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Thursday, 18 December 2014

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Rock chick Rachel feeds the festival thousands

The line-up of bands has been announced for Solfest, the days are getting longer and warmer and there’s almost the whiff of fried onions in the air...

Other festivals across Cumbria and the UK will be revealing their star attractions as people start to plot which music festival to go to this summer.

Rachel Faulkner has bittersweet memories of some events – or should that be sweet and sour?

The music was good, but the food usually hit a bum note.

So she decided to set up her own catering company to provide hungry festival-goers with an alternative to the usual slimy burger in a bun or bowl of tasteless noodles.

Over the past three years she has provided tasty sustenance at horse trials, food events and rock, pop and folk festivals, including Maryport, Solfest, Brampton Live and Wickerman.

She’s busy booking events for this year and is hoping to add Glastonbury, Rockness and V Festival to her growing list.

“We attended nine festivals over 50 days last year and we want to double that this year,” said Rachel, who lives near Longtown.

“I decided to start the business because I’ve been to so many festivals where the food was awful.”

But surely festival-goers don’t care about what they eat, they’re more interested in booze, music and having a good time?

“I think they do care,” Rachel, 27, insists.

“I don’t like paying £5 for a burger that is rubbish. You get good quality from us.

“The most popular is the carvery, we do roast pork and apple sauce in a roll.”

The business is all Rachel’s, her partner Rob Carr farms an organic dairy herd.

Rachel went to school near Kirkby Lonsdale and left at 18 to work in marketing in London and Barcelona where she lived for two years.

In 2007 she moved back to Cumbria after meeting Rob and decided to set up the company, initially, to take to county festivals.

Depending on the event, Rachel serves up posh pies, a carvery, crepes or ice cream.

But a key part of the food is that it is home-cooked and locally-sourced.

Meat for the carvery is supplied by Cranstons, ice cream by English Lakes and homemade pies by a friend just over the border in Yorkshire.

“The carvery is the most popular, we make roast pork with apple sauce in a roll, or roast beef with horseradish sauce.

“We also provide vegetarian options, like goat’s cheese and butternut squash pie.”

The first big music festival for the Red Radish company was Solfest two years ago.

“It was really nerve-wracking, but it was brilliant,” remembers Rachel.

“We were working from 6am until 3am, then got a couple of hours sleep and got up again.

“It was four days of constant trade, but then I had the rest of the week to sleep it off!”

The cooking involves long hours of tiring work.

But the music fans are grateful, she knows because they come back and tell her.

“We did really well there. And it was great that everyone came back and said how much they enjoyed the food and came back for more made it more worthwhile.”

While getting the right pitch at a festival is vital to trade (in the main arena is best; in a campsite is useless), the weather has little effect.

“When it is wet people want hot food anyway,” says Rachel.

The success of her catering business has grown steadily and now provides food for weddings, kids parties and business events and she travels from London to Scotland to cater for corporate occasions.

Running the business has changed her life in another way.

She admits that whenever she goes to a gig these days, she pays as much attention to the food as to the music.

“I was a rock chick for a bit when I was younger, but I’m not now, every time we go to see a band I look to see who is doing the food.

“We went to see the Stereophonics at the Metro Arena in Newcastle and they only had donuts. They cost £7 for four, there was a massive queue and it was rubbish.”

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