Ely Eel Festival is this weekend - here’s our guide to the biggest event in the city’s calender

The Ely Eel Festival is to return to the city on April 28.

The Ely Eel Festival is to return to the city on April 28. - Credit: Archant

Ely Eel Festival, the biggest event in the city’s calendar, returns this bank holiday weekend.

The Ely Eel Festival is to return to the city on April 28.

The Ely Eel Festival is to return to the city on April 28. - Credit: Archant

“The weekend is nearly here and we are busy making the final preparations for Ely’s celebration of the humble eel with four days of eel-packed fun,” say organisers.

“A huge thank you to the many traders, businesses, organisations and community groups who have embraced our theme and come on board to make this quirky festival an amazing weekend for Ely.

ely eel

ely eel - Credit: Archant

“We look forward to seeing you there.”

ely eel

ely eel - Credit: Archant

Friday April 28 - Launch of Eel Food Safari

Friday sees the launch of the Eel Food Safari, which runs across the whole weekend.

ely eel

ely eel - Credit: Archant

A variety of Ely’s restaurants, cafés and food venues embrace the festival’s eel theme, offering special festival dishes/menus using eel or providing creative twists on the eel theme. Look out for the Eel Food Safari logo displaying at participating venues.

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Friday also sees the city centre eel throwing competition on Ely’s Market Place.

Ely eels

Ely eels - Credit: Archant

“Join us at 11am for some fun on Ely’s Market Place to see retailers and businesses battle it out to be crowned “City Centre Eel Throwing Business of the Year”, kindly sponsored by the Ely Chamber of Commerce,” say organisers.

The Ely Eel King

The Ely Eel King - Credit: Archant

Saturday April 29 - Eel Day, Jubilee Gardens

The annual Eel Day Parade begins at 10.30am from Cross Green (adjacent to Ely Cathedral). Ely’s Ellie the Eel will be heading the carnival-inspired procession along part of the city’s Eel Trail Heritage Walk. The eels are followed by Fruity Clave Samba Band which leads the parade down to the Waterside and into Jubilee Gardens where a host of eel-related activities will be held.

Lauren at Grand Central had a visit from Eel Ely King - and prepared the special cocktail for Eel El

Lauren at Grand Central had a visit from Eel Ely King - and prepared the special cocktail for Eel Ely weekend. - Credit: Archant

Highlights include the Town Criers Competition where town crier Avril Hayter arranges for criers to descend upon Ely to add their finery and bell-ringing to the event. Then, there is the World Eel Throwing Competition (no eels will be harmed in this competition, just stuffed toys!). Can you beat the World Record of over 17 meters? This fun activity is open to everyone.

The full programme of arena events in Jubilee Gardens includes folk music, eel pottery workshops, music and dancing, historical displays and re-enactments with lots of family participation opportunities. As you would imagine, eels feature massively in the day and there will be the chance to see live eels, courtesy of the Environment Agency.

Obviously it wouldn’t be Eel Day without the opportunity to sample what was once a staple food in the Fens, so this is your chance to taste smoked and jellied eels as well as more conventional forms of food.

Sunday April 30 and Monday May 1 - Food and Drink Festival, Palace Green

Located on Palace Green, under the gaze of the magnificent Ely Cathedral, there will be artisan traders, an expanded street food scene and some amazing celebrity chefs demonstrating in the Cookery Theatre, sponsored by G’s Fresh.

Artisan, specialist food and drink traders will be housed in a large Food Hall with larger producers making up the new Food and Drink Market.

The Street Food Place, comprising of a range of culinary delights will tantalise your taste buds with their unusual, yet exquisitely put together combinations.

Celebrity Chef Line up

Internationally-renowned chef Theo Randall will be at the festival on Monday. Described as “this country’s best non-Italian chef”, his reputation has soared since he opened his first restaurant in 2006. Theo was formerly head chef and partner at The River Café, which was awarded its first Michelin star under his direction. Theo’s rising profile has been enhanced by his many television appearances. “We are looking forward to watching him cook up something special in our cookery theatre,” say organisers.

Jane Devonshire, who was crowned MasterChef 2016 Champion in the twelfth series of the hugely popular BBC One series, makes an appearance on Sunday. Stay at home mum, had an extraordinary final cook-off where she wowed judges John Torode and Gregg Wallace with her childhood-inspired menu which consisted of a winkle starter, Indian-inspired Sunday roast lamb, and rhubarb and custard dessert. “We can’t wait to see her in action,” say organisers.

For information on all these activities and other fringe events visit www.elyeelfestival.co.uk