The Nyetimber Dorset Seafood Festival is back in Weymouth for 2021. This is great news for anyone who is planning a vacation (or staycation) in Dorset this year, and especially for food-lovers and seafood fans! I spoke to Laura Avant, the Festival Director, about what visitors can expect when they come to Weymouth in September.
What Is The Nyetimber Dorset Seafood Festival?
The Nyetimber Dorset Seafood Festival has taken place in Weymouth since 2008, a weekend of local seafood, wine and live entertainment. Laura told me that the event was originally planned to promote Weymouth and its Old Harbour Area in the run up to the 2012 Sailing Olympics. She added that it also “aimed to highlight the Dorset fishing industry and to establish Dorset as a centre of excellence for seafood cookery”.
The event was such a success that it carried on after the Olympics were over. By 2019 it was attracting 50-60,000 visitors each year. (If you were wondering about the name, Nyetimber is a vineyard in West Sussex, and the main sponsor of the Festival.)
What Will Be Different In 2021?
Due to the pandemic most of the events were cancelled in 2020. However, the festival organisers are planning to be back in September 2021. There will be some changes to the format, but the food, displays and festive atmosphere that regular visitors have come to expect will be there as usual.
The need to control numbers means that the Festival is being relocated from the Old Harbour to the Weymouth peninsula (behind the Pavilion Theatre). Spaces will be limited: visitors will have to secure their place by purchasing a ticket in advance.
As Laura says, “The Nyetimber Dorset Seafood Festival has been a beloved summer tradition since its inception in 2008, and visitors can look forward to returning to the shore this summer in a safe and socially-distant atmosphere, courtesy of the new venue”.
New Features For 2021
The Festival will be an extravaganza of street food, cookery demonstrations, live music and more. A number of new initiatives are being planned this year, including a chill-out zone, green seas initiative, children’s cookery school and crab picking.
Green Seas Initiative
In keeping with the Festival’s aim of promoting the fishing industry, there will be opportunities to learn about fish and fish cookery. Part of this is the Green Seas Initiative, which Laura describes as “a new zone to learn from experts on looking after our oceans from fish stocks to helping control plastic waste etc”.
School Of Fish – Children’s Cookery Workshops
The Festival is aimed at all age groups, and a new feature this year is a pop-up cookery school for children. The “School of Fish” will be running several sessions each day, with a range of dishes from mackerel pâté to Megrim curry.
The School is designed “to help children learn how to cook and enjoy fish as part of a balanced diet”. Laura said, “We hope this new feature will help encourage children to get confident preparing fish and enjoy showing their mums and dads just how simple it can be.”
A Focus On Underutilised Species
One aspect of this year’s event that intrigued me was the inclusion of “underutilised species”, which range from locally-landed squid to red gurnard, black bream, brill and many others. Laura explained that “as with most fish, the sustainability can vary significantly depending on how and where it has been caught or farmed”.
She added that “when discussing menus with our stall holders we are guided by the brilliant Blue Marine Foundation, and during the event we celebrate stall holders who use the best methods and most sustainable fish on their stall”.
Planning Your Visit To The Nyetimber Seafood Festival
The Nyetimber Dorset Seafood Festival will take place at the Weymouth Peninsula on 11-12 September 2021. Entry will be by ticket only, and places will be limited. Prices start at £10, and accompanied children go free.
You can book tickets at www.dorsetseafood.co.uk/book. And places for children at the School of Fish can be booked at www.dorsetseafood.co.uk/school (note that children under 8 must be accompanied by an adult).
Making The Most Of Your Visit To Dorset
Of course, visitors from outside the region will find lots more to see and do during their stay. In Weymouth itself there are beaches, hiking and wildlife spotting, and the picturesque Old Harbour. And, continuing the food theme, Laura told me, “Weymouth harbour, town and surrounding area is packed with food outlets, many serving seafood. And of course there is also good old fish & chips to feast upon!”
Close to Weymouth is the Jurassic Coast, a World Heritage Site famed for its rocks and fossils. Nearby is the beautiful Isle of Purbeck, with the seaside resort of Swanage, the Saxon town of Wareham and the medieval Corfe Castle. Further north, you will find historic Dorset towns such as Dorchester, Sherborne and Shaftesbury.