Lakeside Conference Centre, part of the National Agri-Food Innovation Campus (NAFIC), held its largest event to date, hosting Coeliac UK’s Gluten Free Food Festival.

The event welcomed a record-breaking 1,300 people to the site earlier this summer, combining the charity’s AGM, a gluten free food exhibition showcasing gluten free brands and cookery demonstrations, including a demo and book signing from Jane Devonshire, MasterChef winner from 2016. Coeliac UK also provided educational talks from the likes of leading gastro specialist Dr Hugo Penny and offered 1-2-1 dietetic clinics.

The Lakeside Conference Centre, based just outside of York, had to respond to several logistical challenges to cater for a record number of visitors, as well as technical and dietary requirements. The food exhibition was the biggest draw to those attending and involved the team helping to set up a variety of stands from bakers to brewers, who were offering local and national produce.

The events team was faced with setting up a completely gluten free cafeteria, which involved a full clean down of the kitchen and all surfaces but was made possible through the exclusivity Coeliac UK had of the venue. The on-site catering team then delivered a bespoke menu of strictly gluten free options, including BBQ fayre and a deli bar with a range of sandwiches and cakes. As it was a summer event, the café also hired in an ice cream machine to offer a gluten free dessert option.

A cookery station in the auditorium was also set up for guest chefs to demonstrate their gluten free recipes.  Meanwhile exhibitors in the atrium also had access to power to cook samples for delegates to enjoy – a very popular aspect of the event.

Speaking on the event, Liz Cashon, Innovation Campus Manager at the Lakeside Conference Centre, said: “Coeliac UK’s Gluten Free Food Festival was the largest event we have ever held here, but our flexible facilities and collaborative approach meant the meeting was an incredible success.

“Our venue needed to support a varied programme of activities from cooking demonstrations, to creating a 100% gluten free café, which we carefully planned and delivered. Our large car park also meant there were no restrictions for those traveling by car, giving our guests a smooth experience from start to finish.”

Libby Willing, Membership Officer at Coeliac UK, commented: “Our flagship Coeliac UK Gluten Free Festival travels across the country and is an important day for those with coeliac disease to enjoy access to a range of resources specific to their dietary requirements.

“We were drawn towards the Lakeside Conference Centre as it wasn’t a hotel, which meant it gave us a lot of freedom to create a bespoke and tailored event that worked for us. It also meant we were able to host the event in a truly gluten free environment, which can sometimes be extremely tricky in spaces open to the public.

 “The venue offered everything we needed, not only because of the space but the friendly and accommodating team that were supportive throughout the whole planning process. We can’t thank them enough for catering to our needs.”

Coeliac UK is the charity for people who need to live without gluten. For Over 50 years, they’ve been helping people with coeliac disease and other gluten related conditions live happier, healthier lives.