Soul food, as culinary capital Malton stages its own music festival

Tom Naylor-Leyland
Tom Naylor-Leyland
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It has long laid claim to the title of Yorkshire’s culinary capital, but Malton is now extending its menu to food for the soul, by staging its own music festival.

The all-day event on the banks of the River Derwent in July – the beginning of an annual tradition, it is hoped – will be a more upmarket affair than most, with musical genres from the 1950s to the 1970s catered for.

Its organiser, Tom Naylor-Leyland, a 36-year-old who says his musical knowledge ends in 1976, describes what he is calling the Meadow Fest as a “boutique” experience whose chief purpose, besides its soundtrack, will be to serve as another outlet for the town’s signature food vendors.

It is the latest in a series of increasingly ambitious ventures to put food from the market town in the North York Moors on the nation’s plates.

In November, the community interest company that represents local businesses supplied a three-course Yorkshire menu for an event billed as “Malton in Mayfair” at Claridge’s in London, in the presence of Samantha Cameron, wife of the former Prime Minister, and under the critical eye of Vogue magazine.

Mr Naylor-Leyland, who is heir to the Fitzwilliam Estate, which runs shops, pubs, hotels and farms in the area, has used its leverage to help the town punch above its weight in such circles.

But it was the late chef Antonio Carluccio, an early visitor to its annual festival of food, who first saw the marketing potential.

“We were very lucky that he coined the Food Capital phrase. A place like this needs a unique proposition, so we jumped on it,” Mr Naylor-Leyland said.

“The town has grown its reputation to the point where anyone who is going to do a really high-quality Yorkshire food product will consider relocating to Malton. We’ve had 26 new food and drink businesses open in the last five years – including a gin distillery, a coffee roastery, a gelateria and even a French macaroon maker.”

But he said the food festival, the 11th outing of which will be in May, would now be just one of a series of events to attract food lovers to the area.

“There are a quite few lovely market towns, but that’s not enough of an attraction these days. You need to go beyond and try to be a bit more ambitious. So we’re launching this boutique music festival of eclectic bands, all-day feasting and dancing.”

The event will take place in a picturesque, 20-acre meadow running along the river, with blues and rock music blending with folk and bluegrass.

“We’ll have anything that’s happy and uplifting. We’re not going for a dance festival for teenagers but we’re also not going for a classical or jazz thing,” Mr Naylor-Leyland said.

“It will start small but we hope to grow it over the years.”

He added: “We’ve got a reputation for food, and we’re not going to stop doing that, but we want to do other things as well.

“We need to give people a variety of reasons to come here, in the same way that Whitby is about so much more than fish and chips and the Abbey.”

The town’s first attempt to extend its franchise came with the first running last year of a French-style marathon in which the runners pause for food and drink at designated refreshment stops on the route.

The “Marathon du Malton”, modelled on the Marathon du Médoc through the vineyards of the Gironde, will be repeated over a 10km course in August, with the contestants encouraged to turn out in fancy dress.

“We had 250 runners last year and this year we’re aiming for 1,000,” Mr Naylor-Leyland said.

“I believe it’s the first in the UK. You basically go around and you eat and have a little sip of wine or gin, and then carry on to the next stop. There are eight on the route.

“Last year, the tickets sold out in a month and we’ve already sold nearly the same amount this time.”