ALMOST 15,000 people headed to the first Seaham Food Festival on Sunday.

County Durham’s spectacular heritage coast provided a backdrop to the event, with people of all ages enjoying fresh sea air while tucking into delicious local produce and exciting dishes from around the world.

Unfortunately, strong winds and torrential rain left organisers, Durham County Council, with no choice but to cancel the first day of the festival on Saturday, despite months of planning. Thankfully, the weather improved dramatically by Sunday morning and the festival was able to go ahead as planned.

The turnout was so great that many traders sold two days’ worth of produce in a single day, with some selling out altogether. Town centre businesses also reported a bumper day’s trade.

Alison Raper, of Teesdale Cheesemakers, said: “It’s been a fantastic and really well attended event, and we would like to say a big thank you to everyone who came to Seaham to support us.”

The free festival is the first event of its scale to take place in Seaham.

As well as more than 100 traders serving up exotic street food and speciality ingredients, there was an open-air cookery theatre, where food lovers enjoyed demonstrations by ITV This Morning’s resident chef Phil Vickery, seafood specialists the Crabstock Boys and Seaham Hall’s top chef John Carlo Arrojo.

Phil said: “I’ve had a brilliant day. Seaham is a beautiful place and it’s been fantastic to share my passion for cooking with so many people.”

BBC MasterChef presenter John Torode, who was not able to do his demonstrations on Saturday due to the severe weather said: “Seaham Food Festival is about bringing the community together, sparking conversations and increasing understanding of local produce,” said John. “It’s a chance to showcase the local area, the produce and the producers.”

The festival is one of an unprecedented number of events taking place in 2019, with the #Durham19 campaign encouraging people to spread the word about the county’s rich cultural offering.

The event follows Bishop Auckland Food Festival, another county council event, that has boosted the town’s economy by millions of pounds since its launch almost a decade ago.

Coouncil leader, Councillor Simon Henig, said: “Seaham was the ideal choice for a new food festival and I am delighted so many people have come along today and helped make the event such a success.

“The town has benefited from significant regeneration, with more to come, boosting the town and county’s east coast economy. Local businesses will benefit further from the high turnout today and the event will encourage people to return to the town again and again.”

Councillor Joy Allen, cabinet member for tourism, said: “It’s wonderful that so many families and friends have come together to experience the sights, sounds and, most importantly, tastes of Seaham Food Festival.

“Tourism and the food industry are vital to the North East economy, which is why campaigns like #Durham19 are so important.”