Chilli lovers at last year's festivalFans of great food and live music can put aside a troubling ten days as one of the UK’s biggest chilli festivals returns to the North East this weekend.

After England’s embarrassing exit from the Euros, uncertainty over Brexit and frustration over the A1 hole, organisers of the North East Chilli Fest are promising two days to never forget.

“It’s time to put aside any worries or disappointment and forget about politics and football – even it’s just for this weekend,” said festival organiser Mark Deakin.  “This is the fifth and final time the Chilli Fest is being held at Seaton Delaval Hall so we’re determined to go out with a bang before we move to a new home next year.”

The festival opens on Saturday at 10am and runs until 5pm on Sunday.  As well as more than 80 independent food producers it will feature top quality entertainment, including performances from Brit nominee and multi-platinum selling soul star Kenny Thomas, Newcastle funk band Smoove and Turrell – fresh from their appearance at Glastonbury – eight-piece North East soul band SouLutions, The Din from London and Talismans Hot Bullets of Shotgun.

There is also a cabaret tent – where magician Chris Cross will perform alongside Burlesque dancer Suzie Sequin, daredevil Charlie Burns and Elvis impersonator Mike Memphis – and real ale and cocktail bars.

As ever, one of the highlights of the weekend will be Rob Dumbrell’s world famous Chilli Eating Competition.

“But it’s not all about chilli,” said Mark Deakin who, with his wife Shelley, is organising the event.  “There’s food and fun for everybody.  It’s a festival in all senses of the word – a real family event – and as it’s the last one at Delaval Hall we want to make it a real celebration before we take it to an even higher level.”

The North East Chilli Fest attracts food producers from all over the UK, including Mr Vikki’s from Cumbria.  It was set up by chef Adam Marks 10 years ago.  He is a self-confessed chilli addict as well as a winner of 91 Great Taste awards.  “I just love hot food.  I’ve got a chilli addiction.  I can’t eat a meal – breakfast, lunch, dinner – without it.”

The festival had helped people in the North East develop a taste for heat.  “Everybody loves a bit of chilli now,” said Adam. “I believe that people in the North East like their chilli hotter than anybody because it drives out the cold and the damp.”

Nurse Suzanne Cannon – Mark Deakin’s sister – and her husband Gary, who is a window fitter, will be preparing their special brand of Hot Stuff Chilli Company sauces in their kitchen in Sheffield before travelling to the North East. “It’s a bit of a man thing – people come up and say what’s the hottest you’ve got,” said Suzanne.

Closer to home, Earl Gough from Newcastle has become a familiar face at North East food festivals with his range of Bernie Bumm sauces.  “People just love chilli.  It stops food being boring and bland.  Once you’ve spiced up your food with one of my sauces you won’t forget it in a hurry.”

Organiser Shelley Deakin said: “We’ll be sad to leave Seaton Delaval Hall but the festival’s outgrown it.  We’re determined to make it a weekend to remember.”

The Deakins, who live in New Hartley, have had a busy summer organising and running a series of Proper Food and Drink Festivals in South Shields and Whitley Bay, with more to come in Cramlington and North Shields.

For more details about the North East Chilli Fest and to buy tickets visit its website www.chillifest-ne.co.uk/