Hi, I’m Tracy Colley operations director of the Academy of Cheese. The Academy of Cheese is an educational program for people working in the cheese industry or who want to join the cheese industry, or cheese lovers. We have two levels of certification level 1 and level 2 and our students study either in the classroom or online as eLearning. We have students and alumni from all over the world.
When the coronavirus hit we saw the devastation that was having to our cheese makers many of them had been supplying events, venue, sports venues, restaurants, cafes, and all of that business was suddenly gone. We had great admiration for those of them that turned their businesses around and started selling direct to customers to consumers, so to their local community delivering on their bicycles on their little vans, by hand, or many of them also created online websites.
The first thing that the academy of cheese did was we used our community of over 2000 people to notify them on who was doing what and how, so we created a cheese delivery email that went out twice weekly it’s now going out once a week, and we’ve created a cheese directory on our website where people can go and look at what the different offers are. Many of them have put together cheese boxes and of all different cheeses from the area and you can buy those and have a feast at the weekend.
The other thing we did I was talking to our fellow director Charlie Turnbull and he we were really missing our social gatherings and our master classes where we all get together and learn a little bit more about different aspects of cheese, it might be about how cheese pairs with wine it might be about maturing and affinage, and we’re really missing that. So he came up with the idea of why don’t we do an online in virtual class that we can stream on YouTube. So he christened it Tuesday Night is Cheese Night, we have both him and I committed our Tuesday nights at 8 o’clock to live-streaming this fun sort of informal community and people can tune in and listen and taste some cheese along with us and buy cheese to taste along.
Another chance conversation with Patrick McGuigan who’s a cheese writer and our cheese librarian so he writes all the cheeses that are in our cheese library on the Academy of Cheese website and he said normally Tracy, I’d be doing London cheese month in May and we’ve we can’t do anything what should we do. So he came up with the idea that we did a we do a virtual cheese festival, we spoke to Catherine Mead the chairman of the Specialist Cheesemakers Association and she thought this was a great idea, she was also hearing lots of tales of how the cheese makers are struggling, and thought if we could all pull together and make this happen, it would be a way of people buying more cheese, understanding more about artisan cheese, and what the fantastic offering is, and us bringing the community together albeit virtually in this way. We thought that it would be, we’d use the may bank holiday weekend so maybe 8th to the 10th for this, and we do three or four master classes through on each day.
This has turned into a little bit of a mammoth festival. We had so many people that we just thought it was a great idea I wanted to stay part and be offering their expertise. So we now have over 10 events every day on the Friday the Saturday and the Sunday with experts from across the industry so we’ve got cheesemakers, we’ve got cheesemongers, we’ve got cheese distributors, we’ve got chefs, we’ve got cheese writers, all wanting to share their expertise with the consumers out there. So please do join us. It’s called the British Cheese Weekender and all the details are on academy of cheese website which is https://academyofcheese.org and there’s a pop-up or you can go to the menu and find British cheese weekender we’re all over social media so do come and join us everything is free the only premise is you need to buy cheese to join and have some fun and eat lots of amazing great cheese.