When: 13th – 16th October 2016
Where: Falmouth, Cornwall
£: Tickets for the evening entertainment cost £5.50. Daytime events are free
What is it?
This year’s Falmouth Oyster Festival takes place from Thursday 13th to Sunday 16th October. The festival is a celebration of Falmouth’s unique oyster fishery season, and brings together local chefs, oyster fishermen, food and drink enthusiasts, and an eclectic mix of musicians.
The quirkier highlights of this year’s festival will include an oyster shucking competition, oyster parade, and oyster working boat race.
The annual Oyster Parade will take place on Friday afternoon, and feature local schools and the National Maritime Museum Cornwall.
The Oyster Shucking Competition will see participants proving their skills in shucking oysters. Competitors must open and display twelve native oysters as quickly as possible, without compromising on quality. The competition will take place on the Saturday from 3pm.
The Oyster Working Boat Race will be the festival’s closing event on the Sunday. With the oyster season running from October to March, the festival’s race is the last before the hard graft begins, and a great way to draw the annual celebrations to a close.
The festival also features daily cookery demonstrations, beginning on the Thursday with a day of culinary activity and Cornish seafood. Award-winning chef Chris Eden will open the festival sharing his secrets of Michelin star success, and Juan Jose Gonzalez Leon, originally from Tenerife, will bring Mediterranean flair to the afternoon.
Matt Slater, a Marine Awareness Officer from Cornwall Wildlife Trust will return to share an update on the Cornwall Good Seafood Guide project. Nick Hemming, head of food at St Austell Brewery, will be demonstrating some great recipes for Cornish sustainable seafood.
On the Friday, George Pascoe, a Cornish farmer’s son, will be hosting a down to earth and fun demonstration. Festival regular, Nick Hodges from The Greenbank Hotel, will be delivering simple and stylish creations at his demonstration. To finish off the day, Annie Sibert’s cookery master class will aim to get people cooking more fish and seafood, including our native oyster.
On Saturday the festival welcomes back Paul Wadham from Hotel Tresanton, along with Bobby Southworth representing St Michael’s Hotel and Spa, and a second chance to gain top seafood skills from Annie Sibert.
Sunday will see Arty Williams return to the stage, with a demonstration which will be filmed for a Tabasco video. In the afternoon, Bruce Rennie from The Shore Restaurant in Penzance will provide the final demonstration of the festival. Rennie will have a multitude of practical tips and insider knowledge on how things work in a top restaurant kitchen.
Wielding knives, whisks and saucepans, last years Hot Chef Challenge was a very close call. On the Friday evening, the culinary battle returns with Arty Williams and Nick Hodges competing for this year’s title. This year’s challenge will be supporting Shelterbox.
If you’re more about sampling food than cooking it, don’t worry there will be plenty of food and drink stalls offering local delicacies, including Cornish seafood. There will also be craft stalls, sea shanties and live music to enjoy. This year the festival celebrates its 20th year with an extra entertainment line up, including the cool retro tones of The Grace Notes and energetic jump jive tunes from Company B.
For over a century, Cornish families have derived their livelihood from oyster dredging in the Carrick Roads and surrounding rivers. Many of the oyster boats, known as Falmouth Working Boats were built in boatyards around the Fal, with some of the oldest dating back as far as 1860. 100 years ago, over 130 oyster dredgers worked out of Falmouth and St Mawes, and virtually every port in Cornwall had its own fleet.
Governed by ancient laws that were put in place to protect the natural ecology of the riverbeds and oyster stock, oystermen fishing in the Port of Truro Oyster Fishery are prohibited from using engines. Instead, sail power and hand-pulled dredges must be used. This is the only oyster fishery in Europe, where such traditional methods must be used.