Visit Banbury; a look back to move ahead

road sky clouds cloudy
Photo by Gratisography on

Visit Banbury has existed as a volunteer-led community organisation since April 2014.

Founded and driven forward by Tim Tarby-Donald, the organisation has fortunately benefited from the help and assistance of many people, Steve, Marta, Barry, Kate, Jacqui, Neil, Iain, Geri, Tina, Karen, Dewi, Rachel, Kerry  to name a few, donating their time and resources freely along with many others, plus amazing collaborations with a variety of organisations.

We’ve had great support from many areas, from local councils and their teams, local businesses and media organisations.

However, we hope we have contributed lots and have played our part as a purely voluntary organisation as we have always tried to connect people, to build relationships and to drive a closer community network.

Here is a pack showing the range of activities Visit Banbury has been involved with, to remind you just what we have done as volunteers.

Visit Banbury Activities

We have learnt a great deal since officially launching at the Banbury Positivity Summit on Friday 13th February 2015 and finally we have reached the stage we promised to, way back then.

We are bringing together a Board of Directors and a group of core volunteers to help launch Visit Banbury as a Social Enterprise, a business which will be for profit – but not for personal profit.

We feel that the time is right for some of us to participate in Visit Banbury as part of our regular work, but it will be our community and town more widely which profits as we can do more this way.

This will happen early in 2019 and we think we will be the first social enterprise in Banbury – please tell us if there are others as we’d love to collaborate!

We have an awesome group of people coming together but there is room for more so if you are interested, please get in touch.

We have lots of ideas for income generation and for social action projects and what we do will depend on the people’s time and resources we have available to us – and of course the need in our community to facilitate or do something.

So, please take a look back at what we have already done and then help us look forward and guide our activities for the benefit of us all, as the Time is Right !

The Time is Right July 2018 V2


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.

Musical Inspiration – It must be fate

Last Tuesday on my first day back to work after a period of absence due to ill health I handed in my resignation after nearly twenty years working at Xerox and eight and half years in a role that has meant I commuted 120 miles a day down to Uxbridge from Banbury and back again.

It was a massive step for me, not least as I have no job to go to yet, but I knew it was the right thing to do. I have loved working for Xerox and had a brilliant career there but my focus has changed and I knew I needed to move on and completely change my life, including really throwing myself into the VisitBanbury project.

But, sometimes it is nice to know that something is out there nudging me along, providing me with the reassurance that everything will be good and as I got ready to send my resignation email and to go into the office and on the drive down to Uxbridge, I listened to BBC Radio2.

I probably heard four hours of music on that day but the only songs I really heard – and which made me stop and actively take notice of them – were the following:

Paul Young – Everything Must Change

Gloria Gaynor – I Will Survive

Katy Perry – Firework

Robbie Williams – No Regrets

Now, I certainly hadn’t told the producers of these shows that I was resigning that day but something had conspired to put those songs together for me to hear them during the hours that I was listening – maybe it was fate trying to tell me something !

Music will be a big part of the VisitBanbury project and it might just be the start of something big – you heard it here first.


Project VisitBanbury

Hi my name is Tim and I live in Banbury, North Oxfordshire.

Welcome to the new blog for VisitBanbury, fresh for 2015 !

Hopefully in future posts I will be able to explain what the idea of the VisitBanbury project is all about and what activities are taking place related to the project.

It will also be a way in which I can use more than the 140 characters I have primarily used on Twitter to establish #VisitBanbury to connect people in and around the area and to promote local businesses, activities and events.

If you need to contact me try @visitbanbury on Twitter, leave a comment on this blog or email !

Happy New Year and enjoy the ride !