The Forage: Belinda Neame Q&A
As the sun set on a lazy Saturday evening I made my way to the grounds of Little National in Barton. Nestled amongst the imposing government buildings The Forage brought thousands of Canberrans together for a fun evening of food, drinks and music; all local of course.
I was treated to Peruvian-style street food, local beers, the communal hay-bales to sit and chat, and a cover of the Temper Trap’s Sweet Disposition, one of my favourites.
The Forage is a popular event in Canberra and I sat down with founder, Belinda Neame, to find out more.
Elliot: Where did the inspiration for The Forage come from?
Belinda: We wanted to provide our local businesses with a platform where they could truly showcase what they do directly to a foodie demographic. It’s the perfect way to encourage follow on business after the event.
I had also been to a few other cities around Australia that had started to tap into the street food and food truck scene. Canberra wasn’t doing anything at this stage and I knew we had a niche market that needed to be activated.
E: What has the reception from local businesses been like? Are they keen to be involved?
B: The Canberra locals have been amazing! When we first started, we basically door knocked and had a lot of face-to-face meetings with the local foodies to sell them our event concept. Now we don’t have to do that at all, they come knocking on our door because they want to be involved. They really are an amazing bunch and I admire them all so much.
E: And reception from the community? Has it been popular?
B: The Canberra community is the reason our event has been so successful. They have gone above and beyond to support our event from day one. We never expected 2000 people at our first event in 2014, let alone the growth to around 9000 in under two years. It’s just the biggest buzz when you see so many people embracing what you have created.
E: What do you think events like The Forage can do for the reputation of Canberra?
B: It shows life and a real sense of community. It shows that Canberra really is at the top of the game when it comes to food and the awesome diversity we have. It shows that we are a really warm and welcoming community that embraces our locals. We’ve had so much cultural change in recent years and to anyone that has questioned it, they should come and experience Canberra now!
E: Has there been interest from the ACT Government to assist the event?
B: We were successful with winning a grant in 2015 and this enabled us to take the event to another level. Unfortunately, this year, our grant funding fell through due to changes to the event model. We have also been approached on several occasions to collaborate with the government to deliver some events like Canberra Day in 2015.
E: And finally, what does the future have in store for The Forage?
B: Oh so many plans! But for the moment, we will stick with our 3-4 main events each year. We also have plans for some smaller pop up events with a twist, so stay tuned!