Chilli Fiesta at West Dean sizzles

Crowds taking part in the Salsa Masterclass
Crowds taking part in the Salsa Masterclass

TENS of thousands of visitors flocked to the West Dean Gardens Chilli Fiesta over the weekend, which is currently celebrating its 20th anniversary.

25,000 people attended the event, which was held from August 7 - 9 at the North Chichester site, and the sun shone all weekend.

Piim Gleadle from Chichester with her chilli inspired jewellery

Piim Gleadle from Chichester with her chilli inspired jewellery

Family and friends enjoyed an exciting programme of live music and entertainment, as well as 180 stalls offering chilli food, products and gifts.

Alex Barron, chief executive, said: “Ever since our dynamic gardening duo, Jim Buckland and Sarah Wain, were inspired to start growing chillies in the early 1990s, these fiery plants have been a permanent feature in our Victorian glasshouses.

“Chilli Fiesta has gone from strength to strength since it began in 1995 and it was fantastic to welcome so many people to Chilli Fiesta for this special 20th anniversary year, whether for the first time or as regular West Dean festival goers.”

BBC Strictly Come Dancing star Brendan Cole gave a salsa masterclass along with professional dancers Patrick Helm and Crystal Main.

Daniella Coleman from Seafood and Eat It helping to feed the visitors

Daniella Coleman from Seafood and Eat It helping to feed the visitors

Cooking demonstrations over the weekend also proved highly popular.

Levi Roots, who appeared on Dragon’s Den in 2007 and secured investment in his Reggae Reggae Sauce, joined cook Rosemary Moon.

Levi Roots also appeared on stage on Sunday with his 14 piece band. The late night live entertainment offered an eclectic programme, which featured Groupo Lokito, The Fontanas, along with singer and musician Jesus Cutino and his band Son de Cuba as well as Brazilian/Latin group Sambossa.

Chilli plants were the stars of the show and there were talks and tours throughout the weekend around the Victorian glasshouses in the Walled Garden.

Visitors enjoying their ride on the Big Wheel

Visitors enjoying their ride on the Big Wheel

Here, Sarah Wain, the gardens supervisor, grows 250 varieties of chilli.

Guest gardening experts from Sea Spring Seeds, Hot Headz and Simpson Seeds gave talks in the Gardening Theatre throughout the weekend, and recalled their first Chilli Fiesta in 1995.

To find out more about upcoming events at West Dean Gardens, visit www.westdean.org,uk/events.

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Choosing Chilli plants

Choosing Chilli plants

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Michelle Walby, Carrie Anne Fuller and Maddie Chivers

Michelle Walby, Carrie Anne Fuller and Maddie Chivers

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All the fun of the fair

All the fun of the fair

Levi Roots at the West Dean Chilli Fiesta                   Picture: Tom Blackford

Levi Roots at the West Dean Chilli Fiesta Picture: Tom Blackford

Levi Roots at the West Dean Chilli Fiesta                   Picture: Tom Blackford

Levi Roots at the West Dean Chilli Fiesta Picture: Tom Blackford