ALMOST 8,000 visitors attended Dorset Seafood Festival over the weekend on its return to Weymouth at a new location, helping to raise thousands of pounds for charity.

Stallholders enjoyed a roaring trade at the festival, with Oystermen selling more than 2,500 oysters, Weyfish selling more than 750 lobsters and Brancaster Bay selling a quarter of a tonne of mussels.

But the demand - and staff shortages that have affected businesses up and down the country - meant some stalls ran out of food quicker than expected.

The popular two-day festival, which was cancelled last year due to coronavirus restrictions, was held last weekend on Weymouth Peninsula for the first time.

The seafood extravaganza, which usually takes place on the harbourside in July, is considered one of the most celebrated weekends in Weymouth’s event calendar, annually attracting around 60,000 visitors.

This year, because of Covid regulations and uncertainty, festival organisers were forced to move the location and introduced a ticketing system with £10 entry fee so they could limit and safely manage visitors coming in.

After months of careful planning, the new-look Nyetimber Dorset Seafood Festival brought together top local seafood producers from the South West and across the country, and showcased top chefs, sustainable produce, beer and wine tastings, live music and brand new features.

Matthew Baldwin, owner of Handpicked Shellfish said: “We sold all the paella we had for the weekend on the first day! We were so disappointed that some people missed out on Saturday, however we restocked for Sunday and the festival was a huge success.”

Thomas Large, owner of Brancaster Bay, said: “We’ve done twice as well this year than at previous festivals. Everything has been phenomenal."

Organisers admitted that the festival experienced a few 'teething problems' and that any shortages of food and long queues at stands were due to staff shortages which have been experienced by the hospitality industry across the country.

Stuart Cooper, festival director, commented: “The festival this year was an entirely new experience for all involved and we’re incredibly proud of everything that has been achieved. Stallholders have told us how well they have done over the weekend with many selling out of their produce.

"We understand that there were some long queues for food stalls at peak times - unfortunately the hospitality industry is really up against it with staff shortages and some traders had to drop out at the last minute, which meant we had fewer food stands.

"However, with people already signing up for next year, we hope these staff shortages will be a thing of the past by 2022. Overall the event exceeded our expectations and it was fantastic to see people once again celebrating the superb seafood available to us just off our wonderful shores”.

Resident, Trish Mccartin praised the event and said: “I was a bit hesitant about the new location because I did love it at the harbour. I live locally and have been coming to the festival for years. However, after attending the festival on Sunday I think the site is great. It was easy to walk around and see everything on offer.”.

However, not all were happy with the festival's new location and £10 ticket fee for this year, and said they would not go again if it returned to the peninsula with an entry fee in future.

Details of next year's festival have not yet been decided.

Organisers said the event is more than just a food festival and said it is 'an event with a conscience, promoting responsibly sourced seafood, raising funds for The Fishermen’s Mission, and helping to raise awareness of ocean health'.

Over the years the Seafood Festival has raised over £80,000 for the Fishermen’s Mission and is a cause close to the festival’s heart. This year the festival raised £1,000 before the it even started through donations made by festival-goers when booking their tickets.

Organisers and the charity look forward to announcing the total amount raised over the weekend very soon.

Dean Lawrence, Corporate Partnerships Manager at The Fishermen’s Mission said: "We were able to have a much bigger and more visible stand this year due to there being so much more space. It was fantastic to have such engaging and interested people coming to talk to us to find out about the Fishermen’s Mission. Festival-goers were so generous with their donations and we can’t thank them enough."


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