International Cheese Awards
The ICA is the biggest cheese event in the world – right here on our doorstep! Next Tuesday we’re expecting over 5,500 cheeses to be exhibited in the biggest marquee to be erected in the country. I’m stewarding for the fourth year: my white coat is at the ready and my pencil sharpened ready to take down the judges’ comments.
It’s a great voluntary role that involves escorting two cheese judges as they assess their allocated group of cheeses. Oh, and did I mention that it involves tasting lots of cheese?
This video, filmed a couple of years ago, will give you an idea of what it’s like on the day. I spotted myself very briefly near the beginning when the stewards are being given the run down by Henry Elsby!
The place literally is abuzz with excitement and everyone involved works really hard to ensure the cheeses are all judged, notes taken, results given to the Chief Steward’s office and afterwards, that all the cheeses are moved back to their correct location in readiness for the following day’s Show.
Lunchtime at the ICA
Once the judging is finished, we all filter into a huge marquee for a fabulous lunch. It’s quite a sight, believe me: more than 1,200 people sitting down around dozens and dozens of tables, and everything runs with military precision.
Hats off to the wonderful catering team who do an absolutely fantastic job. The food is fabulous, beginning with fizz and canapés as we walk in then the most gorgeous cold buffet with meats, lots of different salads and crusty bread and butter.
Afterwards there is a huge choice of delicious desserts – and yes, you can have seconds! And of course, the International Cheese Awards would not be complete without a multitude of cheeses to eat, accompanied by the most divine crackers from Peter’s Yard who supply these wonderful crispbreads with a hole in the centre, served up on a bespoke board.
International Guild of Cheesemakers
One of the quirkiest aspects of the day is the sight of a crowd of people walking into the marquee wearing unusual robes, sashes and hats.
They belong to the Guilde Internationale des Fromagers and each year they induct new members into their Guild at the International Cheese Awards.
After the induction come the speeches from the Chair of Nantwich Show and other dignitaries and then the all important awards to individual cheesemakers and retailers.
See here fore a piece Cheshire Life magazine wrote about last year’s awards.
It’s Showtime in Nantwich!
The following day is Show Day when the showground is open to the public. Nantwich Show is the largest one-day agricultural show in the country, and wWhat an amazing spectacle it is! The cheese marquee’s crowd has been transformed from a sea of white coats to a rainbow of colours as the show-goers go from stand to stand, sampling the different cheeses.
Outside almost 500 exhibitors sell everything from crafts to tractors, whilst every local business from solicitors and banks to accountants and charities have stands and activities.
A visit to the RedShift Community Garden is a must: there are bands and singers playing there all day long with a free to use chill-out area where weary visitors can rest their legs for a while. This area is a hive of activity with numerous community organisations in attendance such as South Cheshire College, Guinness Housing (previously Wulvern), Crewe & Nantwich Churches Together, NHS South Cheshire CCG, Waterbabies who are offering a baby change service, Tropic with Clare Emerton, Independent Carers, Function Event Hire and The Nantwich App.
Action, Animals, Cake and Flowers!
The Main Ring is where all the action happens: see over 100 Heavy Horses, watch Jason Smyth perform breathtaking stunts on his quad bike, take a look at the vintage cars and tractors, meet the Cheshire Hounds and Beagles, marvel at the skills of the Dog Protection Services and cheer on the riders in the Pony Club Relay.
Aside from all of this is the serious business of farmers showing their prized animals. There is every breed of cattle and sheep plus poultry and pigeons, plus a dog show. And in the Countryside Pursuits area you’ll find the the Horticultural Section, the Floral Art and Honey Sections and the Home Produce and Arts & Crafts Sections. It’s always worth a wander around to see who’s Victoria Sponge has come out on top or have a chat to local honey bee producers.
Chef Stars in Attendance at Nantwich Show
Finally, a little about the stars attending the show this year. I’m lucky enough to be in charge of the Chef’s Demonstration Area this year where James Martin, Sean Wilson and Will Holland will be showing off their skills. I helped out last year and remember what a complete scrum it was when James Martin’s two shows were on … people were queuing an hour before to get ringside seats!! James’ demo is the only one that’s charged for (£5) and you can buy your tickets when you buy your show tickets.
See you at the show next week!