Saturday, 13 January 2018

End of an era?

Regular attendees of the Kent Beer Festival are in for an unpleasant shock, following the news that the event is having to look for a new home. The Kent Festival is the second oldest CAMRA organised event in the country, and this year would have seen Kent’s premier beer festival celebrating its 44th year.

For most of that 44 year period the festival has been held at Merton Farm, just outside Canterbury, but with just six months to go, the festival organisers have been stunned by the farm’s owners decision to pull the plug on the event.

No reason has been given for this, but in a statement, festival organiser Andy Mitchell said “I have been unable to set a date for the festival this year, as I have been advised today (finally) that Merton farm do not wish to facilitate us going forward”.

He went on to say, “I am in the process of seeking another venue. If possible it is hoped that the dates will still remain the same weekend as usual 19th-21st of July but I cannot confirm that at this time. I am already in contact with a potential new venue and full details will be available on here as and when details can be confirmed".

"Please be assured that it is my/our intention to still hold the festival this year and I will let you know as soon as I can”.

The first festival took place back in 1975, and was held in Canterbury’s Dane John Gardens. It continued to be held on this site until 1984, when it moved to the Kent County Cricket Ground for a two year spell.

In 1986 it moved again to Gravesend’s Woodville Halls; the only time it has been held outside of Canterbury. The venue didn’t prove to be a success, and the following year it moved again to its current site at Merton Farm, at Nackington, just outside Canterbury.

So a real disappointment for Kent Beer Festival aficionados, and definitely the end of an era for those of us who make a yearly pilgrimage to this annual event. To those who have never been to the festival, it was held in a massive cow-shed at Merton Farm, very close to the historic farmhouse at the heart of the complex.

There was  often a  distinct “farmyard” smell about the place, particularly during warm weather, and the setting itself was definitely a “Marmite” one. Some people detested the cow-shed, describing it as unhygienic and totally unsuitable for a beer festival whilst others loved its quirkiness and laid-back atmosphere.

My opinion lies somewhere in the middle, in so much that I really enjoy the rural setting of the festival, but am not quite so keen on the cow-shed itself. It can become stiflingly hot inside, although this can be countered by nipping outside from time to time. Do this too often though, and you risk losing your seat.

Speaking realistically for a moment, it probably is time for the festival to move on, and adopt a more polished and professional approach. People like me will always look back with affection at the easy going, laissez faire atmosphere of Merton Farm, but are today’s festival looking for something else; something more sophisticated and up to date?


Russtovich said...

Sheesh Paul, 2018 isn't starting off all that great is it? :(

I'm with you on the cow shed. Kent might not be Miami but it can get bloody hot there in the summer. :)

Here's hoping they find something that starts its own tradition. (thumbs up)


Paul Bailey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paul Bailey said...

Definitely of its time, I think Russ, but fond memories of wandering around the cow-shed, with its uneven floor of baked mud, plus other dried up brown matter, no doubt! I'm surprised it passed hygiene regulations, as there were several food stalls along with the beer, but we all survived.

I'm certain the organisers will come up with something, but finding a suitable venue, at a reasonable price and with good public transport links, might prove a bit of a headache.

Original comment removed due to rather obvious typo!

Russtovich said...

"Original comment removed due to rather obvious typo!"

Phew! For a second there I thought I'd said something to annoy you in my post. ����