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Archive for March, 2011

Pwllheli Food Festival Goes Ahead

30 Mar

First call in this Wednesday morning was – yes, you’ve guessed, another food festival query. This time the caller had heard a rumour that Pwllheli festival is not going ahead this year, although it’s on a north Wales website stating the date as 28/29th May. I’ve sent out a few emails to get a confirmation or get a denial, but not yet got any responses. I’ve also emailed Wag Food Press Office, but no response as yet.

UPDATE -This festival does go ahead.  Thankfully the Festival organiser Mike Parry, rang in today – Thursday. I’d emailed him along with many others to ask whether this rumour was correct. It’s not and Pwllheli festival is taking place. I’m still waiting for a reply from the WAG Press Office………………………but maybe they’re too busy to reply.  

But we wouldn’t be in this situation of not knowing,  if WAG had given us a list as they’d promised.

 
 

Where Is WAG’s Food Festival Listing?

29 Mar

The Welsh Assembly Government, (WAG) Food Press Office promised me a listing of the festivals they were supporting this year around the end of March. On 28th March I’d not received the listing, so I asked again. To then be informed that:

‘food festivals, organisers will be told direct and WAG will not be making any announcements because we will be in the pre-election period. Further information about the process is available on the True Taste website’.

I understood that the pre-election period doesn’t start until 1st April, but on checking with Cardiff I was told offical closure date is Wednesday 30th March. The Press Office had already promised me this information when we all knew the date of the election, so why can’t they release this promised information to me? I went back to the Press Office with these questions, but was informed I wouldn’t get any further answers because:

‘The press office is not prepared to get involved in a lengthy discussion which you will inevitably then blog’.

Well that wasn’t helpful was it? 

Food festivals and what is happening with them this year, has been the most talked-about topic. From phone calls into our office, emails and face-to-face chats when we are at a food event, it has been constant. You can see for yourself how much discussion the posts about food festivals have generated on welshfoodbites.  

I’m still getting Press Releases from various departments in the Welsh Assembly Government, (WAG), so it appears to me that WAG Food either have the luxury of making their own decisions, or simply don’t want our producers and readers to know what is happening with food festivals this year. What do you think?

 
 

Festivals Still In A State Of Flux

22 Mar

I’ve been told by WAG Food that I’ll receive a list of the festivals they’re supporting this year ‘around the end of March’. So I’ve assumed this means, not only will I get their list shortly, but it will be for the food festivals that they are giving funding to.

Well, I’ve just been chatting to a food festival organiser who is intending to run year, but has been told by WAG that their application doesn’t have to get to them until April. This is puzzling isn’t it? When I do get WAG’s festival list, but I’m not holding my breath here, it can’t be a list of WAG funded festivals can it? Or will WAG be producing their list, even though they haven’t seen any paperwork from the organisers? So is this massive amount of paperwork the organisers have to complete a total irrelevance? Or will WAG be plucking festival names out of the air that they wish to support? Or does it mean that WAG will support any festival this year that they’ve supported in the past? 

I’m sorry to pose questions, questions and yet more questions,but if anyone hasn’t read past postings and thinks the simple solution is to ‘talk’ to WAG’s Press Office, well sorry I can’t do that as the Press Office will not answer questions for welshfoodbites!!     

I wonder if the larger festivals, which stand a better chance of getting sponsorship are going to receive lower amounts this year, as WAG ideally wants festivals to be self-funding, or will they still continue to get the largest slices of the WAG cake? I’m struggling to understand how the food festival funding system is going to work this year, but as we are only Welsh media with a passion for Welsh food, wouldn’t it have been brilliant if WAG could keep us in the loop? Communication is really the key.          

I’ve also heard that Pembrokeshire Potato Festival, which was always a small, but jolly event, is not going ahead this year due to lack of funding. Instead they’ll be running an extended farmers market.

Please email any festival news or queries through to me, or if you just wish to add your comments, I’ll be interested in knowing your views.

