When Derbyshire Food and Drink Fair launched almost a decade ago, it was the realisation of a long-held dream for its founder Alan Cartwright. The watch and clock maker had been organising successful Antiques in the Park events at Kedleston Hall and further afield with his company Jaguar Fairs but had his sights set on launching a fair that celebrated local food and drink. It was in 2015 that wish came true.

‘We had to do it,’ says Alan, event operations manager. ‘There is a lot to celebrate in Derbyshire with excellent food and drink producers across the county. I’d been doing the antiques events at Kedleston Hall and they were going well. It felt time for a new challenge.

‘I approached the team at Kedleston and they agreed to do it. What a moment that was. I knew I could put everything I’d learned doing the antiques fair into this new event.

Great British Life: Laura Loadman and Alan CartwrightLaura Loadman and Alan Cartwright (Image: Derbyshire Food and Drink Fair)

‘To see people come along and enjoy the fair on that first year felt absolutely fabulous. It was, like it is now, a true celebration of Derbyshire.’

Since 2019 the fair has been held at Elvaston Castle, near Derby, with thousands of people pouring through the gates. And Alan’s daughter, Laura Loadman, who first started working at the antiques fairs when she was just 16 years old, has now taken the reins as director and event organiser.

‘I’d always been around the antiques events and when I turned 16, I worked on them,’ says Laura, who is mum to Henry, three and Adeline, one. ‘I went to study fashion at university and, when I came back, I was looking for the next step.

‘I’ve always been creative and when my dad started talking about food and drink it seemed really exciting. I eventually did it full time and when my Dad wanted to take a little step back, I was delighted to take it on.’

What is remarkable is that, although there are staff involved in the set up and the event days, all the organisation is done by Laura and Alan. It is a huge undertaking, but the father and daughter could not be happier to be doing it.

Great British Life: Discover colourful street foodDiscover colourful street food (Image: Derbyshire Food and Drink Fair)

‘We tend to start planning for next year’s event just before the current one has taken place,’ says Alan. ‘Laura and I will be working hard at the office pulling things together. It’s a lot to organise but when you have a good bunch of people involved, like Elvaston Castle and our team who work the event, mountains can be moved.

Laura continues: ‘Seeing the smiles on people’s faces is priceless,’ says Laura. ‘I love when we are breaking everything down on the Sunday evening and families are still sat around enjoying picnics and each other’s company. It’s always a special moment, especially if the sun is shining.

‘We are a brilliant team. My dad is an absolutely joy to work with. My sister, Hayley, also works on the event days. You might think doing something like this with family might be hard at times but it’s not the way. My dad is brilliant. I wouldn’t want to do this with anybody else.’

This year’s Derbyshire Food and Drink Fair, which takes place on May 11th and 12th, is already shaping up to be its best yet with visitors being able to taste, sip and browse the stalls of around 150 exhibitors as well as tuck in to street food and enjoy seasonal sips – think woodfired pizzas, Greek street food and more. Several local artisans have already signed up including Egginton’s Apple Paddock Artisan Preserves, Bakewell Tart Shop, Withers Gin in Derby and Sealwood Cottage Vineyard at Linton.

Great British Life: Pick your perfect cheese boardPick your perfect cheese board (Image: Derbyshire Food and Drink Fair)

As well as a smorgasbord of fabulous food and drink, there will also be crafts, gifts and homeware stalls showcasing Derbyshire makers as well as an on-site bar, activities for children and live music from local singers, bands and talent who bring smiles to guests.

The pair also organise the Christmas Food, Drink and Gift Fair held in the run up to the festive period at Derby Conference Centre. Although the fairs are a big responsibility to organise, Laura and Alan would not want it any other way. Laura, 36, now has ambitions to expand, hopefully creating more events.

‘We’re getting to the point where the food fair is settled and successful,’ says Laura. ‘It’s a great position to be in but we want to keep it growing. We’ll always have people on the weekend wanting to book their spot for the next year. It’s a huge compliment because it means people love what we do and being at the fair.

‘It feels like the right time to expand, whether that is in Derbyshire or even out of the county. Derbyshire Food and drink Fair is so special to me, my daughter Adeline was just six weeks old at her first fair last year and Henry is starting to really get into it. Maybe one day they could take things over from me. It’s exciting to think about where it might go.’

Great British Life: Bring your four-legged friendsBring your four-legged friends (Image: Derbyshire Food and Drink Fair)

Need to Know

What: Derbyshire Food and Drink Fair

When: May 11th and 12th, Saturday: 10am – 6pm and Sunday 10am – 5pm.

Where: Elvaston Castle Showground, Derby, DE72 3EN

Tickets: Adults, £10, Under 16s, £2, Under 5s, free. Entry tickets to be purchased at the event entrance. Cash only.


Want to exhibit?

For producers who want to exhibit at the show, it is not too later. If you are a producer, maker, small business or street food seller and would like a stand register interest at derbyshirefoodanddrinkfair.co.uk/exhibitorinfo.

For more information about the fair visit derbyshirefoodanddrinkfair.co.uk