Another Positive Perspective 

One of the great things about being involved in promoting Banbury is that you get to know lots of other people who share our perspective.

They also have the view that Banbury has lots to offer and a latent potential ready to be realised, if only people were to accentuate the positives rather than to dwell on the areas to improve (which town doesn’t have those).
One of those people is US expat Deborah Menikoff Simmons who blogs about all sorts of wonderful things Banbury-based. 
Here is Deb’s great blog page – give it a good read because it is a good read!

Blogging about Banbury 
Blog & biog photo credits: Deborah Menikoff Simmons / Neil Simmons


Love is…… Banbury

Do you remember those 70s cartoons of the little man & woman with the message “Love is…..”?

To celebrate the anniversary of the Visit Banbury “Be Positive About Banbury” video which we gifted to Banbury on St. Valentine’s Day last year and to give someone a special treat, we have a little competition for all of our Twitter followers & Facebook likers. And we have taken inspiration from those famous cartoons.

Our friends at The Italian Larder

also have something to celebrate as this is their first St. Valentine’s Day in their new location on Wildmere Industrial Estate (close to Banbury Gateway Shopping Centre) and so they have very kindly donated a Tiramisu panettone & a bottle of Prosecco for us to give as a prize to one lucky follower or liker of the Visit Banbury Twitter feed or Facebook page.  

How to Enter
All you have to do is ensure you are following or have liked and send us a tweet or a Facebook message with the hashtag #LoveIsBanbury and tell us what is the ONE thing you most love about Banbury.

You can also find The Italian Larder on Twitter & Facebook


Closing date is Midnight on Friday 12th February 2016.

All entries received with #LoveIsBanbury, an item which you love about Banbury and which are verifiably from a follower or liker of the Visit Banbury social media channels mentioned will be entered into the competition and one entry will be drawn at random.

The winner will be advised on Saturday 13th February.

Prizes will NOT be sent by post / courier so please ensure you could collect them from the Visit Banbury team in Banbury.

The winner agrees to take part in promotional photography & authorises Visit Banbury to retain ownership of the photos taken and to use them in Visit Banbury social media / internet or print media publicity.

Neither Twitter or Facebook are involved in this competition run by Visit Banbury in conjunction with The Italian Larder.

The decision of Visit Banbury is final and Visit Banbury reserve the right to withdraw the competition if circumstances dictate.



Banbury has a new dish !

The Visit Banbury “Create a Banbury Dish” Competition has found its winner for 2015!

1 Phil Seal

Sunday 9th August 2015 saw the culmination of a few months’ work by the Visit Banbury team, our partners and most importantly a number of local chefs, to find a new savoury dish for Banbury as part of a new competition for enthusiastic cooks and chefs to create a brand-new dish for Banbury and help us put our lovely historic market town on the food map!

Visit Banbury launched as a community organisation back in January 2015 and very quickly identified the growing food trend in Banbury as an area in which to develop projects to interest and excite Banbury residents and to promote Banbury, its culinary diversity and heritage.

The competition, the idea of Visit Banbury team member and project lead Tina Huyghe, was very much focused on promoting the values upon which Visit Banbury was established, such as Community, Collaboration, Local Cohesion, Inclusion, Diversity, Happiness, Positivity and Fun !

The intention was to work together with food-based organisations and the public to find a savoury dish which could be identified as the Banbury Dish for 2015 and shared with all of the local eateries who could then do their interpretation to put on their menus as follows:

Key project objectives:

  • Help put Banbury on the food map
  • Collaboration between various groups and businesses in Banbury in a common purpose
  • The promotion of Banbury as a foodie tourist destination linked to the Food Fair
  • A way to generate publicity for Banbury and the Visit Banbury Project
  • A new tradition established for Banbury, to be run annually in future


Fortunately, following a number of discussions we were quickly able to link up with just the type of organisations we had wished for, the Catering Department at Banbury and Bicester College, Banbury Cookery School at Little Amsterdam and Banbury Town Council’s Events team responsible for the Banbury Food Fair, so the project would be truly collaborative.

