In 2009, local resident and Streatham enthusiast Mel Larsen took up the challenge of organising the first Streatham Food Festival after recognizing what many people now know to be true – that “Streatham is a veritable haven for foodies”.
The festival started as a collaboration between local arts fest Streatham Festival (which Mel also founded) and Lambeth Council, and with a very small pot of funding and a lot of energy and goodwill, Mel and her team of volunteers created a day-long programme of foodie delights, including a farmers’ market, taster sessions, a cake baking competition, cooking demos and a fabulous range of special offers in local eateries.
The first year proved to be a big hit and in 2010 the baton was passed to Francis Langlais, who grew the festival from a day to a week – proving just how much potential there is to get taste buds tingling in Streatham!
Mel returned as director for the third festival in 2012, stepping things up again with another week-long celebration of Streatham’s vibrant food scene, including a World Food Fair on Streatham Green, a bustling market outside the Odeon, and even more fantastic events and offers running in local eateries.
In 2013, Mel handed the festival over to another keen foodie and lifelong Streatham resident, Pauline Milligan. Building on the idea that you can eat your way around the world in Streatham and looking for a way to encourage people to visit restaurants they wouldn’t normally try, Pauline created the Streatham Food Tour. The tour offers an affordable way to try small plates of food in multiple local eateries, with scorecards bringing a fun and competitive element to proceedings.
Hundreds of people turned out for the first tour and it was picked up by local and regional press including londonist.com who said:
“We think this is a fantastic way to sample a load of local eateries without breaking the bank or worrying you’ll be stuck somewhere you don’t like all evening. More projects like this all over London, please!” londonist.com
Streatham was firmly on the foodie map.
The 2013 programme featured a range of other events including the Good Food Day at Gracefield Gardens and the Sunday Food Fair on Streatham Green. Blessed with beautiful sunshine and lots of good food, the space was truly transformed!
Under Pauline’s directorship, with a brilliant team and inStreatham as headline sponsor, the festival continued to go from strength to strength in 2014 and 2015. With flagship events the Streatham Food Tour and Sunday Food Fair attracting thousands of people to the area, and the wider programme offering something for everyone from pop-ups to food growing sessions, fundraisers to film nights.
Streatham’s credentials as a foodie haven were also now firmly established with recognition from London-wide press including BBC London, the Evening Standard, Time Out and londonist.com.
In 2016 Pauline has handed the festival over to inStreatham, and local resident Liz Barette took over running it on their behalf.
With a renewed focus on supporting the restaurants and food businesses of Streatham we hope that the Streatham Food Festival will continue to be an important fixture in the local calendar.