A festival that celebrates the fantastic produce on offer in the south west and raises money for worthy causes returns next month. Chef Mark Hix and RNLI crew member Seb Cope tell Joanna Davis more.

A festival featuring exciting cookery demonstrations, insightful talks, gastronomic tastings and live music is returning to Lyme Regis for a seventh year.

But Food Rocks, to be held on September 7 and 8, is more than your average food festival.

It has raised thousands of pounds for the RNLI and The Fishermen's Mission and will do so again this year.

The two-day food extravaganza, curated by chef and restaurateur Mark Hix MBE, takes place in Mark's home town of Lyme Regis.

Mark will be joined by top chefs and friends Mitch Tonks, Angela Hartnett and Richard Bertinet.

It was an easy choice to support the RNLI, Mark said: "I think if you're going to do an event you need to be supporting local charities and continuing to offer that support.

"Not only does the RNLI do work on the sea in Dorset a lot of people don't realise what they do in London on the Thames as well.

"It's now in it's seventh year and it gets better every year with more producers coming and more interest from people. It's gaining in momentum year on year. I think September is a good time of year to have it because it doesn't clash with other things going on.

"It's quite a popular event for people to come along to. A lot of Londoners have weekend places in the area and they like to come to it and there are also lots of people who comes to the seaside at the weekend and those who like to come on holiday to Lyme Regis."

A special dinner will kick off the festival on Friday September 6, hosted by Mark and his beef supplier Peter Hannan, where guests will have the opportunity to ‘meet the producer’.

The festival itself, on Saturday, September 7 and Sunday, September 8, is free to attend. There will be music performances from local charity B Sharp and morris dancing from the Bakers Dozen.

Mark owns the Hix Oyster and Fish House in Lyme Regis and returns to the resort for the weekend as often as he can.

He said: "When I'm in Dorset I like to do a bit of everything, I like to mix it up, spending time eating, talking and fishing. I've done it all my life, it's a nice relaxing experience. I like chatting to the local fishermen at the harbour. I catch whatever I can - bass, mackerel. I have lots of recipes for mackerel. If I get a big haul I give the fish to my restaurant."

Producers already confirmed for the festival include Black Cow vodka, Somerset Membrillo, Conker gin, Hundred-Aker-Pottery and many more. Alongside the producers will be the usual mouth-watering street food offering including Billy Winters

cafe, The Pig Hotels, Somerset Hog roast and Café Meru. With more than 50 food and drink stands already confirmed, the festival is set to be bigger and better than ever before.

Chef demonstrations will be given by Mark Hix, Mitch Tonks, Angela Hartnett and Rose Prince on stage between 11.30am and 5.30pm.

*Food Rocks, Marine Parade and Cart Road, Lyme Regis, September 7 to 8. The Glenarm Estate Meat feast will be held on Friday, September 6 from 7.30pm and costs £45 per person. The Crab and Mackerel Supper Club will be held on Friday, September 6 from 7.30pm and costs £45 per person.

See hixrestaurants.co.uk

Money raised from Food Rocks will go towards the RNLI.

Seb Cope, 36, a crew member at RNLI Lyme Regis, said the charity relies upon donations from events like Food Rocks.

He said: "It's fantastic what Mark Hix does for us with Food Rocks and we all want to thank him for organising this and putting all the work in.

"The money is used for things that are integral to our operations - like equipment and training. It costs £1,800 to £1,900 to kit out a volunteer crewman."

Training is carried out at the RNLI's HQ in Poole, Seb said, where hi-tech equipment is used to simulate real life situations.

Seb has been a crew member on the lifeboat for three years now. His day job is in architectural design and being self-employed gives him the flexibility required for call-outs,

"I've always had the desire to give a bit back," Seb said. "I've always enjoyed volunteering for different charities, living by the coast I've got to know the sea and the weather. It's good to be part of the crew and being part of the Lyme Regis lifeboat crew is pretty awesome.

"Whenever the pager goes off, you are just racing out of that door."

And Seb and the crew can be called out at any time he said.

A particular call-out that sticks with him was a 'shout' in October 2017.

"We were called to a mayday where two people were in the water. Their fishing boat had sunk 10 miles due south of West Bay. I got out there with the crew on the boat pretty quickly. They gave us our searching patterns, we were assisted by a coastguard helicopter, other boats in the area and an RAF helicopter. The helicopter saw what looked like a sheen of oil on the water. They were then spotted in the water about a mile away, there they were two guys and a black Labrador dog floating in the water.

"They must have been in the water for a good hour. One of them was suffering badly from hypothermia and was in a bad state. He was winched to Dorset County Hospital, the other guy wasn't too bad.

"That one really was memorable. We were 10 miles off the coast, barely making out any land, searching for a couple of guys in the ocean who could have been anywhere. But luckily this one ended happily."

Some of the most common 'shouts' Seb said, are for people who have been cut off by the tide.

The number of call-outs a year can vary, Seb said, but it's usually between 25 and 44 a year.

And there's a real camaraderie between the members of the crew.

Seb said: "We've got a fantastic bunch of guys in Lyme Regis. The great thing is you can pop into an RNLI station anywhere and talk to anyone and we're all like a family.

"It's a family that's really nice to be a part of."

See rnli.org