Over time, we added Naomi’s Café & Bar, Your Letterbox, The Grass Man, the Art Framing Workshop, Tudor Photography / Banbury Wedding Cars, Chiltern Railways, Cherwell Trophies and a well-known chef who trained locally, to the list of kind people and organisations who have gone out of their way to help us on the project, so truly becoming Banbury-wide.

The competition was open to anyone of any age who had Banbury in their address.

The competition brief:

  • Can be any type of hot or cold savoury dish
  • Easy to prepare or cook (not time-consuming)
  • Use fresh ingredients, locally sourced if possible to give a Banbury identity
  • Be cost-effective
  • Provide a vegetarian alternative if your dish is meat or fish-based
  • Easily adapted by local restaurateurs to reflect Banbury’s culinary diversity

The 3 finalists, Rebecca (Becca) O’Brien, Christina Welz (both from Banbury and Bicester College) and Phil Seal (a sous-chef working at the Coach and Horses in Butcher’s Row and freelance chef) were selected by a panel of judges after cooking their dishes at The Cherwell Restaurant of Banbury and Bicester College & The Coach and Horses in semi-final cook-offs at the end of June 2015. semifinal

An earlier Visit Banbury blog tells all about the initial stages.

Summary photo


Christina Welz and her honey-glazed loin of pork with fennel and caramelised apple.

3 CW Pork Dish


Becca O’Brien and her lamb shoulder with pea purée.

4 ROLambDish

2 Finalists

On Sunday morning they again cooked their dishes at The Banbury Cookery School at Little Amsterdam in front of a packed restaurant at a special brunch session hosted by Visit Banbury, wonderfully compered by the inimitable Steve Gold and produced by Ilja Harvey Andrews (who was also one of the judges) and her team, who said “What a great morning. It was fabulous”.

Other comments can be seen from those tweeting using the hashtag #BanburyDish – click below

6 IljaHarveyAndrews

Ilja Harvey Andrews of Little Amsterdam

7 Steve Gold

Steve Gold of Visit Banbury

8 Judging

Official judges Tina and Marta of Visit Banbury deep in contemplation alongside Naomi Perkins of Naomi’s Café and Bar and Ilja. They were joined by “Mr Banburyshire Info”, Ian Gentles, who is also in the Visit Banbury team and Sophie Jones from Your Letterbox.

9 Judging3

4 judges and an additional 11 public tables tasted the delicious creations and decided on who had best met the specification of the competition, their reasoning linking their dish to Banbury, their proposed vegetarian alternative and by providing a cost-effective, locally sourced recipe and of course, the chef who executed their food with the best presentation and taste.

10 LA Brunch

After a close competition and much deliberation, the judges decided that Phil Seal and his “Banesebury Purple Pigeon Salad” was the winner of the Visit Banbury “Create a Banbury Dish” competition 2015 and he was awarded his trophy by Cllr John Donaldson who, as The Grass Man, had sponsored the purchase of the trophy from Cherwell Trophies in Parsons Street.

11 The Grass Man

13 Phil Seal and Tina Huyghe

Phil is seen here with Tina Huyghe of Visit Banbury.

The winning Banbury Dish 2015 “Banesebury Purple Pigeon Salad”.

14 Winning Dish

After his victory at Little Amsterdam, Phil then went along to demonstrate his dish in front of a public audience at the Town Hall as part of Banbury Food Fair and then presented his winning menu to Town Mayor Cllr Mepham on behalf of the whole of Banbury.

15 Phil cooks Town Hall

16 Phil and Mayor

The Mayor congratulated Phil on his winning dish and also gave thanks to the Visit Banbury project team for organising new innovative, local project events in Banbury to coincide with his second Mayoral term. Later Phil said “thank you so much for today” and it “was so nerve-wracking”.

Visit Banbury will now share the winning recipe with all of the local restaurants and pubs for them to put their own twist on it for customers to try. Already, The Coach and Horses and Little Amsterdam have agreed to add their versions of the dish to their menus. This will be promoted to encourage people into the town’s restaurants to try the Banbury Dish 2015.

