Glen Dinning’s Blue Collar Street Food is back at the Forbury Gardens from Thursday 19 April to Sunday 22 April with the marvellously titled ‘Cheese Feast’. I caught up with Glen for a carafe of tea at C.U.P to ask him about his modern re-boot of this festival as well as the latest events at the Madstad.
There was a cheese fair held in the Forbury, and sometimes the Butter Market, from medieval times right up to around two hundred years ago. A thousand tons of cheese were sold in the cheese fair of 1813. According to local novelist Mary Mitford, the cheese was stacked yards high over an area as big as a cricket ground in the Forbury, creating an odour so intense it penetrated the walls of the nearby schoolhouse.
What is the Cheese Feast all about?
Cheese-based street food. There are going to be 15-20 street food operators, all on a cheese theme. Things like cheesecake, mac’n’cheese, cheese burgers, jerk halloumi, cheese fries; all these kinds of different takes on the theme of celebrating cheese itself. I hope to make this an annual event.
Are there any stalls selling cheese itself?
Reading based and award winning cheese makers Village Maid will be serving cheeseboards and portions to take away. Cheeses will include Spenwood (a hard cheese made from sheep’s milk), Waterloo (soft, Guernsey cow’s milk), Wigmore (soft, sheep’s milk) and Two Hoots Barkham Blue cheese. But it’s more about the street food side of it and different variations on the theme.
What will the bar be like?
We will have craft beers and our new Blue Collar Beer, brewed especially for the event. It’s created by a new brewery from Oxford called Tap Social who give reformed criminals a job brewing beer. Brewdog will have their own can bar and there will be cocktails, Pimm’s, prosecco and various wines to go with the cheese.
Will there be music and entertainment?
I think one of the best things about last year’s events was the atmosphere and environment, supported by the fire pit, hay bale sofas and marquee in the middle, with music playing throughout.
Have you prepared for any bad weather?
Yes, we are covered and it will be a good place to be even if it’s raining. We have a firepit; not for cooking but a lovely warm place in the evening to sit around, toast your hams and keep yourself warm.
Are the retailers local?
Yes, the vast majority are from the Berkshire area.
Are you happy that Jaap Stam has finally left Reading?
It’s a big relief as the atmosphere had turned toxic by the end. Paul Clement has started well and I’m really hopeful we’ve turned the corner and will stay up this season.
Matthew Farrall, the author of this article, died on 20 April 2018.
We are grateful to his family for allowing us to continue to display his work online.