Local produce, arts and crafts on offer at Lough Neagh Artisans Market

The first Lough Neagh Artisans Market takes place this Sunday at the Lock Keeper’s Cottage in Toome. HELEN MCGURK hears from some of those taking part

By Helen McGurk
Wednesday, 18th May 2022, 4:50 pm
Lough Neagh Artisans members Noreen Van der Velde of Noreen’s Nettles, Noeleen Kelly of Lock Keeper’s Cottage, Ann Marie Collins of Annie’s Delights, Gary McErlain of Lough Neagh’s Stories and Angela Patterson of Gold & Browne’s
Lough Neagh Artisans members Noreen Van der Velde of Noreen’s Nettles, Noeleen Kelly of Lock Keeper’s Cottage, Ann Marie Collins of Annie’s Delights, Gary McErlain of Lough Neagh’s Stories and Angela Patterson of Gold & Browne’s

The Lough Neagh Artisans Market will bring together members of the Lough Neagh Artisans Group which was set up by Lough Neagh Partnership in 2019, to inspire people to enjoy the artisan food, crafts and experiences from the shores of Lough Neagh.

The collective of like-minded creatives all live within 10 miles of Lough Neagh and have a strong focus on collaboration.

Their products, services and initiatives are all unique to the Lough Neagh area and although there is real focus on local artisans setting up shop at the cottage this Sunday, such is the popularity of this first market that organisers are welcoming almost 40 traders from beyond the shores of Lough Neagh including Co Down and Co Londonderry.

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Members of Lough Neagh Artisans come from very varied backgrounds and we caught up with a few of those attending this Sunday’s event to hear about their passion for their businesses.

Ann Marie Collins, Annie’s Delights, Portglenone

Annie’s Delights was born out of a hobby started by Ann Marie seven years ago. She single-handedly produces award-winning jams, curds, marmalades, chutneys and breads and bakes, using homegrown or local produce.

Ann left behind a desk job in the health sector to turn her hobby into a full-time business in 2019 which she built from her love of baking and cooking.

“I’ve always loved baking and cooking and always made gifts for family and friends for Christmas including making up hampers. This just developed into people asking me to make them things and, as they say, the rest is history.”

A minor illness was the trigger for Ann deciding to make Annie’s Delights her full-time job and she says she hasn’t looked back.

She added: “I believe that if you never try, you will always regret it. And I would advise anyone considering turning their hobby into a business or starting a new business to be prepared to work harder than you ever have but the rewards are worth it.”

Noreen Van der Velde, Noreen’s Nettles

Noreen grows her own nettles to produce a range of products, including nettle tea, nettle powder, nettle cordial, nettle hair and scalp tonic and nettle salve,

The Aghalee woman, whose business, Noreen’s Nettles, was established in 2016, will be one of many artisans displaying her wares at the upcoming market.

Noreen, who had a career as cabin crew with British Airways, said she was looking at more natural ways for better health. Noreen has a real affinity with nettles as her great-grandmother (who lived until she was 103!) used to use them in cooking.

“I started making my tea for myself and whilst also running a B&B. I was offering it to guests when in season and I started drying nettles too to see me through the winter but it became so popular with our guests that I saw a market for it.”

Noreen admits having wanted to have her own business since she was in her teens but never truly imagined that she would eventually start one in her late forties.

“They say it is never too late. And having a B&B has enabled me to sell my products to guests from all over the world. I also find that a lot of business comes from trading at food fairs which leads to word of mouth. I am very passionate about what I do and want to be the best at what I offer. Knowing I am producing a premium product is very rewarding.”

Bronagh Duffin,

Bakehouse NI, Bellaghy

Bronagh set up her business when she left her nursing career in 2017. A registered theatre and anaesthetic nurse, Bronagh is passionate about food and says her business is very much part of her and who she is.

“I live and breathe food and am passionate about wanting people, young and old, to create delicious simple and nutritious food for themselves from our wonderful local seasonal produce.”

Bronagh’s Bakehouse offers experiences in baking, cooking and foraging.

She said: “All my life I have wanted to teach people how to cook. My childhood hero was Delia Smith and I had read her complete cookery course cover to cover a few times before I was even 16.”

For anyone starting out on their artisan journey, Bronagh has some great advice.

“I believe if you do something you love you will never work a day in your life so a new artisan must always love what they do. I definitely recommend finding other artisans and to be part of a supportive nurturing community such as the Lough Neagh Artisans group. Being part of this group has been fundamental to helping teach me to how to develop and market my business.”

Angela Patterson, Gold & Browne’s, Randalstown

Angela, whose business is a year old this month, specialises in gluten free, homemade, luxury artisan chocolate brownies in various flavours, using ethically sourced Belgian chocolate and local free range eggs and butter.

She said: “I sell online all over the UK but I also love to visit artisan markets and I also offer corporate gifting. It’s a complete change for me as I worked as a retail manager for 20 years in the world’s largest retailer of diamond jewellery. Furlough gave me an opportunity to set up my business, something I’d always talked about but never had the time to pursue.”

Awarded ‘Most Promising New Business Award 2021’, Angela says: “I love being an artisan. Creating something unique that I have a passion for. However baking is just one part of my business. I source the ingredients and the luxurious packaging. I market the business myself and attend markets and shows.

The Lough Neagh Artisans Market is being hosted by Lough Neagh Partnership and is jointly funded by DAERA’s NI Regional Food Programme, Rural Development Programme and The European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development: Europe investing in rural areas and the UK Community Renewal Fund which aims to support people and communities most in need across the UK to pilot programmes and new approaches to prepare for the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.

It invests in skills, community and place, local business, and supporting people into employment. 

*The Lough Neagh Artisans Market will take place at Lock Keeper’s Cottage, Toome, on Sunday, May 22 from 1pm to 5pm. Admission is free and there will be live music, cookery demonstrations and product sampling. Visitors can also avail of a traditional eel supper by reserving a table at nearby Gran’s Café and they can book a boat trip of the River Bann to get up close and personal with Lough Neagh. For more, see Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/loughneaghartisans. Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/loughneaghartisans/