A FOOD festival is to be launched in Wallingford in a bid to attract more tourists.

At present, the town is best known for its ninth century origins, its links with crime writer and former resident Agatha Christie, and as a fil location for TV detective series Midsomer Murders.

Now traders and civic leaders want to put the town on the map as a culinary capital.

The day-long festival will take place at Bridge Villa caravan and campsite in Crowmarsh Gifford on Saturday, May 14.

Paul Bellchambers, who runs The Late Chef catering company and the town’s Saturday local producers’ market at the Regal Centre, urged residents to support the initiative.

He said: “It would be great if we could get Wallingford a new reputation as a town for food enthusiasts.

“Towns like Ludlow in Shropshire attract thousands. It will take a while to get the same kind of reputation, but organising an annual food festival is a very important first step, and next year we aim to stage the festival in the town centre.”

The demonstration tent’s main sponsor will be local honey firm Rowse, and Gerald Dickens, the great-great grandson of Charles Dickens, will be festival patron.

Mr Bellchambers said: “If this a success, we can aim to run other events throughout the year.”

The festival aims to promote local produce, from meat to wine, educate people about how food is produced locally, and promote Wallingford.

Seventeen food producers have signed up to take part so far, including Riverford Organics, Coopers Pork, Thamesdown Nursery, Just Trading, Chillies 2 U and Cherry Tree, along with other county meat and cheese producers and brewers.

A series of talks will be given by Mr Bellchambers, Belinda Hill from Stirring Stuff, and Robert Longstaff of the Oxford Garden Project.

Wallingfor mayor Bernard Stone welcomed the initiative and said the event was being backed by the town council.

He added: “There are now three different markets in the town, with food playing a large part in what they do, and they are already gaining quite a reputation.

“Staging an annual food festival can only help and we are very keen to see it flourish.”

Town clerk Andrew Rogers added: “Wallingford has some excellent Pubs and restaurants serving food.

“Pubs and restaurants could benefit by setting up stalls at the festival or taking part in some other way.”

  • For further information visit wallingfordfoodfestival.co.uk.