Discovering Durham Trade Fair

A County Durham collective of producers is making it simple for businesses to buy and source local to help boost the region’s economy.

Discovering Durham brought together the best local producers from across the North East to its trade fair on Tuesday 21st September at Durham Town Hall.

County Durham businesses were able to see product demonstrations, taste samples and network with local producers to source products for retail, hospitality and leisure.

Discovering Durham CIC, a community interest company, was founded by Liza Johnson of Tea Enthusiasts and Matthew Booth of The Working Hand Brewery and Dawn Wilson of The Glass Raven just before the first coronavirus lockdown of 2020. The CIC has a retail presence in Prince Bishops’ Place in the centre of Durham as well as a support network to help the many small and micro producers across the county that stock their products in Discovering Durham CIC.

Liza Johnson, the event organiser, said: “We have an amazing range of great quality products that are made locally, if we can encourage every business to source just one more thing from a local producer, the impact on local jobs and communities would be huge.

“During the coronavirus pandemic, the consumer has come to depend on their local businesses more than ever, customers care where their foods come from and they want to see more local products on the shelves and plates of local business, with this event we made it simple for businesses to find local producers who are ready to wholesale.”

Both Liza and Matthew have benefited from support from Business Durham and Durham County Council to help them establish their successful food and drink companies.

When Liza’s businesses, Tea Enthusiasts, was looking to expand its distribution into retail outlets it sought the support of the Durham Food and Drink Network (DFDN), supported and funded by the Durham Business Opportunities Programme (DBOP).

Managed by Business Durham, the business support service for Durham County Council, DBOP is a six-year ERDF funded programme offering business support to SMEs in County Durham running up until November 2022. The programme follows a series of successful sector specific support programmes DBOP has run since it was established in 2016.  The programmes have focused on business areas identified as having high growth potential, such as childcare, manufacturing and engineering, the creative industries, the food and drink sector, routes to contract success and Covid recovery support.

The hospitality, leisure and retail sectors were all severely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and Discovering Durham has been an important lifeline for many local food and drink producers.

Victor Nwosu of Wiga Wagaa, an award-winning chilli company was one of the producers exhibiting at the event, said: “It was so good to have a trade fair right on my doorstep. They are usually huge events and cost a lot of money and time. This event has delivered all the benefits of a national fair and I get to see my products on more local shelves.”

Cllr Elizabeth Scott, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for economy and partnerships, said: “We were delighted to see so many local traders and their amazing produce at the Discovering Local Trade Fair. It showed how many fantastic food and drink producers we have across the county and highlighted the importance of both buying and sourcing local.

“We have experienced some difficult economic challenges throughout the pandemic, and to help boost the local economy we are encouraging businesses and organisations from across the county to support County Durham food and drink producers by buying their products rather than sourcing from outside the region.

“Discovering Durham CIC is a brilliant initiative and demonstrates the importance of networking and providing the right conditions for local companies to thrive and grow.  It’s fantastic to see Liza and Matthew’s own companies thriving while also supporting the County Durham business community through events such as this.”