MORE than 8,000 hungry visitors descended on Oxford Castle to load up on locally produced food and drink.

The inaugural Keeping It Local festival brought together more than 100 arts, crafts and food producers from Oxfordshire and neighbouring counties.

James White, 26, and Alice Aldous, 25, recently moved to Donnington Bridge Road, and were exploring what local produce was on offer.

Mr White, an archivist, said: “We have bought Oxford bread and Oxford sauce, as well as plums, coffee and cake.

“Supporting local people is cheaper and it makes more sense environmentally.”

There was also plenty to see and do including street, Morris and salsa dancing in the castle yard and a petting zoo with pony rides.

Rachel Whiting, four, from Blackbird Leys, went along with her mum Jane, and her friend Alex Bolam-Hussain.

Rachel said: “I liked riding on the ponies and getting my face painted, and I bought a handmade badge.”

Mrs Whiting, 45, said: “It is a good family day out and we are interested in local food issues. It is typical of Oxford, but part of a growing national phenomenon.” Among the exhibitors were many from Oxford’s Covered Market, including established firms such as the Oxford Cheese Company and McCarthy’s fruit and veg, and new traders including Brazillian cheese-ball snack vendors Bolitas, and Soo Shee sushi.Gordon Piggott, of McCarthy’s, said: “The festival promotes local business and brings awareness of business outside supermarkets, and we are always keeping an eye on our carbon ‘fruitprint’.

“This year has been really good because we have been joined by so many other stalls from the Covered Market.

“Independents have to find their own customers – we have to be proactive.”

Andy Peck, from the Old Farmhouse Bakery in Steventon, said: “It is really nice there is so much diversity. We are on a mission to educate people about the difference between supermarkets and local producers.”

Other edible treats included wine from Abingdon, chillis from a farm in north Oxfordshire and crepes freshly made by Crepes O’ Mania in Oxford’s University Parks.

Sarah Mayhew, events and marketing manager at Oxford Castle, said: “I think what is great about it is the really eclectic mix of flavours.

“We thought, let’s just cast the net as far as Oxfordshire because the quality of what we had on our doorstep is so good. It has brought together lots of different aspects of the region and everyone’s smiling and enjoying themselves and interacting really well.”

  • Turn to page 16 for Keeping It Local’s Live & Unlocked gig