The catch from Scotland’s only wild, native oyster fishery is the focal point of a new seafood festival launched this September. Stranraer Oyster Festival will be Scotland’s first oyster festival, and the three day festival will encourage visitors to the town to celebrate the seafood heritage of Stranraer in south west Scotland.
The native oyster was once widespread around Scotland and much of the UK but has been harvested to near extinction which means almost all other oysters for sale in the UK coming from oyster farms. The Stranraer Oyster Festival provides the first opportunity for members of the public to try these unique oysters on the banks of the sea loch from which they are carefully harvested.
The festival, which takes place from September 15-17, marks the start of the oyster harvesting season and will commence with an oyster landing ceremony, complete with oysters being piped ashore, live music, a giant paella for visitors to the festival to share in, a community performance with the support of Oceanallover and fireworks.
Festivities over the weekend will include oyster tasting and competitions, cooking demonstrations and classes, wild food forages, a skiff regatta and a lively traders’ market packed with locally produced food drink, arts and crafts. Families are also invited to enjoy craft and kite making workshops, ghost walk tours and extreme pond dipping – a catch landed from the floor of Loch Ryan so that children can explore what lives at the bottom of the sea. Most of the festival activities are free of charge for visitors to participate in.
There will be guest appearances from Hardeep Singh Kohli and Mr Bloom from Cbeebies, live music throughout the weekend from bands including Gnoss and Pere Mata and ‘The Big Oyster Bash’ on the Saturday evening introduced by Hardeep Singh Kohli and headlined with live music from The Dangleberries.
Romano Petrucci, Chairman of Stranraer Development Trust, the organisation behind the festival, said: “We wanted to create a festival that would involve and inspire our whole town, and which will create a late summer tourism highlight to attract visitors to Stranraer. Food tourism is one of the fastest growing tourism sectors in the UK, and Stranraer’s heritage means the town is perfectly placed to capitalise on that growing interest in themed food festivals. By organising a festival that showcases the stunning beauty of Loch Ryan, the unique seafood that resides within the Loch and the warmth of the people of Stranraer we are looking forward to showing off our beautiful town to the world.
“Oysters might be considered a luxury food, but oyster festivals are not elitist. Oyster festivals take the oyster as a focal point and then create a celebration of local food, local culture and the local community around it. That’s what we’ve done with this new festival, and for visitors who don’t want to try a Loch Ryan Oyster, we’ll have plenty of oyster ice creams available for people to indulge in a seaside favourite!”
Leading ferry company, Stena Line, has been unveiled as the headline sponsor of the festival. As part of Stena Line’s sponsorship a special day trip has been launched to encourage people from Northern Ireland to visit the festival for a fun day out for the whole family.
Orla Noonan, Stena Line’s Travel Commercial Manager Irish Sea North said: “We are proud to be the headline sponsor and official ferry partner of the very first Stranraer Oyster Festival. There’s an action-packed programme with lots to see and do and something for everyone over the three days.
“Stena Line has been part of the local community for over 30 years and we hope that through our support of the Oyster Festival along with our other sponsorships, including that of Stranraer Football Club, we can help with the continued regeneration of the town of Stranraer,” Orla said.
Cllr Adam Wilson, Dumfries and Galloway Council’s Events Champion, said: “It is great that our council’s Major Festival and Events Strategy is able to support an event that celebrates our local food industry and local heritage, in the Stranraer Oyster Festival.
“The Stranraer Oyster Festival will be able attract visitors from not only here in Dumfries and Galloway but also from the West Coast of Scotland and Northern Ireland. Our Council is delighted to support this event and we congratulate the people of Stranraer for developing such an innovative and exciting festival.”
The festival has also been designed to offer volunteering opportunities and training for local young people in media skills and theatrical performance, and it has the backing of The Holywood Trust; a charity that helps young people throughout Dumfries and Galloway fulfil their potential in cultural, educational and social aspects of their lives.
Helen Turner of the Holywood Trust said: “This is a great opportunity for local young people to contribute to a major event and to be at the heart of its delivery, while at the same time, developing their personal and professional skills. It is our hope that young people from across the South West of Scotland will come along and enjoy this unique festival.”
Stranraer Oyster Festival takes place from Friday to Sunday September 15-17 inclusive. Full programme information and ticketing details are on Stranraer Oyster Festival.