Awards off in Sheffield food group shake-up

Niki Baker, who has left her role at Sheffield Hallam University's Sheffield Business School
Niki Baker, who has left her role at Sheffield Hallam University's Sheffield Business School
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An annual awards ceremony celebrating Sheffield’s food businesses has been called off amid upheaval among its organisers.

The Eat Sheffield Awards have taken place since 2007, growing from a small project into a large event focusing on local producers, restaurants, shops and food companies.

The initiative was set up along with its umbrella organisation, Eat Sheffield, by Sheffield Hallam University’s Business School, led by its regional engagement officer, chef Niki Baker.

But Niki, who also managed the city’s annual food festival, has left to concentrate on her other business interests.

This has left Eat Sheffield in a ‘state of flux’, said Walkley councillor and former restaurateur Neale Gibson, a member of the body’s core group.

A new independent organisation is being set up with the same name, he explained.

“We have got a group of food retailers and restaurants around the city who have come together with the support of Hallam to form a new group,” said Coun Gibson. “At our next meeting we are going to be speaking to Sheffield University who have expressed an interest in supporting it. It will be more of a community-based organisation.”

The changes mean the 2016 awards will not take place.

“We’ve taken the decision to postpone the awards. We need time to go away to find out what the food community in Sheffield want them to be.”

It is expected that the popular festival, happening from May 28 to 30 this year, will be unaffected.

“The Business School is still going to be supporting the festival,” Coun Gibson said. “That will still go ahead this year, and probably next year as well.”

He said Niki’s work had been ‘invaluable’. “If not for Niki Baker, food in Sheffield would not be what it is today.”

A spokeswoman for the Sheffield Business School said no decisions had been taken, but that it was ‘reviewing its events portfolio to ensure it is in line with its strategic priorities’.