If you are interested in having a version of the Visit Banbury “Banbury Dish 2015” on your menu and for Visit Banbury to promote you please contact or contact us via Facebook or Twitter.

In addition to the opportunity to cook at the Banbury Food Fair and to meet the Mayor and have his menu shared across Banbury, Phil also took away the trophy, a Visit Banbury Commendation plus a very special prize as follows, about which Phil said “amazed by the prize, really looking forward to it” and “I cannot wait to see how the man does it himself”.

  • On an agreed date in the future, the winner and a guest of their choice will be picked up in style and transported from their home to Banbury train station in “Marilyn” the amazing 1969 Mark II 2.4 Jaguar limousine courtesy of Helen & Harry of Tudor Photography / Wedding Cars Banbury; (Photo courtesy of Tudor Photography)


  • On arrival at Banbury train station, they will travel on VIP passes for the day courtesy of Chiltern Railways on their network, allowing access to the Business Zone of the train, travelling to London Marylebone to spend the day as they wish; (Photo courtesy of Chiltern Railways)Chiltern Railways
  • Afterwards the winner and their guest will make their way to the heart of the West End to enjoy dinner as guests of Gordon Ramsay and his team at Heddon Street Kitchen, in Regent Street Food Quarter, W1B 4BE and to experience the kitchens first hand as part of a brief tour to meet the professionals at work; (Photo courtesy of Heddon Street Kitchen /
  • Then back to Marylebone to travel back to Banbury with Chiltern Railways and a taxi paid by Visit Banbury back home.

Visit Banbury were particularly thrilled to get the support of Gordon Ramsay who trained as a chef in Banbury. In a direct message to Tim Tarby-Donald, tweeting as @VisitBanbury on Twitter, Gordon advised that he “would love to support in some way” as “it was Banbury Round Table that helped fund me”.

Visit Banbury have been working with Gordon’s team at Heddon Street Kitchen and they have been very generous and flexible in helping us offer our young chef and his guest an amazing, inspirational prize.

“Gordon seems to have taken a particular interest in this competition supporting young chefs in Banbury” said Tim, adding “Gordon even tweeted Phil on Sunday to wish him Well Done”.

Thanks from The Visit Banbury Project Team to the organisations who have worked in conjunction with us to achieve our goal of creating a food competition for the Community within Banbury.

Visit Banbury Banbury Dish Competition 2015 Partners

Banbury and Bicester College, Banbury Cookery School / Little Amsterdam, Banbury Town Council / Banbury Food Fair, Naomi’s Café & Bar, John Donaldson – The Grass Man, Tudor Photography / Banbury Wedding Cars, Chiltern Railways, Your Letterbox, The Art Framing Workshop, Cherwell Trophies and to a certain GR who trained in Banbury and the team at Heddon Street Kitchen in London.

17 Recipe

18 VB Commendation

Tina with Phil’s winning recipe presented to The Mayor and Phil’s Visit Banbury Commendation for winning the competition.

As part of the food projects in the pipeline, the Visit Banbury team are looking to include all of the recipes from the finalists in a Banbury Recipe book being developed, plus work is already underway to explore how Banbury Cheese and Banbury Ale might be revived as local food and drink products and a very exciting project using chocolate is being explored with a view to creating wonderful sweet souvenirs.


All rights reserved Visit Banbury 2015. Photos copyright of Visit Banbury unless otherwise stated and credited.

An Exciting New Competition – The Visit Banbury “Create a Banbury Dish” !

The Visit Banbury team are delighted to announce that we are now releasing the full details about our exciting new competition. 

It is something which every person in Banbury can get behind, something which we are all interested in and often brings people together regardless of nationality, age, gender, political persuasion, whatever – and what is that you ask? FOOD of course! 

Anyone of any age who has Banbury in their address – businesses, schools, colleges or individuals – can take part. 

Good luck and happy creating from The Visit Banbury Project Team, working in conjunction with Banbury and Bicester College, Banbury Cookery School and the Banbury Food Fair.

