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Fire, Food, and Festivals

Jemima Nelson rounds up the best live-fire festivals taking place this year, with BBQ food and outdoor living at the very heart of a dazzling array of events

 Jemima Nelson   Spring 2022

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The Summer Outdoor Living Exhibition (SOLEX) will open its doors for three days on Tuesday 12 July at NEC, Birmingham. SOLEX is the definitive event for the outdoor living industry, bringing together all the leading manufacturers of outdoor living products.

Being outdoors improves your health and wellbeing. Last year 63% of people spent more time in their gardens and outdoor spaces and more than 80% of consumers purchased an outdoor leisure product, SOLEX will feature furniture and accessories, barbecues, fire pits, leisure products, gifts, outdoor buildings, storage, lighting, spas, pergolas, hot tubs, parasols and soft furnishings. The event provides a showcase for all the new developments in design, environmental manufacturing, sustainability and production for both the retail and contract markets.

“SOLEX, set to be a carbon neutral event, is the place to connect quality suppliers with quality buyers and attracts trade visitors from multiple and independent garden centres, high street and department stores, online retailers, DIY stores and other industry professionals,” said Gina Hinde, SOLEX director.

Leading brands at SOLEX include, Broil King, Hartman, Traeger Grills, Norfolk Leisure, Pit Boss, Bramblecrest, Landmann, Beefeater, LeisureGrow, Kaemingk, Alexander Rose and Premier Decorations. SOLEX will also be partnering with the RSPB, donating £5 for every visitor towards a tree-planting project at RSPB Haweswater in Cumbria.

This year SOLEX has partnered with BBQ magazine. “There is perfect synergy as we are both passionate about outdoor living and cooking. Many of our BBQ members are already contributors and advertisers in this fantastic publication. BBQ magazine will be supporting our outdoor living area, featuring brands such as Kamado Joe, Traeger Grills and Landmann,” said Hinde.

The magazine will also be judging the best BBQ competition at the SOLEX exhibition with a chance for the winner to be featured in the next issue of the publication.


The Smoke & Fire Festival is on tour this summer, offering three weekends of fire, fun, smoke and flavour. The first event is at Victoria Park in Southport in June, followed by Ascot Racecourse in July and Castle Park, Colchester in August.

The Festival will feature the British Open BBQ Championships and the finest fire cooks and chefs, as well as some of the best blues and Cajun rock and roll and country music, this side of the Delta.

Smoke & Fire Festival is an innovative and all-inclusive food event with barbecuing and the art of cooking over fire at its core. You can watch and learn from some of the most skilled and experienced fire cooks and BBQ pit masters from across the UK and Europe, with BBQ Alley devoted to all things live-fire.

There are live demonstrations, masterclasses and tasters on the Fire and Feast cooking stage hosted by, among others, barbecue rock stars Marcus Bawdon, consultant editor of BBQ magazine, and DJ BBQ Christian Stevenson. Chefs will include the likes of Thom Bateman, Elliot Cunningham, Martin Anderson and Thuy Pham.



Manufacturers showcasing their products include Charlie Oven, Savage BBQ, Somerset Grill Co, Bradley Smoker, Primo Grill, Hellrazr and MEATER.

There will be street food traders and pop-ups from around the world, as well as a range of beers, ciders, wines and cocktails to wash down the live-fire food. There will also be eating competitions and children’s entertainment areas.

“A weekend at Smoke & Fire Festival will spark an everlasting interest in the alchemy and techniques of cooking with smoke and fire,” said Smoke & Fire Festival director Ashley Peniston-Bird.

“This year we have some great brand partners on board and are delighted to have BBQ magazine as a partner, a multimedia platform devoted to fire, flood and outdoor living. The festival also helps generate funds for our chosen charity, Essex & Herts Air Ambulance Trust.”


Black Deer Festival returns to Eridge Park in Kent from 17-19 June, with the three-day festival, inspired by the culture of America’s Deep South, merging Americana music with the best of BBQ and live-fire food.

