Posted: 31 May '11 by Niall
Oh, The Sizzle promised so much: the right restaurants were there; there were good bands in the line-up; and there was a long, long bar. Everything was in place for a great weekend of entertainment. There was just one thing missing.. You!
Kelly and I went down to Botanic Gardens in Belfast on Friday evening, just in time to see The Adventures on stage. Getting a seat didn’t prove to be a problem, given that there were only 30 people there.
It was a very strange experience – the music from the stage just drifted off into the ether, the chefs were twiddling their thumbs, and the security staff wondered how long it would be until someone noticed that they outnumbered the paying customers.
What killed Belfast’s Sizzle?
Well, Friday was a bit of a disaster for everyone.
Fourteen dissident security alerts had reduced Belfast to a stand-still during the rush hour, and taken everyone back about 20 years.
The weather was fairly miserable too, which obviously doesn’t help with an outdoor event.
And, with impeccable timing and co-ordination, the Spring Continental Market was held at the front of City Hall – a free-to-enter food-based event which ran across the same four days as The Sizzle and which competed for our time and hard-earned money.
I think it was this that killed Belfast’s Sizzle. The low turn-out wasn’t a one-off – I’m not sure if the numbers picked up over the Saturday and Sunday, but from the comments on Twitter, things didn’t improve on Bank Holiday Monday.
I can only guess at what the chefs thought, having given time and staff away from their own restaurants to attend The Sizzle over the weekend.
A paying customer, though, would have been more than disppointed (verging on seething), having paid £8 per head into the event, and forked over £10 or £20 for the food tokens. That’s a lot of money for a non-event.
It wasn’t all bad!
It certainly wasn’t all doom and gloom, despite the grim skies overhead.
It may be down to my advancing years, but this was my kind of event! Between getting a seat, having no queue at the food-stalls (or the bar, or the port-a-loos!), and with good food and good music aplenty, I was quite happy with the way things turned out.
We were there for the food, mainly, and although we handed over plenty of our little plastic coins over the course of the evening, I think it was worth it. The food was good, and varied enough for all tastes.
Kelly loved the Panacotta with Strawberries and Crumbled Honeycomb from Balloo House, but we both agreed that Dean Coppard’s Baby Octopus and Monkfish salad was just delicious (which reminds me, we have to visit his restaurant, Uluru in Armagh, very, very soon).
The lack of trade also gave us time to chat to a few of the chefs, who rarely have the time to get away from their ovens at these sorts of things. For anyone interested in food, this was an unexpected bonus, and made the evening out worthwhile in itself.
You can see the photos here:
For next time
No pointing of fingers, no recriminations.. But there are a few things that we’d change:
- Somebody, somewhere, please co-ordinate these things! Two food-based events over one weekend in Belfast is a disaster waiting to happen.
- Let people know! Not many people knew about The Sizzle. The odd poster in a bus shelter doesn’t cut it. It’s the 21st century – use all the mediums out there. Engage with people that are interested in food to market the event.
- Think about the pricing! The £8 admission fee is over-the-top. Expecting a couple to pay £16 for admission, with nothing to show for it other than a couple of bands on stage (which are secondary to the “food” theme of the event) is not going to attract the crowds. Add another £20 for food and that’s a very pricey day out.
- If it’s empty inside, don’t charge! Yes, this is easier said than done – but to walk in after paying so much money, only to find the venue empty, leaves a very bitter taste in the mouth.
- Change the value of those tokens! Charge £1 for each token, not 50 pence – trying to count out 14 or 15 tokens just to get two appetisers is really annoying.
OK. Rant over.
Categories: Things to do