 
 

Thanks So Much – Our Rankings Are Still Rising

16 Mar

I think it’s amazing that our rankings still improve  – of course it is all thanks to you. On 15th March welshfoodbites was 409,087, truetaste.tv was 1,919,717 whilst walesthetruetaste was 1,582,454

For some time now I have added these figures as a footer on my emails, but have now decided that I will no longer plug Wag’s two food websites for free!! I’m sure all you business people out there will understand this move perfectly!!

My thanks to you all for your support and the feedback comments left on welshfoodbites. It makes interesting reading. If you wish to leave comments I promise you your details will not be published, so feel free to let us know what your views and any issues that are causing you concern.

 
 

Cowbridge Food and Drink Festival

10 Mar

This is one of the festivals I really enjoy going to and this year it will be held on 29th & 30th October. Now in its eighth year, this festival has literally gone from strength to strength and it certainly one of the success stories of the food circuit.
Based in the Vale of Glamorgan, last year Cowbridge deservedly won the National Tourism Award 2010 for the Best Event (Community).
 
Cowbridge take around 80 stands and that includes a designated cooking area and a designated Cheese and Wine Marquee. There are also cooking demonstrations, tutored drink tastings, children’s activities, workshops as well as street entertainers. Literally there is something for everyone and the whole town make a huge effort to get into the carnival atmosphere that this festival creates. Such has been the success at Cowbridge that they are now in a position where already they are inundated with requests for stands. So they have decided that their objectives are still to offer the best produce from as locally as possible to enable them to reduce their carbon footprint and provide a platform for what Wales has to offer. They are not going to exclude exhibitors from further afield, where this enables them to broaden the spectrum of products and exhibitors from outside Wales will still be welcomed.
 
So those of you interested in applying for stands are asked to complete an ‘Expressions of Interest’ form which must be completed and returned by 15th April. A priority list will be compiled and selected exhibitors will then be contacted. Invoices for the fee, which is payable in two parts which are due May and August. In May, a non refundable deposit of £50, secures your space and then the balance of £110 must be paid in August.
 
I’m pleased Cowbridge have not altered their objectives and still wish to offer the best produce from as locally as possible, no-one can disagree with reducing their carbon footprint, whilst providing an important platform to sell and display our wonderful Welsh produce. I have been assured that exhibitors from further afield will not be excluded if this enables a broader spectrum of products.

It will be interesting to see how this new system works, I think it seems fair, but then I’m not applying for a space!!! My suggestion would be to make a clear and concise application and ‘sell yourself’ to Cowbridge and make sure you tell them your USP. As always please let me know how you get on with your application. I’m sure that if you’re lucky enough to be selected that you will have an excellent festival.

 
 

Our Rankings Continue To Rise – Thanks To You!

08 Mar

I am totally amazed at the figures we are achieving – see below. I must say a huge thank-you for all your support, interest and of course your feedback. The site is what you asked for and it seems by these rising figures, you were totally right.

I shall forgive the cheeky producer on Saturday in Saundersfoot, who shall remain nameless, but who said our figures were rising only because Wag has got me under permanent surveillance! Well if that’s true, Wag must have an awful lot of staff who are actually doing very little other work. Perhaps their time would be better spent by attending to their own two sites instead.  

Ranking @ 8/3/11: welshfoodbites was 458,237 as compared to truetaste.tv at 1,993,253 and walesthetruetaste at 1,724,516 

(Source Alexa taken over a 3 month period)

 
 

Swansea Food Festival Feedback

07 Mar

I had a chat with a producer who gave me some feedback on the Swansea festival which took place on Saturday 26th February. It was held in the centre of town but only attracted 20 food stands which I thought was very low until I learn that the stand price was nearly £200.00 for one day. I have no idea how we get organisers to understand that to pay up front such a huge fee for a single day is too big a gamble for many traders and only the start their overheads.  They’ve to make and organise their produce, sort out life at home, load up their transport, drive there, set-up, try to sell, break down, load up, drive home, unload, cash-up, do paper work ……….the list goes on and on.   

