Penrith turns orange in March each year in celebration of the World’s Original Marmalade Awards and Festival at nearby Dalemain.
The event was founded in 2005 by Jane Hasell-McCosh, who lives at the Georgian stately home between Penrith and Pooley Bridge.
Her entrepreneurial flair has turned the festival into a major event. This year it attracted nearly 10,000 visitors eager to sample some of the 3,000 entries from amateur and artisan producers.
Now she is rolling out the festival as a global brand under licence.
The Australian Festival of Marmalade was launched in in 2016.
While Dalemain’s festival is international, attracting marmalades from across the globe, the Australian festival is for domestic entries only – although participants can enter the competition in the UK for no extra fee.
The first Japanese Festival of Marmalade, along similar lines, will be held next May.
That’s quite something for an initiative borne out of the foot-and-mouth outbreak in 2001, which had a calamitous effect on tourism in Cumbria.
Jane said: “A lot of businesses ground to a halt because of foot and mouth and it was taking time to recover.
“I wanted to do something to bring people to Cumbria at what is a quiet time of the year when nothing else happens.”
Proceeds from the amateur entry fees go to charity. Beneficiaries include Marie Curie Scotland and Hospice at Home, which has received £200,000.
But why a marmalade festival?
“Like anything that anybody does, you do it because you feel inspired,” Jane said. “For me, it goes back to making marmalade in my childhood.
“Making good artisan marmalade is a very human activity. You’re chopping things up by hand. You’re being creative.
“That said, we didn’t anticipate the festival would take off in the way it did.
“There has been huge media interest, everything from Blue Peter to the Hairy Bikers and all the broadsheet newspapers.”
There were fewer than 600 visitors and only 60 entries at the first festival in 2005, many of them from friends living locally.
Now the awards attract entries from more than 40 countries.
Jane said: “They have captured the imagination of artisan producers. We award gold, silver and bronze roundels and the ultimate accolade, double gold. Double gold winners are sold in Fortnum and Mason in London.”
A spin-off business supplies marmalades and chutneys under the ‘Dalemain’ brand. Jane explained: “I’ve always made marmalade. Well before we had the festival we used to sell ‘Jane’s Marmalade’ in the shop at Dalemain.
“It’s a wonderful way of providing a souvenir for visitors.
“When we started the festival we suddenly had a recognisable brand.”
The jars are now branded as ‘Dalemain’ rather than ‘Jane’s Marmalade’ with an image of the house on the label.
You can buy them in Fortnum & Mason in London, Fenwicks in Newcastle and at Cumbrian outlets such as Tebay Services, Rheged, J&J Graham in Penrith and Houghton Hall near Carlisle, as well as Dalemain itself.
As demand grew, Dalemain outsourced production of the marmalades to Thursday Cottage, part of the Tiptree group.
Chutneys are still made at Dalemain using apples from orchards on the estate. The range includes a Tangy Orange – effectively a marmalade chutney.
Jane is working with the Chamber’s Cumbria Business Growth Hub to expand the marmalade and chutneys business.
She said: “We are looking to increase production and we are working with Growth Hub adviser Adrian Luckham to find new routes to market. Having Thursday Cottage means we can scale-up production very quickly.”
The Growth Hub can help potential exporters by introducing them to advisers at the Department for International Trade.
That’s another avenue Jane is exploring, with Japan top of the list.
The Lake District has long had a fascination for Japanese visitors, in part because Beatrix Potter books are used there to teach English.
Jane said: “NHK – Japan’s equivalent of the BBC – have made two documentaries on Dalemain and the festival.
“We have a profile there, which is why we’re launching a marmalade festival and targeting it for exports.
“We’re also looking at other potential export markets.
“And we’re working with the Commonwealth Business Council to help put on festivals in other countries.”
Find out how Cumbria Business Growth Hub can help your business. Call us today on 0844 257 84 50 or click here to visit the Growth Hub web site.
The funding that supports the Growth Hub comes from a range of sources including Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, the European Regional Development Fund, Allerdale Borough Council (Sellafield Ltd’s Allerdale SIIF, distributed by Allerdale Borough Council), Barrow Borough Council (FEDF Coastal Communities Fund Supply Chain Initiative, the Coastal Communities Fund is funded by the Government with income from the Crown Estates marine assets; it is delivered by the Big Lottery Fund on behalf of UK Government), Carlisle City Council, Eden District Council, South Lakeland District Council and Cumbria LEP. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government is the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund. Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations. For more information, click here.
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