G7 Speakers' Summit: Chorley lays on traditional Lancashire spread for VIP visitors
Some of the world’s most senior parliamentarians are receiving a taste of Lancashire - literally - this weekend at the G7 Speakers’ Summit in Chorley.
The town’s MP and Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle is hosting counterparts from around the world who are making a three-day trip to the county for a gathering which tours the globe each year.
While the serious business of the event is a series of discussions on parliamentary security, there is another major item on the menu for some of the world's foremost politicians - food. And it will all have a distinctly Lancashire flavour, designed to give the delegates - including US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi - something to remember the county by.
The Lancashire Post and Chorley Guardian can reveal that Lancashire hotpot, butter pie and Goosnargh duck are amongst the local delicacies that the dignitaries will be able to choose from when they jet in on Friday. They will then be offered the ultimate range of the county’s famous cheeses.
After a day of deliberations at Astley Hall on Saturday, the Speakers and Presiding Officers will then be treated to an evening meal prepared by Bolton-born chef Paul Heathcote who will serve up dishes including Morecambe Bay shrimps, sirloin of beef and, for dessert, Chorley cakes.
Sir Lindsay says that the meal will also come with a local history lesson on the side.
“We’re going to tell them a great story [about how] the loin of beef was knighted at Hoghton Tower by James I and it became ‘Sir Loin’, We have actually got, in Astley Hall, the chair that King James sat in to knight the loin,” the veteran politician explains.
“This is all going to showcase just how much quality food we have - and [our] great farming industry and fishing areas. People think, ‘Oh, they only eat the pies [in Lancashire]’, but there's more to life - as much as I love a butter pie,” he laughs.
As the man charged with cooking up the very best in Lancashire cuisine for the G7 Speakers, Paul Heathcote says that he wanted to offer the VIPs plenty of dishes that they were unlikely to have dined on during their globe-trotting travels.
“They’re coming from far and wide - and so trying to give them something that they hadn’t had at a banquet before was important.
“I’m guessing that they have never had Morecambe Bay shrimps on crumpets - and I’m sure they have not had a bread and butter pudding like [the one they will be served with].
“When you’re catering for a hundred people, you have got to hit a brief that is relatively mainstream, while doing something that maybe is not quite as common,” says Paul, who opened his first flagship, eponymous restaurant in Longridge more than 30 years ago.
While he is well-used to cooking for people in significant numbers and with significant status, he admits that there is “always pressure [during] any event”
“But I was delighted to be asked to do this by Sir Lindsay," he adds.
The UK is the current holder of the G7 presidency and staged the main annual summit of the organisation’s presidents and prime ministers in Cornwall earlier this month - which is why it is also now hosting the associated Speakers’ Summit.
However, Sir Lindsay says that it was Nancy Pelosi’s idea to visit Chorley - otherwise the event might have been held in London. He hopes that it will act as a “great advert” for the town - and county - that he loves.
“Lancashire is one of the best kept secrets and it's not on the tourist map - Blackpool might be, but the rest of it isn't.
“What we want to do is not just showcase a bit of Chorley, but to sell Lancashire as well. All these people have been to London, but they very rarely get out of London - and the fact that we’re going to show off parts of Chorley is so important to me,” says Sir Lindsay, who has represented the constituency for almost 25 years and was first elected as a councillor in the borough more than four decades ago.
The theme of the event is ‘Secure Versus Open Parliaments’ - and how to balance making political representatives and their seats of power accessible, but also safe.
Former British prime minister Theresa May will address one of the sessions via video link, having been running the country on the day in 2017 when the House of Commons came under terrorist attack, resulting in the death of PC Keith Palmer just moments after four members of the public were also murdered on Westminster Bridge.
Nancy Pelosi’s office was ransacked during the storming of the Capitol building in Washington back in January this year.
“Closed democracy is not good,” Sir Lindsay reflects.
“But it’s [about] how we ensure that the public are linked into democracy and parliaments across the world - sharing information and knowledge...to protect the future of democracy.
“Terrorists hate democracy - it unites them around the world.”
The attendees at the conference - who also include Richard Ferrand, the President of the French National Assembly, and Roberto Fico, President of the Italian Chamber of Deputies - will discuss the role of social media as a force for both good and ill in democratic debate.
“Lobbying Parliament - that's one thing and it’s a good thing But it’s another thing to start...intimidating [people], that cannot be allowed,” Sir Lindsay says.
Security concerns will be as paramount surrounding the visit as they are on the agenda itself, meaning that the exact itinerary is being kept under wraps, but it understood that the delegates - and their accompanying spouses - will get to see more of the borough than the recently-refurbished Astley Hall.
They will also be leaving with a memento of the House of Commons, with each of them receiving an historic tile previously laid on the floor of Central Lobby.
Marketing Lancashire chief executive Rachel McQueen hopes that that is not all the Speakers will take back with them to their own countries - but a desire to shout about everything that Lancashire has to offer.