Organisers really do have to have a re-think. It’s will only be the popular ones like Abergavenny, Ludlow and Conwy that will have the luxury of cherry-picking traders, whilst others I fear will struggle to attract stands and simply disappear from our Welsh food scene.

 
 

Saundersfoot – St David’s Food & Craft Festival

07 Mar

This weekend on the harbour front, Saundersfoot celebrated St David’s Day with a festival of food and craft. I visited this event last year and was most unimpressed about the lack of signage as I drove from Ceredigion to Saundersfoot. Sadly this year there had been no improvement and it was only when I walked down to the sea front that I saw a banner sign on the railings in front of the Indian restaurant. Perhaps the Saundersfoot organisers are happy if some of the locals attend but I’m sure the traders would have liked to have been inundated with potential punters.     

I think that Saundersfoot is one of the final food events to run under the budget for 2010/11 as Miller Research were again on duty doing Wag’s food festival survey. The event was supported by WAG, Pembrokeshire County Council and True Taste Wales. True Taste Wales is of course WAG, but maybe additional funding comes from a True Taste budget……………….I’m really not sure.

I’d certainly take issue with whoever laid out the tradestand in the marquee. They obviously didn’t think through the possible traffic blockage when immediately on entering the marquee on the left hand-side were Miller Research wanting people to stand or sit and complete their survey on one of four ‘laptops’ and directly opposite, on the right-hand side was Saundersfoot Tourism stand, who were doing great business selling small cawl bowls for people wanting to sample the Cawl Cooking Championships. Why put two potentially busy stands right in the entrance? That really didn’t make sense. But back to the Cawl Trail, ten local eateries had entered the competition and the people visited them all – if they were hungry enough – and then gave their verdict on where they’d eaten the best cawl. I was really surprised with the many people I saw clutching their blue bowls and following the trail, but this part of the festival really did get people and eateries involved. Sad to overhear complaints about the congestion in the entrance to the marquee and it could so easily have been avoided.      

As last year I thought food stands numbers were low, and this still only 18, although I thought WAG insisted on minimum 20 food stands for them to support an event. There was the cookery demo area with chef Angela Gray in charge and 9 craft stands. Saundersfoot was blessed with sunny weather and I was pleased to see families and friends taking advantage of the outside seating area – that was a bonus. Although it was only lunch-time on Saturday when I left, I’d have loved to have seen many more people carrying food bags away with them. Hopefully as the weekend progressed, people did actually put their hands in their pockets a lot more. But unless we get the message across that our traders need much, much more support from the public, then some of our producers will just not be able to keep trading – it’s as basic and simple as that. Another case of – use them or you’ll lose them!      

Initial Saundersfoot post was on 15th July 2010.   

 
 

Arts Information Is in the Public Domain …………..

04 Mar

On 17th February I posted about the enormous trouble I’d had getting details from WAG the money each WAG supported food festivals received during 2010. Eventually WAG Press Office told me this information was ‘not in the public domain’ but failed to enlighten me as to why it wasn’t available or who had taken the decision it was to keep it a secret. Thankfully an Assembly Member took up the matter on my behalf and after a great deal of time I got the information I’d requested. 

Well, you will either be delighted to hear, or perhaps might even feel more annoyed to learn that the Arts Council Wales don’t appear to keep their finances a secret. Our office asked yesterday for the amounts awarded to the various jazz, music, drama and arts festivals last year. Then first thing this morning we received a full list without the slightest problem, this is in addition to a comprehensive list of lottery grants that is shown in their annual report.

Although both are spending ‘our money’ they don’t appear to be run the same way. So can someone please explain why the Arts Council Wales seems to have everything open and giving the impression of everything being even handed and above board, whereas WAG Food, when it comes to anything financial, appears to be surrounded in secrecy?