SAY cheese! Thousands of Herefordians and visitors could be if the city's bid to stage the prestigious British Cheese Awards in September is successful.

Affectionately known as the 'Cheese Olympics', the awards would be a major coup for the county, which is in contention thanks in part to its growing reputation as a fine food and drink producer.

Organisers of the awards, Culinary events Ltd, have banded together with the Hereford City Partnership in an attempt to secure the two-day extravaganza on Saturday and Sunday, September 27 and 28.

Juliet Harbutt, awards chairman, believes the decision to come to Hereford is already cut and dried.

Grant funding

"More than 15 towns have been vying for the role of host for the British Cheese Festival, however, the genuine enthusiasm of the local people and businesses combined with the agricultural and architectural diversity in Hereford made it a strong contender.

"The deciding factor however was the offers of support from the Mayor, town and county councils, even the Dean of the cathedral.

"They all see the awards as a unique opportunity for Hereford."

However, one issue still to be resolved is the allocation of grant funding from Advantage West Midlands (AWM). A decision is due in the coming weeks.

Geoff Richmond, AWM food and drink cluster manager, said: "Negotiations with the British Cheese Awards to bring the prestigious awards to a venue in the West Midlands are well advanced and continuing.

"The proposals put forward by the various partners in Hereford are very high on the list of options."

If Hereford is successful in its bid to host the festival, events would include a market, tutored tastings and workshops, the British festival dinner as well as demonstrations and 'cheese tossing'.

Juliet explained that they would be keen to involve as many people as possible in the event, including local businesses to encourage visitors to stay on and enjoy all of the county's delights.

From goat to beefy buffalo, more than 750 British cheeses and 165 exhibitors are expected to provide a feast of sensory entertainment.

"If you don't buy British your countryside will not look the same. We want to go to a location where the people are as excited as we are about raising the profile of British food," said Juliet.

An estimated 10,000 people would be expected to pour into the city during the weekend with a huge event planned for the Castle Green, and some of Britain's best buskers could also grace the city's streets.

Juliet continued: "We want people to come for the cheese, and for Hereford and for Britain."

The awards promise 'something for everyone', attracting cheese lovers from all over the world to witness old recipes revived, new ones created and rare breeds re-established.

Well-known for its beautiful countryside, fantastic walks and picturesque black and white villages, Herefordshire is fast becoming the cream of the crop when it comes to food and drink already attracting thousands of 'foodies' every year.