Food Festivals Get Into Full Swing

15 Jun

We’re now in the midst of the busiest time in the WAG food festival supported calendar. But sadly the discord behind the scenes continues. I’ve already posted on the demise of Llanwrtyd Wells, Smallholder and Aberystwyth. Llanwrtyd couldn’t have it’s funding confirmed and as it’s an April festival, they decided not to run this year. Smallholder lost it’s funding because being at the Royal Welsh Showground, food was not the core activity.  Aberystwyth has lost funding for its Xmas Fair, although they are appealing Wag’s decision. News has also come through to me that Frenni in Crymch has fallen foul of the Wag’s ‘no craft stall rule’ so they are not running this year, whilst other festivals have been told, no craft or no funding.

Wag state that all food events they support ‘must have food as the core.’ Festivals with less than 20 producers exhibiting are not eligible for support. If the festival fails to attract 20 producers, funding may be reduced or withdrawn. Even if there are twenty food producers the number of other exhibitors e.g. craft, community will be taken into account when assessing an application’.

A review team considers each application but I have no idea who the review team consists of. Then a panel drawn from the Food Drink Advisory Partnership will make the final decision. 

Apparently the ‘no craft – no funding’ has come from the review of all the festivals Wag funded last year that was undertaken by Miller Research from Abergavenny. I have noted the comments made by some on welshfoodbites relating to the fact that Abergavenny’s funding remains the same as last year, so no cuts or reduction there, despite the fact that Wag’s objective was that food festivals should aim to be self-funding. Wag will consider ‘size of financial contribution from other (non-WAG) partners and direct contributions from festival resources’. Your guess will be as good as mine as to what this means in the world of Wag! I asked for a copy of Miller Research report in March, but have yet to receive it, I’m told it will arrive soon.  Which is rather strange as I’ve spoken to quite a few organisers who had their individual reports months ago. I’m sure it will make interesting reading, whether I’ll agree with the content remains to be seen………………………………..  

It’s very disappointing that this year Wag are only able to support 31 festivals instead of 56 festivals, as last year. Of course we are all aware that budgets have been slashed, but the question is now, has Wag made best use of the funding they have received? Is it better to keep supporting to the same level our 3 biggest festivals, namely, Abergavenny, Cardiff and Conwy, to the tune of £130,900, at the expense of many of our smaller events?    

Taken from a Wag Press Release:

The 31 festivals – large and small – feature a wide range of products and are an important showcase for producers and Welsh produce among who are many Wales the True Taste Food and Drink Awards winners. Said Carwyn Jones, First Minister of Wales, “I am delighted the Welsh Assembly Government has been able to continue to support food and drink festivals across Wales. During 2011/12 the festivals will collectively receive £368,521.36 in assistance, signifying their importance to the economy and Wales’ reputation as a producer of high quality and diverse food and drink.

Another concern is that I don’t know which Wag person/s are visiting all their supported festivals this year – does anyone know? But I’m not impressed seeing Wag officials scurrying around an event 30 mins after it’s opened and hardly talking to anyone. I just can’t see the point. How can you get a true impression of an event with that time-scale and attitude? Visits must be made later in the day, or on the 2nd day of a two-day festival, they must talk to stall holders, organisers, vistors and volunteers too. That’s how to get feedback, but maybe producers wouldn’t be honest with Wag. That could be a problem. But it’s so important that each festival is still visited by someone and feedback given, if not how are these events going to improve and grow? The most important and relevant point is how do we know that value for money is being achieved?


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  1. does wag know best?

    June 16, 2011 at 8:55 am

    I don’t think so
    If I’m understanding what Wag are looking for, isn’t far too much is going to the big events? Wag say they’ll look at other financial sources, apart from themselves, of monies coming into the event. But how does that work? Does the event list all the monies coming in, send it through to Wag and Wag say well done getting all this money in, we’ll reduce what we were giving you? I bet I’m not the only one whose confused and as a trader it’s useful to be able to get a grip on how this funding lark works. I can only talk about Abergavenny because I used to attend until they threw me out, so I do have an axe to grind and yes I’m still very cross with them. Abergavenny charge people to go in, they charge for their talks, they charge tradestanders and they seem to have endless sponsors too. So why they get so much money if the figures quoted are correct? I guess the situation is the same for Cardiff and Conwy. Wouldn’t life be simpler if Wag were more open about how their latest criteria are arrived at and then judged? I’ve never heard of the Food & Drink Partnership, but I guess is full of worthy people loved by Wag and would not rock the Wag boat. Wonder how many of them earn their living as small food producers and how many of them are on Wag’s pay role?

  2. unfair

    June 17, 2011 at 11:41 am

    Please can anyone get Wag to communicate to food producers?
    Food festival funding seems very much in favour of the big few, which isn’t fair.
    Criteria should be decided early and organisers told early as well. Producers should also be told so they’re kept in the loop. Why is so much with Wag a secret, or in their speak ‘not in the pulic domain’?
    As producers we are kept on the outside, which is wrong, this is our industry after all.
    can anyone make Wag wake-up to our world which is real, there’s appears to be in a political bubble

  3. a worry

    June 17, 2011 at 11:52 am

    reading this piece is a worry, I’ve tried, but don’t get where Wag coming from?
    Their priority should be food, food, food and include producers which are the side that Wag seem to dismiss and ignore for some reason.
    The NFU and FUW wouldn’t put up with this situation and why should we?

