Humans of the Food Court

  • 5 mins

A new food court formed part of Rock’ndaal 2.0 on May 28th. Bruichladdich Distillery’s Open Day in the annual Fèis Ìle always showcases the best of Islay’s local artisans, entrepreneurs and food producers, and is an opportunity for local charities to have stalls.

This year, we provided a new area between our dry goods warehouse and our bottling hall dispatch bay, where the growing community of local food and drink producers could refresh our festival-goers. With the music from the main stage drifting over the low roofs of the Harvey Hall, an array of delicious aromas, and an expanse of picnic tables, it was a sociable (and tasty!) place to be.

Reporter Hannah Thaxter shares some of the producers’ individual stories.

Gillian Nelson-Edwards - Sidekick Charity

Sidekick is a registered charity formed in 2020 to provide additional support whether for children or young people on Islay and Jura that are affected with a learning need, emotional difficulty or disability.

"This is our premiere event! One of the ladies involved is a school cook, so that's quite useful for us as she's used to making large amounts."

"We'll be making Scottish strawberry jam tarts on site. Everything has been bought from a local source, with the cases from a place in Argyll and Bute, the strawberries are ordered from the local Co-op, and the cream is from Oban. The jam sauce comes from Scotland - one of the ladies used another type of sauce once, but said it wasn't as good; this is the best."

"We're all volunteers who run the charity, some are teaching staff or parents with children with additional needs or people who are neurodiverse themselves."

"All the money goes to Sidekick, which is a charity for Islay and Jura for people with additional needs. We have the Islay beach buggy wheelchair, which we rent out, and we are working with another charity to bring in some all-ability bikes and water-based activities. We're also exploring ideas for a sensory room and are currently looking for a suitable location."

Donald Mackenzie - Islay Ales

Donald and business partner Mac started as independent whisky bottlers, Islay Boys Ltd, selling into 10-15 countries from their headquarters in Islay House Square. They acquired Islay Ales from the founders in July 2018 and have grand plans for it.

"The catalyst for change was Covid when production stopped at the brewery, it gave us time to think."

“We've got the land and planning and the road has just gone in - it's near the airport and we're building a brewery and a distillery, Laggan Bay distillery. It will be five times the capacity we’ve had before, a brand-new brew kit the equal of any modern brewery. We shall can and bottle and keg on site. It'll cut down our carbon footprint, retain employment on the island and give us better margins."

"We'll have a visitor centre there and it'll be a unique thing for Islay - a brewery and distillery. Brewing beer is the same as the first stage of making whisky - it's grain, water and yeast - so we'll be able to show people how we make the beer, and then take them next door to let them see how we can turn it into whisky!"

"Fèis is a good chance to let people know about our plans, we should be brewing beer in the first quarter of next year and distilling whisky in April 2025 - it's ambitious but it can be done."

Anna Hock - Orsay Sea salt, Portnahaven

Anna has been in business for two years. She sells sustainably-harvested, 100% pure sea salt, as well as barley and whisky-smoked sea salts, from her home in the Rhinns of Islay.

"I'm such a geek, honestly! See if you were to come down and listen to me talk about it I do not stop! I could list all the 100 minerals and tell you all the facts about the salt..."

"The idea began four years ago now after my two kids were born. I started playing around with making sea salt, testing the water all around Portnahaven and then all around the coast of Islay and then discovered that it's all got different salt quantities, which is really cool."

"I started getting it all to the lab and discovered that the water out behind the island of Orsay, at a point called The Kettle, has got a fabulous salt content, really mineral-rich. It's all swirling, it's like a whirlpool - you don't know it's there when you're in the village! It's basically where four tides meet."

"My husband Ashley is a fisherman, so this is what makes it all possible. It was his idea to try sampling the water from there so that's how we discovered it. We harvest from this tidal stream, using his fishing boat, when he's not fishing for crab and lobster, and take in two tonnes of water at a time, so 2,000 litres, bring it back into a salt floor, which is in a large polytunnel and it just naturally evaporates using the sun and the wind. It's untreated, completely natural, straight from the water source."

“It takes roughly 2-3 weeks depending on the weather, then we harvest it. The salt flakes are huge because of the salt content and mineral content. It's really high in calcium, iodine, potassium. But it's got over 100 trace minerals in it."

"Ashley will land the lobster and crab fresh on Saturday - and we'll cook them and get them ready to serve on Sunday. We'll be doing lobster rolls and crabby fries, basically our own take on dirty fries. Orsay salted fries with crab on top - like you'd have in a crab sandwich - and also deep-fried battered scallops."

Philippa McCallum - Jura Brewery Ltd.

