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Small beginnings, big appetites, huge success: the story of The Halal Food Festival

Ahead of its massive event at the Trafford Centre this summer, we look back at the origins of The Halal Food Festival

The Halal Food Festival has certainly come a long way from its humble beginnings.

Started by Bilal Khan, a former nightclub promoter with a passion for his faith and a desire to bring excitement to the Halal industry, the festival has grown into a cultural phenomenon.

Returning to Manchester for its third year, this eagerly anticipated event is spreading its wings across three days of pure indulgence, happening over the Bank Holiday weekend from Saturday 25th to Bank Holiday Monday 27th August.

With over 30 street food vendors serving up a smorgasbord of global delights, from artisan Halal hot dogs to Korean corn dogs, from mouthwatering Katsu curry to irresistible Philly cheesesteaks and brisket, your palate is in for the ride of its life.

Japanese, Dutch, Italian, Chinese, American, South Asian, Lebanese, Turkish, Jamaican – every corner of the globe converges in a feast fit for royalty.

So how did The Halal Food Festival begin? And just how big is it now? We caught up with founder Bilal Khan to talk about how it became the huge foodie event it is now.

Humble beginnings in Leicester

The Halal Food Festival
People enjoying last year’s festival

The inaugural event took place in Bilal’s hometown of Leicester, where it immediately captured the attention of attendees with its vibrant atmosphere and diverse offerings.

From intense queues to innovative competitions like the ‘Chapatti Roti’ challenge, the festival quickly became a talking point in the community.

Bilal explained his career change.

“I used to be a nightclub promoter, for over 15 years hosting artists such as Drake, J Cole, Sean Paul plus many more.

“Over time I became more in tune with my faith and decided to take a step away from my previous life and use my skill set within the Halal industry.

“I felt like the industry could be a lot more exciting and a lot more positive.”

The Halal Food Festival

The Halal Food Festival

He decided to set up the Halal Food Festival.

“Our first event was in Leicester which is my home town. It was so intense, our generators were going off every few minutes, the queues were insane, overnight we became the talk of the culture.

“We hosted the first ever ‘Chapatti Roti’ competition which included the older generation including men taking centre stage.

“How many chapattis can you roll in 3 minutes? How round are you chapattis? It was great fun and I think everyone loved it.”

Despite the challenges faced during the first event, Bilal and his team received overwhelming positive feedback from both attendees and vendors, solidifying their belief that they were onto something special.

As the festival gained momentum, expanding into Manchester seemed like a natural progression.

Expanding the festival UK wide

Manchester, with its reputation as a multicultural hub and a hotspot for foodies, provided the perfect backdrop for the festival’s growth.

The first event in the city was a resounding success, drawing in a diverse crowd and setting the stage for future expansions.

Bilal said: “Interesting thing is, our team had very little ties to Manchester.

“We looked at Manchester as an exciting city, the people of Manchester seemed very receptive to different cultures so we decided to give it a go.

“We absolutely love Manchester! We love the people of Manchester! Without realising, this will be our third year in Manchester, we had to switch things up.”

The Halal Food Festival

Throughout its history, The Halal Food Festival has seen numerous highlights, from hosting thousands of foodies in Manchester to partnering with iconic venues like the Trafford Centre and expanding to Birmingham’s NEC.

Now, as they prepare for their third year in Manchester, excitement is building for their upcoming event at the Trafford Centre.

“The offering in Manchester is absolutely incredible, we think it should be the capital for food in the UK.

“The number of options, the number of foodies and influencers who champion Manchester is second to none,” added Bilal.

The Halal Food Festival

With a focus on showcasing the creativity and diversity of Halal food, alongside an array of artisan market stalls and Halal lifestyle vendors, the festival promises to be their biggest and best yet.

Bilal and his team are dedicated to creating an unforgettable experience for attendees, one that celebrates culture, community, and culinary innovation.

He said: “It’s our third year in Manchester, this time we’re at Trafford Centre so we feel like we have to deliver our best show yet.

“We’re onboarding new vendors from all over the UK alongside our resident vendors. Not forgetting our hustle and bustle of an ‘Artisan Market’ and ‘Halal Lifestyle’ vendors.

“Our focus is on creativity, we want to emphasise on the growth of Halal food, we want the culture to feel proud, take photos and videos to create memories.”

Highlights from The Halal Food Festival’s history

The Halal Food Festival’s journey has been punctuated by several remarkable milestones, each marking a significant step forward in its evolution.

From its first festival in Manchester, where they welcomed a staggering 15,000 food enthusiasts, to the big collaboration with the Trafford Centre for the celebrated Eid Bazaar, the festival has continually pushed boundaries.

Venturing beyond city limits, the festival made waves in 2023 by expanding to the NEC in Birmingham, further cementing its status as a national event.

Now, as anticipation mounts for the upcoming Trafford Centre edition in 2024, the festival once again made headlines by selling over 1500 tickets upon its announcement.

Huge milestones for a festival that looks set to grow bigger and bigger each year.

Why not head down and enjoy some wonderful food in a top setting?

You can get tickets to The Halal Food Festival by clicking here

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