  4. In the know

    June 22, 2011 at 7:59 pm

    I have sent an email to WAG asking where I can read a copy of the Miller report. 5 days later and not even an acknowledgment, let alone any information. I will send an email every day from now on, maybe someone in Wag will learn how to communicate!
    After all, I helped pay for it!

  5. admin

    June 23, 2011 at 10:46 am

    I’m sorry to hear of your problem with Wag. I asked Wag’s Press Office for a copy of Miller Research’s report on 28th march and was told I would get it. Then of course Wag Press office then refused to answer any of my questions. So with no other pressing work to do……….ha, ha I asked Wag although the Press Office had said that I hadn’t to talk to Wag directly. On 10/6 I was told by Wag that: ‘Miller Research’s report on food festivals is not available at this time. I note your interest and I will inform you when it becomes available’.

    No further detail as to why this report isn’t available or when I can expect to get a copy either. I’ve spoken to quite a few organisers who had copies of their own report months ago, so why such a delay? It just makes me suspicious of what Wag are now doing with Miller Research’s report, before we can see it.

    I’m sorry Wag has been so rude. Not even acknowledging your email. There’s no excuse for such unprofessional behaviour. I’m not sure who you have emailed, but can I suggest that you copy in the Head of FFMDD, your Assembly Member and also our new Deputy Minister and see if that motivates a response? But don’t hold your breath; remember these people think they’re very busy!!!

    I’ve constantly been asking Wag to communicate and I’m furious that this is yet another matter they choose to ignore. But what do I know about local food and this industry? Maybe when you are sitting in the Wag Glass Tower in Aberystwyth you become so arrogant that you don’t feel the need to communicate to the people, who in effect pay your wages. Another example of how they are so out-of-touch with reality.
    Please let me know if you make any progress. When I get my copy you’ll know!!!! In the meantime just admire my perseverance ……….

  6. In the know

    June 23, 2011 at 8:12 pm

    Well, today I had a bounce back from my third email. As all three had been sent to the same email address copy and pasted from their web site, I find this odd. Maybe just bad management, maybe they think I wont bother them further. They do not know me very well! If anyone has an email that they know gets through to someone in Wag, please let me know!
    As a small business I know how vital it is to keep in contact with customers and reply to emails promptly. As the Head of WAG food Promotion has a failed food business behind him, maybe he still does not realise the importance of communication!

  7. admin

    June 24, 2011 at 10:19 am

    I am so sorry you are having this hassle and know that feeling so well. I wish Wag appreaited how much this waste’s of our time. I want to apologise for Wag’s rudeness and unprofessionalism, but it’s not my role or my right to do that, and I’d be too embarrassed to do so. I was going to publish for everyone some relevant emails, but instead I have sent five different ones directly to you including Alun Davies our new Deputy Minister. My advice, if you don’t mind my offering advice, is to keep going, but don’t hold your breath………………………..!
    I’m in total agreement with you that communication is the key whatever business you are running. Sadly Wag isn’t a business, they have the luxury of just playing with our money, making decisions that we often don’t agree with and in their world, that’s ok. Well we all know it isn’t and it’s about time that they got this message.
    Maybe one solution would be for us to organise a meeting with Alun Davies for our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers, but I’ll have to give that more thought as it does involve extra work for us and of course he has to agree to come!! Mr Davies did recently visit the fork2fork project, but that of course is EU/WAG funded, and not the grass roots producer level, which is really what I think is needed.
    Please let me know if I can help further and keep us all at welshfoodbites in the loop with your progress.

  8. In the know

    June 29, 2011 at 11:10 pm

    Just an update – I sent a request for the Miller report to Wynford – the head of WAG food promotion ,on Monday, but still have not had a reply (Friday). I know WAG say they will reply to contact within a number of “working days”, but for us food producers, every day is a working day. I will keep going…

  9. admin

    June 30, 2011 at 9:26 am

    Please don’t give up and maybe copy all your emails to your Assembly Member. You can copy me in to if you wish and I’ll join in the hassle.
    you really cannot expect Wag to put in the hours you do – they’d end up too stressed and HAVE to go off sick
    whilst you and I have no choice but to keep working doing our ‘proper’ jobs and wasting our valuable time chasing Wag
    what a life

  10. In the know

    June 30, 2011 at 5:31 pm

    I received an email from Wynford today saying that the Miller report will be available mid July. I may be seeing too much into this, but if some have already had the report, how much editing is being done in this time?

  11. admin

    July 1, 2011 at 8:56 am

    Well firstly congratulations on getting a reply after all your efforts. Hope their apology was a good one?
    As I understand it, organisers have had their reports. I’ve only heard from one food festival organiser who has not had his Miller Research feedback and this was months and month ago that they got them.
    Yes I’m suspicious like you. I wanted to see copies of the reports just after the organisers got them. I’m guessing Wag will select what is in their final report that we are ‘allowed’ to see, I hope they are smart enough not to do that, because I really don’t need to open another can of worms but I will not be fobbed off. I may be the only journalist that has a passion for local food but there hasn’t been a Press Releases about the findings of the Miller Research report. But all this information should also have been in the public domain months ago. It’s not good enough is it?
    Please keep us updated as these posts are generating such a lot of interest.

  12. angry

    July 1, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    why is this producer being ignored by WAG?
    why isn’t Miller Research report available to us all? we should all have had copies months ago.
    This is our livelihood and WAG just disrespect us, whilst actually they are living very well off us.
    ignoring emails – it’s ok for WAG but we can’t run our businesses like that