Jura Brewery’s flagship first beer, Laughing Stag, was launched in Summer 2021, and is currently brewed to a unique recipe in Glen Spean in the West Highlands. It’s been a busy few years; here Phillippa tells us more about how the business started and where it's heading.

"The stars just aligned..."

"In 2017, me and my partner Martin got together. I ended up moving here and living on Jura with him - I’m from Yorkshire originally and he is from Glasgow. Then in 2018 we had our first child and then our second came along in the middle of the pandemic. We had both been keen to set up a brewery. We have a croft on Jura and we were building there - the brewery is going to be there."

"I’m very much the beer-loving part of the partnership and Martin is the builder. I’m also a yoga teacher, occupational therapist and massage therapist. It’s been really full on and the build has ground to a halt. We have all the brewing kit (bought from Colonsay) standing in a muddy field waiting for a shed to go around it!"

"I am a lover of pale ale, a very light-coloured blonde - it doesn’t usually mean it’s the lightest ABV. With my recipe I came up with, there is more of an affinity with lager because there was a West Coast/Glaswegian leaning to lager, so we married up the two. So it’s a recipe for someone who wants a lot of hops. It is a pale ale with a hoppy finish to it."

"Our brand is about the beautifully unkempt experience - real beer for real people. It’s just to enjoy it on the hill or on the beach, with friends, in the way people on Jura like to have a good time."

Fraser Brown - Saltmarsh Lamb

Fraser’s hill farm, Shellfield, in the West of Scotland, produces farm-to-fork meat. His sheep graze in the inter-tidal zone and so benefit from a diverse diet.

"Shellfield Farm has been in my family for over 100 years. We have around 2,000 acres here at Glendaruel in Argyll."

"They’re blackface sheep. We graze them on the salt marshes which gives the meat a unique taste. It tenderises it and I guess just gives it some flavouring."

"Farming is good but it’s just trying to make it work in this day and age. I’m working for a landscaping firm at the moment but I’m doing quite a few events over summer. I’ve been coming to Bruichladdich Day for five or six years now, and I’ll be coming back to do Islay Show."

"The wind can be a nightmare on Islay - it plays havoc with the gas."

"In the past we have come to Port Mor, set the meat off cooking, then gone to the Lochindaal down the road for the rest of the night and come back when it’s done and the whole campsite smells of cooking lamb!"

Kirsty Richardson - Island Bakehouse, Jura

Kirsty’s sourdough business has grown organically in the last three years to have a strong local following and supply local hotels. She still operates on an honesty box basis from her bright pink “bread shed” on neighbouring Jura. Here’s her story.

"I came from South Africa - I was travelling in France and working a ski season. I heard about live-in jobs on the Scottish islands where you could save money because there's nothing to spend it on! I got a job at the Jura Hotel and met my fiancé and we've just bought a house."

"It’s a lockdown business. I had a young daughter at home, so I was looking for something to do and started making my own sourdough bread and selling it locally for donations to the NHS. But then people said they would rather pay me, so I spoke to the Jura Community Shop and asked if they would stock some loaves. They said they would if it was all above board, so we created a company and did all the legal stuff."

"Now I have a converted shipping container - I just need to finish painting it - and I can move the business out of my kitchen! I was on a six-month waiting list for this oven from Belgium. It's about the size of a washing machine and has three racks. It can bake about 12 round loaves or 24 tin loaves. It takes up to an hour and a half to heat up."

"For Fèis we'll have meat and veg pies, sausage rolls, three different kinds of sourdough sandwiches, millionaire shortbread, brownies and cookies... I think!"

Angela Murphy - Scozzese Pizzas

Scozzese Pizzas are based 65 miles east of Islay, as the crow flies, in Helensburgh. It’s more than twice that if you have to come by road but neither the distance nor the Islay weather have put off Angela and her team yet.

"There's been times at Bruichladdich Day they've had to hold us down with whisky barrels - we couldn't even get the gazebo up it was so windy."

"We started the business in 2013 and have been at Bruichladdich Day since about 2016 - I was a nanny before and just fancied doing something completely different."

"There's not an Italian person in the business, but we chose the name because it means “Scottish” in Italian. We try to give the pizzas a Scottish twist so we have one with haggis and one using Stornoway black pudding."

"We make everything fresh and it takes 90 seconds to cook a pizza in our wood fired oven - he's called ‘Woody'. It makes them so much tastier than cooking with gas, because it cooks from the bottom and it gives the pizzas that extra something."

"We love coming to Islay - it takes some organising. We just love being outdoors. No place we go to is the same and it's just nice; you just do not know where you are going next! It's lovely to meet old and new people from all over the world at Fèis.”

More Articles on People

Our next Fèis Ìle day will be: Sunday 26th May 2024.

Sign up to our mailing list to get all the information about how to join us on Islay or online.