Congratualtions to Steve Shearman from Farmer’s Markets in Wales, who put on a great show in the old Food Hall at the Smallholder show this weekend. As already posted, I had expected to find the producers in the new Food Hall, but was relieved to find that sector busy and some relatively producers on Sunday when I visited.
What really made me very angry was the fact that this event received no funding from the WAG, the Welsh Assembly Government. I’ve no idea who told me, but I knew that Steve attended the festival organisers meeting in February, but I couldn’t work out why. The funding for this event has not, to my knowledge, ever come from Wag’s festival funded budget. If I’m wrong, then it’s been left of the list I have received from Wag for the last four years. So as this funding has always come from another budget, which budget was it from? My next question is why has this funding been withdrawn and who made that decision?
I’m not sure whether you would label this event as a Food Festival or a Farmer’s Market, but the label is irrelevant. What is relevant and is very important, is that thisevent was actually a celebration of Welsh food at its best and surely this is what Wag (Food) should be promoting. This year Wag’s criteria for festivals they are supporting is that they ‘will have food activity as the core. Therefore events such as Agricultural Shows with a food hall or events that use a food hall as an additional attraction will not normally be eligible’. What normally be eligible means must qualify as ‘Wag speak’ which makes us none the wiser…………….so can anyone clarify that statement please. I feel that maybe it means that Wag will continue to do as is pleases, regradless of the consequences.
As an example of my confusion, can I remind you that I attended Saundersfoot in March this year and counted 18 food stands, plus a cookery demo area and 9 craft stands. This festival got funding again this year, around £8k, but according to Wag they should have had 20 food producers. Did anyone attned from Wag and if so does that mean this funding is now reduced? Saundersfoot have also been awarded funding for 2012 but with a lesser amount of £5,006.35.
But back to the Smallholder event which had over 40 of our best producers on show, got no financial support at all, due to Wag’s change of criteria. Wag’s other big push as far as food festivals are concerned, is that huge prominence is made of True Taste Food and Drink Awards winners. I won’t bore you again with my views on True Taste, but check out my post on 22nd November and let me know what you think. The financial headache that no funding caused this event meant that stand prices had to be doubled, bad news for the producers in this economic climate, but there was absolutely no choice if this was to go ahead. I cannot imagine the Smallholder without Steve Shearman’s market and our offering to our visitors is bog-standard fast food vans with little if any local food.
This event was a success despite Wag’s childish behavouir, they even had a covered area on one side where Steve had put seating so people could enjoy some great coffee, food, ice-cream and a chance to rest and chat with family and friends.
Carwyn Jones, our First Minister says, “I am delighted the Welsh Assembly Government has been able to continue to support food and drink festivals across Wales.”
Well Mr Jones and Wag, I’m not happy that I don’t understand what has happened to the Smallholder funding and why Wag (Food) don’t put their onus on Welsh food first and True Taste second – if you can improve the standard and variety of local producers you’ll of course improve the entries for the True Taste. Please explain to me why this event had to run without financial support from Wag bearing in mind RWAS say 26,026 attended over the two days. This is yet another instance where Wag need to wake-up and understand what is actually happening in Wales with our food producers.