Dead tasty: English history festival revives tradition of graveside picnics

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Alex Mistlin

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England’s biggest festival of history – Heritage Open Days – celebrates cuisine this year, with events in pasty shops, cathedrals and cemeteries

Lavish picnics and family feasts might not be the first things that come to mind when you think “cemetery”, but from Pagans holding silent dinners to Victorians dining alfresco among the gravestones, England’s food traditions have long been shaped by death – it’s only modern sensibilities that steer us away from celebration. But, as part of Heritage Open Days, Friends of Wombwell Cemetery in Barnsley, South Yorkshire has revived the tradition.

Established in 1994, Heritage Open Days is England’s largest festival of history and culture, and gives visitors a chance to look around some of England’s most historic places. This year’s theme, Edible England, will feature almost 4,000 events, including picnics, tasting tours and performances. The entire programme, which runs from 10-19 September, is free, including access to many sites that usually charge for admission. And for the second year running, there will be virtual tours and online discussions running in addition to the live events.

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