The first event of its kind to grace the town centre, the Great British Bark Off provided residents and visitors to the town with a fun, free family event on Saturday 31st August – with plenty of surprises (and free cake!) for all.
Hosted by Loveashford in partnership with Emergency Exit Arts, the Great British Bark Off combined the humble English summer tradition of a dog show with a Great British Bake Off-inspired cake competition for local businesses.
Hosts Terry Bull and Johnny Poodles kicked off the afternoon of entertainment on Ashford’s Bandstand which started with live music from The Miss Jones Trio, who warmed the crowd up with a selection of toe-tapping tunes.
Over 30 dogs were entered into the show, which had four categories: best owner-dog relationship, most unusual talent, best story and best celebrity look-a-like.
Prizes for each category were kindly donated by several local businesses, and included tickets from local cinema PictureHouse to their upcoming Downton Abbey afternoon tea and screening; a bespoke, handmade dog collar from Made in Ashford; tickets to a family screening at Revelation St Mary’s and a Vodafone dog tracker.
Deputy Mayor Cllr John Link was on hand for the day to help with the judging process for each category, and picking a winner proved to be a tough task – particularly when it came to choosing the Best Story, as several of the entrants moved the crowd to tears with their heart-warming tales.
The winners were:
Best owner-dog relationship: Poppy, who won her family a Downton Abbey Afternoon Tea Experience courtesy of Ashford Picturehouse.
Best Story: Bear, who won his family a ticket to a storytelling experience at Revelation St Marys.
Most Unusual Talent: Oscar, who won himself a bespoke dog collar made especially by Melissa Dawkins at Made in Ashford.
Best Celebrity Look-a-like: Rudey, who won a dog tracker from Vodafone for his uncanny likeness to Boris Johnson!
Entrants for the dog show came from a host of places across Kent. Along with Ashford residents, people travelled from as far as Canterbury and Sittingbourne - and even Hastings in East Sussex - to take part in the event and get their paws on the prizes.
With the weather warming up to a pleasant 25 degree Celsius, Ashford Borough Council’s Dog Warden, Colin Leek, was on site to ensure all four legged friends present were well looked after, providing extra water and shelter in his specially adapted van.
The event was also supported by a number of local businesses and animal charities, who held market style stalls on the day. Local, family-run business The Little Teapot provided a range of mouth-watering refreshments – including bespoke dog biscuits; Made in Ashford hosted a stall full of dog themed souvenirs and trinkets and South East Dog Rescue were on hand to provide advice and support to those contemplating the addition of their own four-legged friend.
Statistics captured on the day showed that footfall for the town centre peaked at 12pm, when the Great British Bark Off commenced, with over 12,000 people visiting throughout the course of the day.
When it came to the bake off, the competition was just as tough. Seven local businesses all entered for the chance to win the coveted Star Baker title, with some creative culinary delights on offer for the audience to taste.
Glamorous hostess Miss Katt Kittens joined Terry Bull and Johnny Poodles on stage to present and judge the delicious bakes, charming the crowd with her air of sophistication.
Each entrant won a category, with an overall prize awarded to the judges favourite.
The categories and cakes were:
Most Environmentally Friendly Cake: won by The Retreat Animal Sanctuary, who baked a vegan Victoria Sponge
Best Binge Eating Cake: won by Stag Coffee, who made a vegan Oreo Delight
Most Feathery Sponge: won by The Little Teapot, for their coffee and walnut cake
Best Icing: won by Bake to the Future, for their Lemon drizzle and white chocolate ganache cake, shaped like a dog bowl.
Most Original Cake: won by Westwell Cakes, who made a snowdog-themed rich chocolate cake.
Mastering the Classics: won by Chilli Bite, who created a classic Victoria Sponge cake
The One You Dream About: won by Floral Frosting Bakes, who produce cakes for local shop The Beehive, and made a vegan Lotus Biscotti cake
The judges overall vote for Star Baker of the day was awarded to Chilli Bite’s show stopping Victoria Sponge, earning them a delicious bottle of fizz from local winery, Chapel Down.
All photos are courtesy of Heritage and Holland Photos.