booking fees being placed on top either. You could also buy a family pass for £22. The music on the saturday from Fretweel and I am Kloot alone was top notch and well worth the admission fee. That's not taking into account the excellent food stalls all in one place, a great change from corporate eventswhere you can only buy a fly-egg ridden burger for £8, local ales in one place, and the cooking tutorials that each culinated in free (again, top notch) food being handed. it was also a lot cheaper than buying a starter at some of the places Gordo tries to send us to.

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