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Ambitious plans to celebrate borough’s offering during ‘Year of Food & Drink’

Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon are preparing to celebrate all that borough has to offer during Tourism NI’s ‘Year of Food and Drink’ in 2016.

Each month has a special theme and local produce – such as our own Armagh Bramley – will be put in the spotlight at key events across the borough.

The borough will be promoted as a ‘Food Heartland’ and special banners to highlight this will be officially launched by Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council will be launched during the first week of January.

Councillors will be asked this week to approve funding in excess of £120,000 to deliver the comprehensive calendar of events.

Tourism NI is making available £300,000 to support councils in celebrating their local produce with a maximum of £10,000 for each event.

Given that 83 applications have already been received, it is recognised that the chance of securing money will be low.

The successful applicants will be announced early in the New Year.

Councillors, therefore, will also be asked to approve a further £77,000 in expenditure if bids to Tourism NI’s cash pot are unsuccessful.

That will go before the council’s regeneration and economic development committee when it meets in Craigavon this coming Tuesday.

Moves are also underway to relax licensing laws to allow the consumption of alcohol at some events, given the local cider connection.

Cider producers are recognised as key to the borough’s agri-food industry and are passionate about creating high quality cider and championing the Armagh Bramley Apple.

Councillors recognise that, during 2016, it will be important that visitors to events can purchase and sample locally brewed produce throughout the year at local events but, in particular, during the month of April, which celebrates ‘Brewing and Distilling’.

Food NI and Hospitality Ulster are leading an active movement and lobbying MLAs to get a resolution in place for next year to permit the selling and sampling of alcohol at Year of Food and Drink events across Northern Ireland.

Just this week applications have also been submitted for funding to DARD’s Regional Food Programme for eligible events and economic development activities, including the Food Heartland Forum and a Food Heartland Awards scheme in a bid to maximise the economic benefit to the area.

Council officers have also developed plans to use the Year of Food and Drink to promote the weekly offerings at the Shambles Market and Lurgan Town Centre. Portadown Market will also be using this special year as an opportunity to promote their offering and there are plans to link the weekly markets across the borough on the same promotional literature.

Following on from the launch of the banner, the first initiative as part of the Year of Food and Drink will be a ‘Fry-Day’, marked at various venues on January 29, with all proceeds going to charity.

The theme for February is ‘Local Local’ and this message will be brought to the Mullahead District Ploughing Championships on Saturday, February 27.

In March, the theme is ‘Local Heritage and Traditions’, and this will be marked around St Patrick’s Day at the Navan Centre and at Oxford Island.

As already stated, April is the month for ‘Brewing and Distilling’ so the main focus locally will be on Loughgall Country Park and the Apple Blossom Festival, which runs over the Bank Holiday weekend from Saturday, April 30 until Monday, May 3.

During May, the Food Heartland banners and our own ABC offering will be brought to the Balmoral Show, running from Wednesday, May 11 until Friday, May 13.

June’s celebration is ‘Love Dairy’ and we have three key events in the borough – Lurgan Show on Saturday, June 4, Armagh Agricultural Show the following Saturday, June 11, at Gosford Forest Park, and Buskfest, in Banbridge, on Saturday, June 25.

There are no events locally during July, but again the meat-themed August will be championed during the Seven Hills Blues Fest.

Baking will be promoted at Country Comes to Town in Portadown on Saturday, September 17.

The Bramley will be out in force again for promotion in October, when Armagh stages the second Food and Cider Festival, from October 5-9, and the Richhill Harvest Fayre follows on October 19.

And then we’re back to Georgian Day on Saturday, November 27 (doesn’t be long rolling round!!!), while the Food Heartland banners will also be taking our message to St George’s Market in Belfast in time for the festive rush.

Other events during the course of the year will also be used to promote the message but these are some of the key diary dates being looked at currently.

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