The deadline for entries is midnight on Saturday 6th June 2015.

Full competition information for the Visit Banbury “Create a Banbury Dish” Competition is in the attached PDF link below.


NB  A word version of the Entry Form is available here for you to download and fill in.

Competition Entry Form

************************************************************** Summary of the Competition  

Destination Banbury’s Old Town S1/E3 – The Artery

Third in our mini series is a destination shop which we are very lucky to have in Banbury, as such shops have been disappearing from the retail landscape, as they have faced stiff competition from the internet and large multiples across the UK, that being The Artery.

The Artery is located in Parsons Street Banbury, within the café voted the Best in Banbury, The Old Town Deli. It is a small but perfectly-formed independent shop and art centre, offering a wide range of art materials.


      Whether you are a professional artist or an amateur hobbyist, and whatever your preferred medium, The Artery will have something for you. 

The product range includes oil, acrylic and watercolour paints – both artist and student quality -, pastels, paintbrushes, drawing materials, specialist paper and cards, and canvases.


For crafters there is a range of modelling tools and materials, adhesives, lino cutting supplies, and specialist paints for glass, ceramic and fabric painting projects.  

Colouring-in for grown-ups has recently become very popular, with increasing numbers of adults realising its potential to calm and inspire. With colouring books starting at just 99p, as well as magazine titles like Art Therapy and Zen Colouring, The Artery is a good starting point for anyone wanting to encourage their creative side. 

This week marks National Stationery Week: a celebration of the art of writing. The Artery stocks inks, calligraphy pens and markers, dip pens, quality paper and envelopes and beautiful arty greetings cards, some of which are designed by local artists.

In short, there’s something to inspire anyone’s inner artist at The Artery, not least the man who makes it all happen – owner, artist, teacher, tutor, art historian and writer, general man about Banbury supporting everything he can – not forgetting the man behind the original Visit Banbury painting which now has pride of place in my dining room, Mr Barry Whitehouse.

Barry’s passion about the town drives him and others to make things happen and when you #visitbanbury and give The Artery a visit, you too will realise we are lucky to have him and his destination shop in Banbury.

Here’s a short video tour to give you a flavour

Oh and if you hadn’t already noticed, The Artery also stocks the range of Visit Banbury merchandise 😉

Tomorrow marks the start of Art Weeks in Banbury and so The Artery will be overflowing with creations from many different artists – just one more great reason to drop in and see Barry during the Old Town Spring Party tomorrow!

A BIG thanks to guest contributor Jacqui for some of the content of this blog.

Banbury Market Part 2

Further to the first part of this blog which was about the market itself, now some simple (home) economics….. 

As some of you may know, my background is 22 years as a Corporate Procurement professional and Process Change Project Manager. 

That makes me very much a facts and data guy ! (I will not mention how many stalls are currently on the market versus the numbers quoted on the CDC / Sketts websites in part 1 of this blog). 

Therefore, what I want to do in the rest of this blog is to show you the technique which is used a lot in procurement known as benchmarking, or comparing like for like, or as you might say comparing “apples for apples” – as we going to do exactly that. 

One of the main stalls on Banbury market is a fruit and veg stall near the Druckers entrance to Castle Quay. On Saturday my wife and I went and bought apples, pears, clementines, an iceberg lettuce and tomatoes from that stall, as we regularly do. 

As part of the online debates people often say that the market is too expensive or you can buy the produce elsewhere cheaper, and when my wife said £1.20 for an iceberg lettuce was very expensive in relation to Tesco for instance I decided to validate or otherwise her observation.

So I just wanted to do a small comparison to show the cost of the products we bought and what we got for that cost versus the costs I can find in some major supermarkets around the town. 

This comparison obviously does not take into account the taste or the perceived quality but at least it shows how much you get and for what price and whether that fruit and veg stall is actually expensive in relation to other places where you can buy fruit and veg.

These prices were the full prices before the end of day “£1 per bowl” discounting started.

So to start – tomatoes – some retailers might call these vine tomatoes?