In addition to a stellar line-up of musicians, featuring Van Morrison, Foy Vance, Wilco and Imelda May, the Black Deer team has put together a red-hot line-up of live-fire chefs. Curated by Grillstock founder and leading BBQ chef Jon Finch, the Live Fire arena and stage brings together everything to love about outdoor cooking and the culture that surrounds it.

There will be live masterclasses and interactive expert demonstrations on foraging, butchery and knife making from master craftsmen and industry-leading chefs, including Matt Burgess, Nick Weston of Hunter Gather Cook, Marcus Bawdon of CountryWoodSmoke and BBQ magazine, Genevieve Taylor, and Alex Pole of Alex Pole IronWork.

“You’ll be transported to the smokehouses of America’s Deep South on a journey for the senses. Chefs will be concocting mouth-watering recipes in custom-made smokers and low and slow pit BBQs, getting down and dirty with ribs, pulled meats, brisket, rotisserie chicken, smoky aromas and sweet sauces,” said Finch, with BBQ magazine, media partner of the Live Fire Arena.

“While much of the inspiration behind the food at Black Deer hails from the States, the collective values of the festival and chefs alike ensure that the produce will be ethically sourced and resolutely British.” 


The inaugural River Festival in Chalabre, France, taking place from 16-18 September, will celebrate the outdoor life, with a mix of fly fishing, fire-cooked feasts, artisan drinks, mountain hikes and foraging.

Chalabre is a protected, ancient bastide village located in the foothills of the Pyrenees. It remains unspoilt and largely original with a raw, unrenovated feel. It is in the very south of France in a large village full of character and places to explore, with this area being known as the ‘secret’ or ‘hidden south’ of France, surrounded by a rich and ancient history. 

“The festival will have its heart in an ancient walled garden where the village rivers meet,” said River Festival founder Claire Zambuni of Zambuni.

Local, seasonal produce will be celebrated and guests can explore the local fly fishing opportunities with experienced guides. There will also be nature walks, wild swimming and foraging expeditions. In the evenings, guests will return to L’Oasis for fire-cooked feasts and fireside chats.

“The River Festival is supported by some of the best outdoors brands in the world although also realises the importance of underpinning this with local knowledge and produce,” said Zambuni.

“This event focuses on sustainability, regeneration and a celebration of the local natural resources as well as building a tribe. This will be the founding event in a series which will travel to the UK and Europe in 2023 and beyond.”

Confirmed partners for the founding event this september are YETI, Big Green Egg, Hunter Gather Cook, Fox Meets Owl, BBQ magazine and BDQ Beer Co.

The nearest airports to Chalabre are Carcassonne and Toulouse, with a train to Carcassonne from London St Pancras


Food lovers’ festival Pub in the Park will be running its largest ever tour this year across nine locations from May to September, including new venues in Wimbledon and Brighton.

Top chefs including Tom Kerridge, Michel Roux, James Martin, The Hairy Bikers, Matt Tebbutt, Andi Oliver and Simon Rimmer will be featuring at events across the tour, while headline music acts to date include Rag ‘n’ Bone Man, Kaiser Chiefs, Melanie C, Craig David TS5, Sister Sledge, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Professor Green, Beverley Knight and Happy Mondays.

The first pubs and restaurants have been announced too including Tom Kerridge’s The Hand & Flowers and The Coach, Made in Oldstead by Tommy Banks, Great British Bake Off winner Candice Brown’s The Green Man, Atul Kochhar Restaurants, Andrew Pern’s The Star Inn, Stephen Terry’s The Hardwick, The Mariners by Paul Ainsworth, Hoppers serving Sri Lankan and South Indian inspired dishes and Joshua Moroney and Mursal Saiq from Cue Point with its British Afghan fusion BBQ.

At each location, there’ll be award-winning pubs and restaurants serving dishes showcasing their signature style – from local favourites to revered eateries from farther afield, while the main stage host with be food and drink expert and broadcaster Andy Clarke, a regular contributor to BBQ magazine.

Pub in the Park founder Tom Kerridge said “We’re so excited to be bringing some seriously top-notch chefs and their incredible pubs and restaurants to the towns we love this year. Food is at the very heart of what we do.”


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