City gets pie-eyed over its anniversary party

Elizabeth Murphy in Wakefield
Elizabeth Murphy in Wakefield
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It is known for its position at the centre of the Rhubarb Triangle and for its hosting of an annual festival of the fruit each February, but a newly commissioned pie to celebrate the 130th anniversary of West Yorkshire’s third city will come from a butcher’s.

Northern stereotypes notwithstanding, Wakefield, former county town of the West Riding, has commissioned an award-winning local pie maker to produce the signature dish – its exact filling yet to be determined – as part of a year-long series of events in the run-up to July’s landmark.

“Who doesn’t love a pie?” challenged Elizabeth Murphy, manager of the city’s Business Improvement District, who said the anniversary was a chance to change perceptions of Wakefield among residents and visitors alike.

“Too many people either don’t know or forget that Wakefield is a city. It has been for 130 years but we don’t celebrate that,” she said.

Rhubarb, force-grown in dark sheds, is Wakefield’s most famous export and in 2005 the council planted a sculpture of a rhubarb plant in Holmfield Park.

But the family firm of Hofmann’s, which will produce the celebration centrepiece, uses the fruit only as an optional topping on its pork pies. Spokesman Nigel Hofmann said: “We want to try and capture the pride in our city, in pie form.”

Wakefield is a city by virtue of its cathedral, which will be the venue for an art exhibition based on ideas from teenagers and pensioners on how it might look in another 130 years.

Simon Cowling, Dean of Wakefield, said the event was an opportunity to help it “prosper and thrive over the next 130 years.”