Clr Neil Foster, Bishop Paul and Eileen Harrop outside St Anne's in Bishop Auckland Market Place. (Picture: Keith Blundy)

The Rt Revd Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham was in his Diocesan home town this weekend to officially bless the Bishop Auckland Food Festival as it opened on Saturday.

The festival which has become a major attraction and hot date in the County Durham diary is held annually in the town’s market place. 

Bishop Paul along with Clr Neil Foster addressed the crowds of stall holders and visitors early on Saturday morning to signal the start of the two day festival.

New for 2017 was the inclusion of St Anne’s Church in the market place who put on a stunning exhibition entitled the Holy Feast. 

During the two days of the festival, more than 10,000 people visited St Anne’s to view the stations and engage with the Holy Feasts Dialogue.

The Revd Eileen Harrop entrepreneurial priest at St Anne’s said: “Food and Feasts have special significance in the experience of Christians. Jesus’ first miracle involved turning water into wine at the wedding feast in Cana.  There were many occasions when Jesus drew on the significance of food including feeding of thousands with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish; the fishermen catching an extraordinary net full of fish on Jesus’ direction; Jesus cooking breakfast for his disciples on the beach after his resurrection, and he referred to bread and wine as a memorial of his life at his last meal with disciples. 

One of the Holy Feast stations at St Anne’s.   (Picture: Keith Blundy)

“Our Holy Feasts stations comprised of breads and wine, oils, and food displays of Passover and Seder Meals; the Last Supper and Holy Communion; Good Friday and Easter foods.  A stall, ‘Feasts for the Hungry’, featured Fairtrade products for sale and a local Food bank received food for people in crisis. REfUSE – a café from Durham served hot soup and food good from produce that would normally be thrown away. Highlighting the reduction of food waste is consistent with the Christian message of responsible stewardship, and thankfulness for, God’s provision.

Bishop Paul meets stall holders at the Bishop Auckland Food Festival.
(Picture: Keith Blundy)

“This event also celebrates the community.  We were supported by local producers whom we support in return by encouraging interest in their businesses.”

Speaking to BBC Tees after opening the festival, Bishop Paul commented on the importance of the festival in the regeneration activity going on around the town an to the strong connection of the town to its Christian heritage.

He said: “I was delighted to be asked to bless the festival, this is a really big event in the counties calendar and for the work in regeneration of the town – it’s fantastic to see so many people visiting and taking part.”