Screen Bites Food and Film Festival events to enjoy

Screen Bites committee member Caroline Tory and George Streatfeild of Denhay offering tastings of Ha

Screen Bites committee member Caroline Tory and George Streatfeild of Denhay offering tastings of Hall & Woodhouse beers and Denhay products at a Screen Bites evening at Litton Cheney. - Credit: Archant

Screen Bites brings together world class film and local food producers in small venues across Dorset - and is now in its tenth year, says founder member Fanny Charles

It all began round the table. Well, where else would a food film festival start? Four people, with a shared passion for film and a real concern about where our food comes from, sat down for lunch. At the end of a great meal there was the germ of an idea that would become a Dorset institution and a unique event in the UK food calendar.

Dorset’s Screen Bites Food Film & Festival is the only festival in the country that brings together local food producers and films from around the world with a foodie theme. It goes on the road in a caravan of food and drink producers, film projection equipment, red and white gingham tablecloths, patchwork aprons and silk banners, criss-crossing the county during October.

In this 10th anniversary year, the caravan will start its progress from the historic glory of 17th century St Giles House at Wimborne St Giles. Along the way it will visit the stylish modern village hall at Litton Cheney, the Arts and Crafts charm of Wootton Fitzpaine, Wareham’s Art Deco Rex cinema and have its finale at The Exchange at Sturminster Newton.

The Festival, which aims to put on affordable fun evening events in Dorset’s villages, started in 2005 as part of Dorset Food Week. The Screen Bites founders – film-maker Robert Golden, his opera singer wife, Tina Ellen Lee, and journalists Gay Pirrie-Weir and me, Fanny Charles - wanted to celebrate artisan food and drink produced in Dorset and to show good feature films and documentaries. “The formula is simple,” says Gay, the festival administrator. “It creates an event that is very sociable. We didn’t realise it was also unique!”

With support from Chalk and Cheese, a grant-making organisation committed to developing diverse cultural assets, Screen Bites ran educational film and food projects with primary schools across the county. They also organised ten village events during Dorset Food Week where farm shops and specialist food producers gave tastings. The evenings included a food-themed documentary, an interval for Purbeck Ice Cream followed by the main film.

Other producers who have been with Screen Bites from the start are Dorset Blue Vinny, Honeybuns, Fudge’s, Hall & Woodhouse, Clipper, Home Farm Shop Tarrant Gunville, Gold Hill Organic Farm Shop and Olives Et Al, which, thanks to founder Giles Henschel, has been the festival’s principal sponsor throughout.

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Dorset Food Week stopped after a few years, but now as Screen Bites Food & Film Festival celebrates its 10th anniversary, the recently established Dorset Food and Drink is re-launching Food Week, with Screen Bites as one of its major partners.

As Gay Pirrie-Weir explains the local food is as important as the film: “The mini producers’ markets, which precede the films, are very popular with food producers. This isn’t just because they make huge sales, more importantly the participants get to meet prospective customers and talk with other producers. At their best, Screen Bites evenings have a real community party feel.”

There will certainly be a party atmosphere for the Opening Night Gala at St Giles House, courtesy of the Earl of Shaftesbury. Chef Lisa Osman, of All Hallows in Wimborne St Giles, is preparing food for the guests, using ingredients from many Screen Bites producers, and sparkling wine from Langham Estate near Dorchester will be served at the reception in the Drawing Room. Live Baroque and folk music will be performed in the Stone Hall where the local food market is being held, featuring many of the producers who have taken part in every Screen Bites. The main film, to be screened in the Library, is Vatel a film based on the life of 17th-century French chef François Vatel and stars Gèrard Depardieu. Guests are welcome to dress in 17th century costume to complement the film and the house.

Over the last decade Screen Bites has attracted guests including actress Dame Harriet Walter, Telegraph food writer Rose Prince and celebrity chef Lesley Waters. In one memorable year, Screen Bites shared in top awards at Chelsea and Hampton Court flower shows as part of the Edible Playground project designed by Dorset-based Nick Williams-Ellis for Dorset Cereals.

The Festival has also hosted both regional and national film premieres, including the French-Georgian film Chef In Love and The Lumnitzer Sisters, a surreal Hungarian comedy about restaurant critics. Fox Searchlight Films allowed Screen Bites to have the first local screening of Waitress, and this year’s programme includes the first regional screening of Step Up To The Plate, a documentary about a Michelin-starred rural French restaurant with a special connection to the landscape and local farming.

However, there is also a serious side to all this fun, says Gay: “We are passionately committed to promoting the best of local seasonal food and to helping our audiences to understand about food miles.”

Screen Bites evenings usually begin at 7pm with a mini farmers’ market followed by a talk or short film, an ice cream interval and then the main film. The evening ends with a draw for the Festival Feast, a meal for two at one of the area’s best restaurants or pubs specialising in local and seasonal food.


What’s On

2 October: Opening Gala Film Vatel | St Giles House. Wimborne St Giles

3 October: Jadoo | Wootton Fitzpaine Village Hall

4 October: Under the Tuscan Sun | Briantspuddle Village Hall

9 October: Last Holiday | Powerstock Hut

10 October: Just Desserts | Stourton Caundle Village Hall

11 Octovber: When Do We Eat? | West Coker Village Hall

12 October: The Lunch Box | Rex Cinema Wareham

16 October: A Good Year | Chickerell Willowbed Hall

17 October: Nothing Like Chocolate & Romantics Anonymous | Durweston Village Hall

18 October: Love’s Kitchen | Buckland Newton Village Hall

19 October: Letters to Juliet | Harrison Hall Charlton Down

23 October: West is West | North Cadbury Village Hall

24 October: English Vinglish | Sturminster Marshall Village Hall

25 October: Today’s Special | Winfrith Newburgh Village Hall

30 October: Grow Your Own | Litton Cheney Village Hall

31 October: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2: Revenge of the Leftovers | Tarrant Keyneston Village Hall (Starts 2pm)

31 October: Dinner for One | Tarrant Keyneston Village Hall

1 November: Step up to the Plate | The Exchange Sturminster Newton

For more details on this year’s Screen Bites Food & Film Festival, pick up a free programme or visit To book tickets email or telephone 01963 32525.


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