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Liverpool Food And Drink Festival Fees Examined

Visitors will be charged entry for Liverpool Food and Drink Festival this year while Manchester remains free. Are you still up for it?

Written by . Published on August 23rd 2011.

Liverpool Food And Drink Festival Fees Examined

FOOD has become an increasingly important part of Liverpool’s cultural landscape. Many of us, when writing a to-do list called ‘Things I’d do with a bit more cash’ would probably include visiting more of Liverpool’s independent food offerings.

Liverpool can seem too obsessed with creating an event that is either the biggest or the first

After spending several years working in the city’s food and drink sector there are a two absolute truths. One, it’s a lot better than it was ten years ago. Two, there are more ‘fine dining’ venues, and more of a presence in the national press but we’re still a long way from getting a ‘star’.

There was an audible spitting of feathers among some quarters when the first Michelin Star in the region went to a small, but perfectly formed, restaurant in Oxton. To be honest, who cares? It represents a certain style of dining. It’s not the be all and end all and, along with increasingly popularity within other guides, there’s still great grub to be had.


The Liverpool Food and Drink Festival began as a celebration of that food culture. Note, not foodie culture, and all the connotations that brings.

Liverpool was more inclusive than all that.

In an explosion of ‘check out how continental we are’ the city’s top eateries got together to show us, not only the wide range of food on offer, but also new places we might visit. Indeed, call me slow off the mark if you will but it was during my first visit to a food and drink festival at Sefton Park that I discovered Delifonseca.

The first incarnations of the Food and Drink Festival showed us that it was not all about galleries and theatres in Liverpool. There were shows going on every night at dining tables across the city and it was there to be celebrated. If I’m brutally honest, I have been in love with this idea more than the actual festival hub at Sefton Park.

Essentially I feel as though I am walking around in a circle, either arriving too early or too late to really enjoy it. Demonstrations are not happening in the much-vaulted tent or it’s too packed to go in. I cannot say much for the tent. Much like the goth I was in my teenage years, I have spent more time on the outside than the inside. I basically visited the stalls of restaurants I already knew and discovered a few new things but had to spend a fair amount of cash to appreciate them fully.


This year at Sefton Park, the Food and Drink Festival not only falls over two days but will charge for entry for the first time, £4 for adult online and in advance, £5 on the gate. Children get in free. The organisers, South Liverpool based SK Events, feel there were the visitor stats were huge over the last three years so they wanted to make it bigger to accommodate the numbers. But that meant a doubling of costs. Also there’s less public funding and noticeably reduced sponsorship.

They’ve trotted out a cinema analogy to justify the charge. It will cost £8 to come to this festival for a family of four. At the flicks it would cost nearer £30.

This isn’t an exact comparison though.

Yes, the cinema is astonishingly expensive. But they don’t charge you to enter an Odeon before you pick the film you want to see. And that £8 for a family of four to go to Sefton Park this year doesn’t really reflect the true cost.

Say you live in Anfield. If you park then good for you, although it’s notoriously difficult for an event at Sefton Park. But if you get the bus you’re looking at a ride into the city centre - £1.80 each way for adults and £1 for children, then a second bus to south Liverpool. Over a tenner for the return trip, plus that £8 entry.

And, I’m guessing, they don’t allow you to bring a butty, so you still need to spend money inside the Festival if you want to sample some of the fare from our fabulous restaurants.

Manchester Food and Drink Festival has seen a similar restriction in cash readies, a shortfall of £35k in fact when the Council withdrew its funding. Their ideal is to keep the festival free. They have had to streamline costs and are adding some ticketed events and have set up a ‘friends of’ scheme developing a yearly membership. Yet, despite the struggle, they are committed to not only keeping it free but ‘inclusive’. 

And here’s the rub. 

Charging at the door inevitably is exclusive. the Food and Drink Festival allows people who can’t afford to take a risk with a new venue the chance to sample it. If everything inside the site was free by the time I made my way past the youth holding out his eager hand for my cash I wouldn’t be so worried. I’m not inordinately bothered about celebrity chefs.