We paid £1.50 for a bowl of 12 tomatoes which weighed 930g. So the equivalent to £1.61 per kilo. Then onto the iceberg lettuce, which seemed quite large and dense in comparison to a small one I saw later in the day at the local Co-op convenience store which was 90p (but I don’t know how much it weighed so cannot compare it here).

We paid £1.20 for a lettuce which weighed 495g. So the equivalent to £2.42 per kilo.

 Conference pears £1.50 for 8 of them weighing 1.29kg or £1.16 per kilo. Clementines next – £1.50 for a bowl of 16 weighing 900g or £1.66 per kilo. My main observation here is that most of them were very small, hence why we got 16 in the 900g we bought .   Finally Gala apples, which we purchased 12 of, weighing 1.24kg, for a price of £1.50 or £1.21 per kilo.

The total cost for these items in Banbury Market was £7.20.

I then went online to Tesco’s online grocery  service and I priced up the same basket of items via Tesco as we had bought from Banbury market. In each case where a number of options were available at Tesco I have selected the lowest cost per kilo item.

Where possible I have compared exactly the same weight but most of these are approximate weights, slightly lower than the weights we bought in the market. You will see from the photo extract below that the price per kilo of each item is detailed on the right hand side.  The only item which was cheaper at Tesco was the iceberg lettuce and so based on this, my wife was correct (which is not unusual!).

The total cost for these items in Tesco was £10.17. 

However, overall, the five items from Tesco were £2.97 more than the Banbury market fruit and veg stall or 41% more expensive (£2.97/£7.20). 

Alternatively you could say that on these 5 items Banbury Market overall was 29% cheaper than Tesco (£2.97/£10.17).

I am aware that people will say that if you add the cost of parking in town to the cost of these items, then Tesco is probably cheaper, but I also took into account the fact with online shopping you have to pay for delivery so for this comparison I have ignored these costs and also I am aware that people will probably buy more than just these five items in one single supermarket shop, but this is just a small basket of goods as an illustration of comparable prices.


I am also aware that other supermarkets such as Sainsbury’s and Aldi exist in Banbury and once I’m able to collect their price data I will add these to this blog, but for the time being you can see that actually Banbury market is cheaper for these five items than going to Tesco.

Hope this helps.

Banbury Market – Part 1

***This blog was started on Saturday before the current strongly opinionated threads on fb started. I decided to cut this into 2 posts so that I could post this part early, in order to try to put some light on the debate rather than more heat by replying in the fb threads***


A major point of discussion

Since starting Visit Banbury a little over a year ago on Twitter, one subject seems to have been the topic of discussion more than any other – and that is Banbury Charter Market.

Now obviously, given that Banbury is widely known as an historic market town and coach parties even stop here to visit it amongst the various other tourist highlights, it is probably not surprising that locals and visitors have lots of viewpoints and provide much commentary as to the size, variety, quality and choice of the market and the stalls which are part of it and how it compares to 1, 10 or 30 years ago.

Whilst individual members of the Visit Banbury team may have personal views one way or another about the market, as an organisation, Visit Banbury fully endorses Banbury having a thriving local market and we see that a vibrant market is one way to attract more shoppers and visitors to the town and to keep locals interested in coming in and staying around town for longer.

We have worked hard to promote the existing market via social media channels and will continue to do so, as we see the market as a key foundation of potentially a memorable customer experience if it is done well.

However, listening to lots of people and reading lots of posts on social media it seems that many people do not really understand about the market, how it is run and who is responsible for it AND actually what the costs are, how you go about getting a stall etc etc, so we want to try to explain a few things (based solely on our research and understanding the facts), share some useful info and also do a little bit of economic analysis (which will now be in part 2).

We believe a key role for Visit Banbury could be finding out about the town and sharing that information with the general public (except where we agree to confidentiality of course – we are ethical) as we feel that often key information is not that well disseminated, so that people can form informed opinions and make informed, objective decisions when things are proposed and we can all positively build on the potential that Banbury has.

We will try to do this in some key areas in coming months.