“We’ll be giving them information about what else there is to do in Lancashire and trying to inspire them and family and friends to consider the county in future if they're coming to the UK.
“We’re also trying to maximise any social media opportunities while the conference is here.
"It is what we make of it and we want to make sure we have maximum profile as a result of the event being here in Chorley.
“They will also get that traditional Lancashire welcome - we will make sure that they get that in spades - and it is different from your more traditional London-based view of what the UK offers,” says Rachel, adding that you “cannot buy” the media exposure that the summit will bring.
Meanwhile, Sir Lindsay admits he was kept away from much of the preparations - in case he tried to make any last-minute alterations. However, he says in spite of a natural nervousness over big events, he is confident that all will run smoothly.
Asked whether Nancy Pelosi experiencing Lancashire’s culinary delights could even smooth the wheels for a US-UK trade deal, he mischievously does not rule it out.
“And the new main export will be Chorley cakes,” he roars.
‘GRUB'S UP, GLOBE!’
This is what will be tempting the tastebuds of some of the most important politicians in the world when they visit Lancashire...
Morecambe Bay potted shrimps
Goosnargh duck, potato crisp and fig relish
Smoked Mrs Kirkham's spud cakes (v)
Black pudding with creamy Lancashire cheese bon bon
Dry cured bacon and pork sausage rolls, with beetroot and rhubarb
Fillet steak canapé
Wild mushroom scotch eggs, with quail
Traditional Lancashire hot pot, with Bowland lamb
Lancashire butter pie
Grilled leek, cheddar and mustard on a mini oven bottom muffin
Includes chutney, grapes, celery and a selection of biscuits individually tailored for each cheese.
Mrs Kirkham's Lancashire - Lancashire's last remaining producer that uses only raw cow's milk, giving the cheese a buttery, yoghurt flavour, with light texture that literally melts in your mouth.
Forest Of Bowland Cheddar Cheese - using milk sourced from farms within the forest of Bowland, a rugged wilderness in North East Lancashire, and a breeding ground of the threatened hen harrier, forest of Bowland cheddar is made using traditional hand cheddaring techniques. Its full-bodied flavour is perfectly augmented by hours of cold smoking, in a combination of oak and applewood chips.
Butlers Farmhouse Blacksticks Blue - produced using traditional handmade methods, in a Lancashire family dairy - with rich milk produced by herds from just over the road at Lower Barker Farm.
Garstang Blue - Lancashire's answer to blue cheese, Garstang blue is a combination of smooth, creamy cheese with a mild blue taste - perfect with charcoal crackers.
Shorrocks Lancashire Bomb - named for its peculiar black wax exterior fastened with a knot on top. Matured over two years creating a very creamy and full flavoured taste and texture, this vintage cheese is handmade in the little village of Goosnargh in the heart of Lancashire.
Grandma Singletons Famously Strong Lancashire - believed to be the only cheese in the world made using the curds from three consecutive days. The family come from a long line of dairy farmers that have been nurturing and investing in the farming community since 1745.
Morecambe Bay shrimps and leaks on toasted crumpet
Twice-baked Kirkham's Lancashire cheese soufflé, with champagne source and green Lancashire apple salad
Sirloin of Angus beef, with butter roast potato, grilled king oyster mushroom, red wine jus, broad beans and peas
Paul Heathcote's bread and butter pudding, with clotted cream and apricot purée
Coffee, Chorley cakes and Rivington chocolates
HOW THE VIP VISIT WILL AFFECT RESIDENTS
The area around Astley Hall will close from 15th September, while local road closures and restrictions will be in place around the town centre between 10am and 6pm on Saturday 18th and 8.30am and 1pm on Sunday 19th September.
These will involve the closure of Union Street from the library to the Town Hall and the roads surrounding the Buzz Bingo site. There will also be no access down Market Street from the Town Hall. The closures will be clearly signposted with diversions in place.
The area around Astley Hall will be fenced off with barriers erected from 4.30pm on Wednesday 15th September. All other public access to the park will be unchanged with people able to walk from the town centre to Astley Village and vice versa.
Businesses in and around Astley Hall will close at 4.30pm on Wednesday 15th and will reopen to the public at 1pm on Sunday 19th September.
Hallgate car park will be closed from Wednesday afternoon until next Sunday to accommodate the event, but all other park car parks will be open.
Residents can expect a highly visible police presence in the park across the weekend as officers are working closely with Parliament, the Speaker’s Office and other partners to facilitate a safe and secure event. A mobile police station and team will be based in the park.
Peter Wilson, deputy leader of Chorley Council, said that the borough was "deeply honoured" to have been chosen to host what is its first international conference.
"We believe [Astley Hall] is the jewel in our crown and we are so proud that we will be able to show Speakers from across the world this special part of our heritage.
“Of course, an event on this scale does not come without some minor disruption and, as such, there will be some road closures around the town centre and the area around Astley Hall will be closed off to the public.
“We ask you all to be patient with this and encourage you to get into the spirit of the weekend and be proud to see Chorley on the world stage," said Cllr Wilson.