The Hairy Bikers prepare for an emotional return to Yorkshire Dales Food and Drink Festival

The Hairy Bikers are back at the Yorkshire Dales Food and Drink Festival later this month and it’s going to be an emotional return for the much-loved cooks. Chris Bond talks to Dave Myers and Si King.

When Dave Myers and Si King, aka the Hairy Bikers, take to the stage at the Yorkshire Dales Food and Drink Festival later this month there’s likely to be a few tears shed.

It was in May last year when Dave revealed he’d been diagnosed with cancer and the subsequent 12 months have been an “emotional rollercoaster” for the much-loved TV chefs as the 65 year-old underwent gruelling chemotherapy, an experience he described as “brutal” in an episode of Tommy Banks’ Seasoned podcast back in March.

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He’s gone on to give fans regular updates and is now well enough to appear on stage with Si. “It’s been hard but I’m not the only one and I’m getting through it and I’m back at work,” he told The Yorkshire Post.

The Hairy Bikers are returning to The Yorkshire Dales Food & Drink FestivalThe Hairy Bikers are returning to The Yorkshire Dales Food & Drink Festival
The Hairy Bikers are returning to The Yorkshire Dales Food & Drink Festival

“We’ve done a couple of episodes of our new TV series and we’ve got a new book coming out at Christmas.”

It has by his own admission been a tough period. “I’ve had to learn to walk again and ride my bike again, and to get on my bike again with Kingy in the sunshine brought tears to both our eyes,” he says.

It’s been difficult, too, for Si, though he says his pal has shown real fortitude. “He’s doing ok. He’s a proper scrapper and he’s on good form.”

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The pair are big supporters of the three-day festival in Skipton which is why they’re looking forward to returning to Funkirk Farm, where they’ll be joined by an all-star line-up that includes James Martin and Gino D’Acampo.

Rachael and Andy Higgins and family who run Yorkshire Dales Food and Drink FestivalRachael and Andy Higgins and family who run Yorkshire Dales Food and Drink Festival
Rachael and Andy Higgins and family who run Yorkshire Dales Food and Drink Festival

“I had to miss it last year and I was gutted,” says Dave. Given all that’s happened since then it’s going to be an emotional return. “There’s a lot of good feeling for the Bikers’ and if I don’t end up blubbing I’ll have a grin on my face from ear to ear,” says Dave.

Si agrees. “It’s going to be emotional. It’s been an emotional rollercoaster for everybody who loves and cares about Dave.”

Fellow chefs have rallied around to offer their support. “People have been very kind as they always have been to Dave and I, because although we’re called chefs we’re not really, we’re cooks. Everyone’s been very supportive because it’s a lovely community.”

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For Dave, being back on stage doing cookery demonstrations and having a bit of craic with the crowd will no doubt feel special. “The cooking’s easy, it always has been for me and Kingy. It’s my normal life and it’s good for me,” he says.

“We have a good laugh and we don’t plan anything really, apart from the food. I always say it’s a bit like Tommy Cooper, there can be chaos but there’s got to be a bit of magic at the end. And fortunately so far we’ve managed that.”

Returning to a festival that’s close to their heart clearly means a lot to them.

“The Yorkshire Dales event is a highlight in our calendar, we absolutely love it. It’s just a fantastic celebration and a fantastic festival. We were there when it launched in 2016 and it was in cowsheds,” Si says, with a chuckle. “It was fantastic and it’s been lovely to track its success.”

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Dave agrees. “This is much more than just a food festival. It’s a family festival. When you go to a lot of food festivals you go to see the producers and the so-called celebrity chefs, and this is much more of a hybrid festival, it’s a bit of a music festival, a family festival, and also you’ve got the food. For me, I love to see Gok Wan do his DJ stuff. He’s a mate of ours and he’s brilliant.”

The family-owned festival is the largest of its kind in the UK, offering a medley of gastronomic treats where festivalgoers can try their hand at everything from cooking to sampling tasters and tipples in one of the many workshops and masterclasses.

“It’s the sort of thing where you could go and pitch up for the whole weekend,” says Dave. “It’s a proper summer festival and it’s up there with the best of them.”

Si says the festival is a celebration of who and what we are. “It’s like-minded people who love food, love drink, love music and love their area,” he says.

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“Dave and I always say that people are defined by their landscape and also the landscape defines the food as well, and the Yorkshire Dales is a particularly beautiful place. So what’s great is you’re in this fantastic farm setting, with rolling hills and it’s an affirmation of local produce - it gives artisan producers an opportunity to shine.

“It’s also very important for the local economy because it brings in a significant amount of people and money that helps support that micro economy.”

It’s approaching 20 years since the Hairy Bikers first hit our screens, during which time they’ve become the country’s most popular cookery duo with a string of TV shows, including The Hairy Bikers Go North and Mums Know Best, and 29 cook books to their name.

Given their Northern roots – Dave is from Cumbria and Si from the North East – Yorkshire has not surprisingly featured prominently on their culinary travels over the years. “The diversity’s huge,” says Dave. “You’ve got that incredible coastline, the landscape and the farming. It’s very generous, you always get big helpings in Yorkshire.

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“At the top end you’ve got great chefs like Andrew Pern and Tommy Banks that we know personally as mates. Again, they’re very generous. It’s like Tommy, he does super-fine dining but he’s still really generous.

"There’s also a homespun quality as well from Yorkshire farmhouse baking and curd tarts and all the traditional food. We’ve even filmed at vineyards in Yorkshire. It’s got the lot.”

He says the cities, too, have forged a strong culinary identity. “You go to places like Leeds and Bradford, they’re culturally diverse and you’ve got access to really good restaurants, and if you’re going out for a curry you know you’re going to get a really good one.”

So what have been some of their highlights over the years? “Going out of Whitby on a fishing boat and coming in and filleting the fish and eating the langoustines fresh on the boat, and learning to make Yorkshire curd tart,” says Dave.

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“When we did The Hairy Bikers Go North we filmed an Indian lady near Harrogate who had a curry and spices factory making the most amazing blends and food. Then there’s the markets in Leeds and Scarborough, both of them are amazing. Scarborough market is incredible. There was a greengrocer’s there with four or five different types of garlic and the produce would rival anything you’d get in a French market… we’ve filmed a lot in Yorkshire, but why wouldn’t you?”

Which is why they’re such big fans of the food and drink festival in the Dales. “It’s a chance for like-minded people to get together. That’s the glue of our society and the Yorkshire Dales Food and Drink Festival does that perfectly. It’s an absolutely joyous event,” says Si.

And after all he’s been through, what’s Dave looking forward to most? “Seeing the people who watch our shows and sticking my head above the parapet and saying ‘hello’…and just having a lovely, lovely weekend.”

Yorkshire Dales Food & Drink Festival takes place from July 21-23 at Funkirk Farm, Skipton. Tickets to see the Hairy Bikers demos on Saturday, July 22 (11.30am, 2pm and 4.30pm) are available for £40 each (includes the £23 festival entry cost). Standard festival tickets for Saturday and Sunday are available for £23 each (kids under 7 go free). Weekend tickets are £50. Weekend bronze camping pitch is £75 (plus the price of a weekend ticket). Tickets are available online at