Banbury Market Information Share


So, first of all, the background to Banbury Charter Market, which is held on a Saturday and a Thursday every week 9am – 4.30pm.

 A little bit of historic perspective on the Banbury Charters which appear to give Banbury the RIGHT to have a market but do not OBLIGE Banbury to have one…an interesting and important distinction. (thanks to Deb Menikoff Simmons for this link).

The overall responsibility for the market lies with Cherwell District Council and the Street Scene department run by Paul Almond with Ian Cooper working for him.

These gents effectively manage the market activity BUT a little over 5 years ago Cherwell District Council ran a commercial tender process for a commercial company to run the market as a subcontractor (market operator) on CDC’s behalf and the winner of that process was E.G. Skett & Co. also know as Sketts, who according to also operate the retail markets in Southam & Great Bridge as well as monthly Warwickshire Farmers’ Markets in Solihull, Harborne and Coventry. 

Their own website also shows where they have recently lost the contracts to provide market operations:!A-farewell-to-Warwick-Leamington-and-Kenilworth/c1if0/DC63C29B-7913-4B90-93E8-31787F392379

The initial 5 year contract term for Banbury Market expired at the end of March 2015 but we understand from CDC that they took up the option which was within the contract to extend with Sketts for a further 2 years without going back “out to market”(checking / benchmarking with other potential operators), so that contract will finally expire on 31/3/2017.

The information about the contract was found on line 9 of this spreadsheet and a tweet from CDC confirmed the extension; interestingly no contract value is noted on the register.

The following document link is a very important one as it is dated 2010 and was looking at the future of markets in Cherwell and details the criteria used in judging the tender responses and awarding the contract as well as some of the key objectives CDC had for working with the current market operator, which we the public should hence refer to when objectively reviewing the market as it stands in 2015, with the operator just having been given a two year contract extension. 

The following is a key extract from the above link   We have been unable to obtain a response to questions raised as to the decision-making process for the optional extension period being taken up by CDC but Ian Middleton, PPC for The Green Party, obtained this reply:

“The licence was for 5 years with a 2 year option, which the council have taken up. Sketts have not failed to deliver on the terms of the licence, and therefore have not given any cause not to renew. 

The market shouldn’t be judged in isolation from the rest of the businesses in town who have been adversely affected by changing shopping patterns, and Sketts have always engaged in dialogue with CDC and stakeholders on how to improve Banbury`s footfall for the benefit of everyone.

As previously stated the weekly markets face more competition nowadays and despite bringing in new traders they have not always been able to retain them. 

In order to help businesses succeed we all need to give a positive impression of the town and market.”



 Often, social media discussions ask about the cost of a stall at Banbury market. As far as we had been told it is £36 per day for a normal one table stall, however one trader we recently spoke with advised that on 1st April the fees went up by £1 to £37 stating that this was a compulsory increase that Sketts had to implement as part of their contract with CDC.

We have not been able to validate this comment but he told us that Sketts had told him that.

(If Sketts or CDC wish to challenge / correct this we would be happy to remove or amend the above paragraph.)

He also cited the lack of parking as an additional cost to traders as they have to park in pay car parks which is not always the case elsewhere.

Apparently the market in Bicester (run by traders themselves) is significantly cheaper (circa £15) and we have also heard that one table market stalls elsewhere at larger markets are less than £30 each per day.

Sketts do provide Charity and Community groups with stalls free of charge and we at Visit Banbury have twice set up stall recently to show our support for Banbury Market to see for ourselves what it is like to trade in Banbury and to get our messages out and to sell some lovely Visit Banbury merchandise which helps provide us with funds to do projects around Banbury, so thanks to Sketts for those opportunities.

Sketts want to bring new, exciting, innovative stalls into Banbury Market and so if you are interested in having a stall Janeanne Peachey is the Banbury Market Manager, employed by Sketts. 


You can call Sketts on 01789 267000 or see

Sketts’ Trading conditions:,0,0,0,0.html

Hope this helps in furthering an informed debate around the town. Part 2 to follow shortly this week.