THE countdown has begun to this year's Highcliffe Food and Arts Festival returning after a two year pandemic absence.

It takes place on the weekend of June 11 and 12 on the recreation ground and along Lymington Road through the village.

In a boost for the local business community, more than 140 traders are already booked in, covering not only artisan food and drink but also a huge range of specially curated crafts.

There's a full programme of live music throughout the weekend.

Read more: Christchurch Food Festival 2022 - everything you need to know

The cookery theatre will feature celebrity chefs Jean-Christophe Novelli and the popular Dorset-based Lesley Waters.

Local chefs will also be taking part throughout the weekend in a marquee on the green.

Also joining them will be Alex Aitken and the team from Christchurch Harbour Hotel, James Golding, Chef Director of the Pig Group of hotels, Luke Matthews from the Chewton Glen and chefs from Highcliffe restaurants, the Lord Bute and The Oaks.

Providing ideas for vegans will be chef Will Firman from the ‘Crow Spotter at the Retreat’ with a special Sunday morning workshop for those wanting to learn more about plant based foods.

Festival director, Mary Reader, said: "We are absolutely delighted to be back once again with a fantastic programme showcasing the very best of local food and arts. We are all looking forward to a fantastic weekend."

Two music stages placed at either end of the festival will offer a wide range of artistes including performances from Swing Unlimited, the Fifinellas and Highcliffe Charity Players together with a range of soloists and other performers including Sara Harris, Susie Kimber and Karl Lattimer.

There are also children’s pottery and art workshops, a treasure hunt, Miss Witt’s chocolate cookery classes and the ‘Grow Your Own’ tent.’

Entertainment for children will include a show by Tom Franck as the Rocket Man and the Mad Hatter. Little Gismos will feature on Sunday along with a special area for a children’s acrobatic circus.

Special emphasis this year will be to support Plastic-free Highcliffe.

Several local companies are supporting the event as sponsors, with the headline sponsor being Highcliffe Residents Association. Financial support is also being given by Highcliffe and Walkford Parish Council and BCP Council.

Ian Hartnell Chairman of Highcliffe Residents Association said “This event is pivotal in bringing not only a much needed boost to businesses in Highcliffe, but also to raise the profile of our village as a vibrant and welcoming community.”

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