I’m entirely convinced the ‘new areas and activities’ promised will offer a good day out for those who choose it, and can afford to go. It may still be one of the cheapest food festivals in the country, but Liverpool’s still one of the poorest cities in the country and if Manchester can afford to keep it free then why can’t we? 

Liverpool can seem too obsessed with creating an event that is either the biggest or the first, rather than just being good, and inclusive. Mathew Street Festival has fallen into the same trap. Keep dangling the baubles and they’ll not notice the pot-holes. Perhaps, if they stripped back a little of the party dust and glitter, it wouldn’t feel so much like it’s all sizzle and no sausage.

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10 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Norman HoldenAugust 23rd 2011.

What a hopelessly negative review. All the guff about travel costs applies to anything you do in life (Is Manchester offering free travel?). When you look at the queues for food & drink on the day, £4 or £5 pales into insignificance. This applies even more so for the Mathew Street Festival weekend; we'll be happy to buy a wrist band to ensure it survives.
Incidentally, over the same weekend, the Wirral Food & Drink Festival is being held, and guess what, the tickets are £4 or £10 for a family of 4. But,of course, us poor scousers won't be able to pay the Tunnel Tolls!!

1 Response: Reply To This...
Jonathan GardSeptember 2nd 2011.

I'd happily buy several wristbands to ensure Matthew Street 'festival' weekend NEVER occured again.

An embarassment to and a blight on the city.

AnonymousAugust 24th 2011.

Proper farmers' markets are free and a damned sight cheaper and less crowded; purchasers can more easily talk to the people selling and making the food.

'Food festivals' are just get-togethers for poseurs to show off, suck in their cheeks and be unpleasantly haughty in a Lark Lane bell-end manner

People would have a lot more enjoyment over the weekend in the unspoilt parts of Sefton Park away from the rag-arsed hipsters.

AnonymousAugust 24th 2011.

If you pay to get in somewhere, you’d expect what’s inside to be free. This is all just a promotional event for the businesses exhibiting there; surely the onus is on them to pay more for their stands to make the event viable?
After all it is in their interests and nobody else’s.

On the other hand of course the admission charges might be there for exclusivity, to deter the poor people so the braying foodie bores will have more room to show off in their ridiculous trousers.

AnonymousAugust 25th 2011.

If it is run anything like the way that the Liverpool Show was run people can
(a) bunk in over the fence and
(b) the main roads will be filled with loitering scallies with pristine wads of tickets that they are selling for a fraction of the official price.

But then it is only a food festival so who would be that bothered?

AnonymousAugust 26th 2011.

Wait a couple of weeks and try Hope Street Feast ...

rustumlongpigAugust 26th 2011.

As I have previously stated , The Hope street festival Gives a pallette of colourful experiences with food . Alas a lot of these "Festivals" Feature Roast pig , sausages and burgers with a torrent of cupcakes to follow.
I have been to many foodfests including nationals at NEC. and I love the locals best but the locals need to raise the bar and get more passion in the air! Scheduling helps too , Why do I have to chose between Wirral , which has much to offer and Liverpool where my heart lies. We dont need the proffesional "Foodmules" here We have our own talent and lots of it , Lets get a Non Stuffy inclusive Symposium of fired up food makers/providers and the people who grow and farm the good stuff all around us. Tap into the innovations that we see in some of our better fooderies.

Jonathan GardSeptember 4th 2011.

Agree with the article completely. I don't want a demo from a celebrity chef, so I'm left with paying to get into Sefton Park to see stalls of bars and restaurants I can browse with no charge in town.

I would say that the offers available this week as advertised on the Festival website from the exhibitors are excellent though.

AnonymousSeptember 12th 2011.

At least the Hope Street event has its heart in the right place and isn't just a cynical moneymaking opportunity by people with no soul or passion

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