I love tourist season in Ludlow. For a few weeks over the summer the town’s population swells with people from ‘off’; unfamiliar folk giving the likes of us shopkeepers a much needed cash injection, and a deviation from the work-a-day norm. We Ludlovians are by nature a bit of a glass-half-empty bunch; quick to whinge and harrumph about the most trifling matters: graffiti on telephone boxes, dog poo, all the dastardly foreigners taking our jobs and women, etc.; For the record, it’s only the dog poo that gets my personal goat. But, that aside, it is the tourists who frequently remind me that Ludlow is a pretty bloody decent place to be.
I see Londoners who stare agog at estate agents’ windows, doing the quick arithmetic and realising that if they sold their one-bed ex-council flat in Walthamstow they could buy a mansion on Broad Street and still have enough change for a parking permit. They are utterly confounded that a loaf of ‘sardo’ in Price’s bakery is less than four quid. They totally freak when complete strangers wish them a good morning in the street, a propos of nothing. It’s brilliant.
And there are the day-trippers from south Wales, Merseyside, the Black Country who come on the charabanc to potter around in a place that reminds them of their own hometowns before it all went to pot (and smack), and £pound Shops.
True story – I recently observed an American gentleman explaining to his companions that the front of the Feathers Hotel is merely a 1930s façade. Seriously, some visitors to this town encounter buildings that are considerably older than their own countries. What’s not to love?
It would be naive and indeed wrong of me to suggest that all is rosy here. For many it most certainly is not, but for those of us who are fortunate enough to not have any real problems, it’s not so bad. Over the summer hols I find it refreshing to be reminded of the virtues of somewhere I take for granted.
The apex of the summer season - yet also a signifier of autumn - is of course the Ludlow Food Festival. This year it’s a big ‘un, the 25th anniversary no less. These days I’m not involved in the food fest, but it’s been a part of my life for quarter of a century and the second weekend of September will always hold a special place in my heart.
Back in 1994 when my parents (very much incomers at the time) co-founded the Festival, it was little more than a farmers’ market; a small sausage celebration up at the top end of Castle Square with a few beers, and a bunch of likeminded people who thought that Ludlow may be onto something food-wise.
Well, would you look at it now!
Some might argue that other towns now have more foodie food festivals, and possibly so, but ours was the first, and it’s still pretty incredible. Some of you may not like it when ‘your’ town doubles its population over three days. “What has the Food Festival ever done for us?” you may wonder. Well, had I enough column inches, I’d let you know in minute detail. The fact of the matter is that events such as the Food Festival showcase Ludlow at its vibrant best. People come for that weekend, get sloshed, and having had so much fun, they come back again and again.
So, a fond farewell to the summer of 2019. Here’s to a misty, mellow and fruitful autumn, and another 25 years of Food Festival fabulousness.