The Causeway Coast and Glens Heritage Trust along with the Heart of the Glens Landscape Partnership have long been proponents of ‘local’, ‘traditional’ and ‘sustainable’. One of their most recent projects has been the Artisan Connect Programme which was aimed at creating and strengthening the links between artisans and local retail and hospitality outlets. The project manager, Melanie Brown, is one half of the North Coast Smokehouse and so knows the necessity of creating those links as well as the difficulties in doing so.
The work of the project over the last few months culminated in a Trade Craft fair at the Marine Hotel on Monday 26th from 6 -9pm. There were almost 30 food and craft artisans who were meeting over 66 local business customers from all over the Causeway Coastal Route from Larne to Limavady and from B&B’s, to shops, to hotels. It was an excellent turn out and the buzz generated was electric. I was there as part of the Glens of Antrims tourism group who were having their monthly meeting at the Marine that evening, held to coincide with the Artisan Connect programme. This was an inspired idea as it brought together many tourism facing businesses with these local foods and crafts – there were many excited conversations started as people discovered new foods or crafts right on their doorstep.
What are the benefits of working with local food and craft producers? Many and varied – from trust in the provenance, to faith in the quality, to creating interesting stories for your guests, to incubating a thriving local economy which is cost effective and diverse. The food producers were as varied as Broughgammon Farm goat to The Woman Next Door’s chutneys, from Amazin’ Grazin’ breads to Granny Shaw’s fudge (and too many more to mention – we do good food here in the Causeway Coast and Glens!); and crafts people including Taisie Turning and their Dark Hedges and Bushmills Distillery range, from Meltz candles to Artisan glass, from jewellery to soap. This diversity of product means that visitors experience such an amazing, interesting, fabulous place to visit.
As an example of the connections created, Roseanne Cecil from Blackthorn and Willow, a delicatessen and craft shop in Glenarm, found a supplier of gluten free bread mixes which will compliment her own bread making workshops perfectly. She was also keen on finding locally sourced and produced bread boards and cheese platters.
Sharon Schindler from Shola B&B explained that ‘they do 4 simple dishes, extremely well’. It’s why they use an award winning local butchers and were interested in meeting Niall Delargy from Glenballyeamon Eggs as well as others. (Perhaps that’s also why they’re a 5* B&B?)
The National Trust were also there, and Bob Kane, the Giant’s Causeway Shop manager explained that they were keen to introduce even more local suppliers into their current range which is so popular with visitors.
All of this means that this area thrives and grows, taking traditions into the future and giving employment to many.
Thank you to all concerned for a great evening and an even better future.
To find some gems for yourself, visit the Naturally North Coast and Glens Markets held regularly across the borough. (See below)