The Edible Fashion Awards have come a long way since 2006 when around 60 children from all round the district gathered under the Hastings Town Clock to stage their entries. Now it attracts some 200 plus. 

All potential designers from both schools and après in a bid to win the Supreme Award: their entries derived from anything which relates to edible material – be it recycled or fresh produce, original materials conjured out of edible ingredients plus packaging and products of all kinds so long as they come under the category of the rather broad-brush moniker – Edible. 

This year the show will go on at the end of August. After the multiple entries in each category have been sifted down during the two days prior, finalists will be judged in a spectacular at Toitoi on the night of August 26th. 

Overseeing the intricacies of this exceptional production is Annie Heast, who took the mantle of board chair in September last year. Annie is well used to being around the behind stage secrets such an event involves. Husband Andy is chair of the Hawke’s Bay Arts Festival. 

However she comes to the role with a pedigree all of her own. With multiple qualifications and a degree in the health sector – ward sister, Health Science, NHS management training for future directors and chief execs. It includes three years as chief operating officer of the Hawke’s Bay DHB and seven as a board management consultant for many DHBs including HB. After that she was ready for a break.

“Voltaire had a lot to do with that,” she comments. “I read Candide and found gardening. That was it.” Until last year when she decided she wanted to return to the workforce – “I had forgotten how much I loved leading a team. So, I put it ‘out there’ and within 24 hours along came the offer to head the Edible Fashion Awards Board.

“I also wanted to do something outside of the health sector – my interests are food and gardening, and I felt the need to help in the areas of creativity and education.” The ‘fit’ was perfect.

Schools’ participation is a huge and vital part of this charity – giving opportunities and encouragement to the undiscovered talent in the region. The education programme behind the three-day event with its multiple categories has offered many a talented school child the opportunity to discover their skills. Dedicated mentors – often past winners themselves – are part of a course of scheduled visits which encourage both groups and individuals at participating schools to reach the heights with their entries. 

But Annie also has great plans for the development of the charity. A two-day workshop is to be held after the show where the best of the Bay creatives and management gurus will explore just how far it can develop. “We need to find out what the potential is out there – look at who we are, what we are about and to what we are aligned. But whatever we do Hawke’s Bay will be its heart. After all, look at the abundance of creativity and productivity we have here.” 

Funding in the way of sponsorship and donations is an essential part of this growth.

“Of course could we do none of this without the wonderfully diverse and highly qualified people we have on board,” Annie comments. “A brilliant production team headed by our exceptional event director Kelie Jensen, the incredible volunteers and of course board members who bring a range of skills so necessary to create the unique charity that is Edible –theatre, music and film production, education, psychotherapy, editorial, food, finance, civic knowledge and management.

“Great things grow here and that is not only in produce – we have promise in so many fields and what we – the Edible board – are determined to do is grow this festival to its full potential by nurturing the latent skills which are lurking in every field of creativity in the region.”

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