Sheffield Food Festival: The rise of food halls

Promoting choice, independent businesses and bringing foodies closer together in social spaces, the rise of the food hall and communal dining is a trend that looks set to continue.

I remember attending my first Peddler Market in the summer of 2015, back when it was a far more understated affair taking place on Arundel Street with a handful of local food traders, some live music, and (rough estimate here) a couple of hundred punters milling around a cordoned section of the road. Despite the relatively small scale of these early events, it was clear that the organisers were onto something; there was a palatable sense of inclusivity and community lending to a good vibes feel as puntersbonded on pavements and long dining tables over the food and drink on offer.

Fast forward four years and Peddler is now nothing short of an institution in Sheffield – a monthly showcase of rotating traders, musicians, clothing, arts and crafts, and much else besides. A busy weekend might see a few thousand pass through the doors at 92 Burton Road, while their spin-off event Veg Out unites the city’s vegan community and shows that ecoconscious, plant-based eating can be just as exciting as a carnivorous diet.

The rising popularity of street food traders – now something of a given at events ranging from festivals to weddings – and the desire for wider choice, casual forms of dining, and new cultural eating experiences has led to the rise of the food hall, naturally taking off first in the capital but quickly spreading its hype to major northern cities. This rise has of course been buoyed by endless social media opportunities to share a variety of exotic or gluttonous dishes on feeds, and if to confirm this, a quick search for the hashtag #foodhall on Instagram will return a total of 110,000 public posts; whereas #streetfood returns a cool six million. That’s a lot of #foodporn to scroll through.

Last year, Sheffield saw the arrival of Cutlery Works, providing 14,000 sq ft of retail space split over two floors and hailed as the north’s largest independent food hall. Situated a stone’s throw from the home of Peddler, the venue has become a popular weekend destination that buzzes with activity right up until its 1am closing time on Fridays and Saturdays. During the week workers in the area can be seen taking a break from the drab surrounds of the office and hosting morning meetings there, showing such social food and drink hubs can help provide a spark of creativity or serve as the perfect networking venue.

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