Guide to Newcastle Food and Drink Festival as stage is set for its big bank holiday debut

The first Newcastle Food and Drink Festival promises to be a banger. Credit: Stephen Midgley, Breakpoint Media
The first Newcastle Food and Drink Festival promises to be a banger. Credit: Stephen Midgley, Breakpoint Media -Credit:Stephen Midgley, Breakpoint Media

After three years in the planning, the first Newcastle Food and Drink Festival will get under way this weekend with a three-day menu of treats including non-stop entertainment.

The inaugural festival, which has been taking shape in Exhibition Park in readiness for Saturday's launch, is expected to attract huge crowds of bank holiday visitors with its line-up of top chefs showcasing skills in a Cookery Theatre; an Artisan Market selling regional specialities; a Street Food Arena with an international focus and around 18 live music performances due on stage over its run. There will be plenty for children too, opening up the event into a real family affair - and dogs are welcome too.

The company behind the food and drink festival, which is a popular annual feature in Leeds, is promising a huge culinary adventure and the team have been hard at work preparing for it. Event director Michael Johnston has said they are "incredibly excited" about the Newcastle debut, adding: “We have been working on this behind the scenes for the past three years and it feels great to get it over the line."

He sees Exhibition Park as a perfect location for it too. With the grand affair now all set for action, here is a guide to how it will play out. We've broken down the May 4-6 programme to show what will be happening on each day, although timings can be subject to change of course.

Newcastle Food and Drink Festival

Where and When

The festival will take place in Exhibition Park, Newcastle, from May 4-6. It is a celebration of both global and local foods and talent plus independent drink combined with live music and culinary arts. The idea is to provide visitors with an all-round immersive experience and the hope is that it will develop into an annual event.

Street Food Arena

This area will form the heart of the festival site in Exhibition Park and here there will be a wide range freshly-made international cuisine on sale - including paella; Pad Thai; Wagyu burgers; wood-fired pizzas and pulled pork - plus local specialities.

Artisan Market

This will be provide a platform for local and small businesses, with more than 100 different traders selling their own products from local produce and fresh-baked goods to hand-made crafts and art.

Independent bars

There will be all sorts of drinks for sale, such as specialty cider, rum, gin, wine and cocktails. The festival has also joined forces with Newcastle's Tyne Bank Brewery to have its own Full Ale House on-site, serving craft ales and cask brews on draught.

Live Cookery Theatre

This will be hosted by chef Anthony O’Shaughnessy, a MasterChef finalist and cookery school teacher who has worked at Jamie Oliver’s Ministry of Food and is currently cookery school manager at Blackfriars in Newcastle. Several top local guest chefs will be taking part in demonstrations and the daily schedule, below, shows who will be cooking and when.

Live Music

Performances will boost the buzzy atmosphere throughout each day, with scheduled timings shown in the daily schedule below, and they include a daily tribute band headliner: Queen-style rockers We Are Champion on the Saturday; Laura as Taylor Swift on Sunday and I Am Meghan, channelling chart-topper Meghan Trainor, on the bank holiday Monday. The festival programme will also feature a mix of local bands, vocalists and choirs with the daily entertainment wrapping up with the sounds of Ibiza Sax.

Saturday, May 4


11am - Will Forrester Smooth Sax
12noon - Ellie Ferguson, described as the Voice of The Town choir

1pm - TBA
2pm - DMR Acoustic Mayhem, acoustic covers of famous tracks

3.15pm - The Climate Stripes, rock
4.30pm - We Are Champion (Queen Cover Band): expect a set-list including Another One Bites The Dust; Don’t Stop Me Now and Bohemian Rhapsody

5.30pm - Will on Sax

Cookery Theatre

12noon - Joshua Sercombe of Blackfriars Cookery School

1pm - Chris Wardale, executive chef at Blackfriars, Newcastle (Dobson & Parnell is its sister restaurant)

2pm - Cocktail Masterclass, Silk Route Spirits, Newcastle

3pm - to be confirmed.

Note: Kyle Greenwood - Seaham Hall, County Durham, a MasterChef: The Professionals semi-finalist and a North East Chef of The Year was initially set to feature on this day so keep an eye out for programme updates.

Sunday, May 5


11am - Will Forrester Smooth Sax
12noon - Rock Choir
1pm - Howlin Mat, red hot blues
2pm - Scoble, Swan & Friends, acoustics
3.15pm - Hit The Lights, rock
4.30pm - Laura as Taylor Swift
5.30pm - Will on Sax

Cookery Theatre

12noon - Troy Terrington, chef-patron of Dobson & Parnell, Newcastle

1pm - tbc

2pm - Native Cave, Newcastle-based seafood restaurant

3pm - Wilem Brugge, of Blackfriars Bar and tasting events

Note: Initially also listed for this day were Joshua Sercombe, resident chef at Blackfriars Cookery School, Newcastle, and Scott John-Hodgson, head chef at Newcastle's Michelin star restaurant Solstice who recently appeared on BBC's Great British Menu, so look out for any further news from organisers.

Monday, May 6


11am - Will Forrester Smooth Sax
12noon - TBA
1pm - Phil Graham, Newcastle based singer-songwriter

2pm - Gumbox, guitar riffs

3.15pm - Leeds City Stompers
4.30pm – I Am Meghan (Meghan Trainor Tribute)
5.30pm – Will on Sax

Cookery Theatre

12noon - Jonny Hesketh, Parm-O-Rama, North East

1pm - Emma Carlton, Sweet Patisserie, Whitley Bay

2pm - Chef Guarav, executive chef at My Delhi, Newcastle

3om - Jonny Wardale, head chef at The Highlander, Ponteland

Children's attractions

A Live Entertainers stage will host six performing arts and magic shows a day and there also will be funfair rides - including some for adult thrill-seekers - and an Inflatable Land. Activities will include quizzes, fact hunts and roaming comedy.


Festival tickets will allow entry any time between 10am and 5pm on the day and the event will end at 6pm. With early bird options sold out, there are still some final release day tickets available, costing £9.95; £5.95 - plus £1 booking fee - and free to under-fives.

A three-day ticket, allowing entry throughout the festival's run, costs £14.95 or £8.95, plus £1 booking fee. To buy tickets see here.

Anything else?

The site will have deckchairs and furniture dotted around for anyone to use and there will be free festival programmes available too. The festival company also will be helping out a local mental health charity, having already raised around £100,000 for Mind charities across the wider north through its events.

Its festival partner is Tyneside and Northumberland Mind. When booking tickets there is also an option to make a donation to it, with all proceeds going directly to the charity.