Newcastle Emlyn Food Festival

20 Jun

Newcastle Emlyn bravely took the plunge and organised their first food festival on Saturday 18th June, which was held on the King George V Playing Fields. I drove through the town around 9.00 on my way into Pembrokeshire for a meeting and I was disappointed to see only one sign. I guessed the Park & Ride was running from the rugby club, but there was no signage there either and I was very concerned – this is my local festival after all!!!!

I guess it must have been about 1.00ish when I retunred to Emlyn and I was delighted and relieved to see lots of people about. It was quite blustery, but thankfully the rain stayed away which did encourage more families to check out what the festival was all about.  The traders I spoke to, which numbered quite a few I must say, were all fairly pleased with how busy they were. There was even one stall, which shall remain nameless, that had sold out in under a couple of hours!!!!!!  Oh dear, that’s not what I want to hear and not what I want to see either. After running tradestands for years I do appreciate it’s difficult, if not nigh impossible to get your stock levels right, and more so with food as it’s such a gamble, but this stand did disappoint a lot of visitors and potential customers. 

It was great to see Lorna Mattocks there, an former Welsh Country staff member. She was taking lot and lots of shots of the event which will be a great addition to their website, which when I tried today was not there……. They will also be a great help with future marketing. Not many festivals get the photography side sorted out, so the event was lucky to have on board Lorna, who is such a talented photographer.  

Taking on any event is a huge task, it’s a huge commitment in time and energy, and that must be doubled or trebled when running an event of this size for the first time. There are bound to be teething problems, with so many jobs to sort out and lots of help needed, which of course means that lots of volunteers are required. Some locals that came to have a chat later on said that they’d offered help, but for some reason had been told they were not needed. Well I’d certainly never decline offers of help. I go with more hands make lighter work – not the too many cooks spoil the broth adage, especially if there’s someone there to direct them and keep them focused on ‘their’ jobs. Hopefully that’s a matter the committee will be able to address if they get similar feedback to mine. So with happy traders, reasonable weather, I’m sure that the organising committee will be relieved to have got their first event over with and look forward to planning next year.  

I’d like to suggest some areas that I think can be improved:

Signage, I’ve mentioned signage and do think that if signs/banners can be out days, if not weeks before, it does jog people’s memories, especially when they are simply driving through the town.

Litter – there was lots of it blowing about the field – bins, there were simply not enough and they were not being emptied throughout the day. They were so over-filled that the wind did damage and made the field look rather a mess.  Perhaps a local school or scout group might be persuaded to do that job in return for a small donation……? 

Re-cycling, I’m not sure what happened to re-cycling. I couldn’t see any on the field, only in the car park, which is fine for locals, if they remember, but how do visitors know it’s there?  Re-cycling is something that we can’t and shouldn’t ignore.

Local traders was my other main concern, because there were so many of them there. I think from about 36 stands, 16 were local traders. The wonderful shopping complex around the Clocktower was virtually closed as those shop owners took stands at the event. Although it was great to see them all there, I really didn’t like seeing that area in the town closed for the whole of Saturday. I accept that those locals wanted to be there, desperate to grab any trade that they could and of course they hadn’t the staff to cover both areas. But if I’d been a first-time visitor to the town I’d have assumed that the Clocktower was always closed on Saturdays – which is not a message this town needs to give out, as we are being attacked on all sides with more and more supermarkets wanting planning permission.  I’d love to know how many people attending were locals and how many visitors. I’d have loved that the shops in the town had embraced the event much more, maybe a shop-window competition could have been run over the preceding week to generate enthusiasm, perhaps with the Mayor doing the judging? I think my confusion arises, that is this a Welsh food festival or a fabulous town fete with food?  

There was some great produce on sale though and of course that had to mean some of our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers including: Caws Cenarth, Teifi Cheese, Cowpots ice-cream, Preseli Coffee, Celtic Crab products, Trioni milk products , Popty Bach Y Wlad cakes, Pommes, advertising their catering with some very different Welsh Cakes and the Emlyn Arms Hotel. But unless I missed them, I couldn’t see any breweries there, no cider, no perry, no wine, no fruit juices, no chocolate or fudge and not much jam and chutney or bread,. I feel it’s so important that all food festivals really push our wide and wonderful selection of local food that is available on our very doorstep. I am aware that it’s not easy to get them and yes I know I’m giving the organisers yet another headache, but even within Ceredigion, Carmathenshire and Pembrokshire, there’s some of the best local produce to be found in Wales and a festival has a responsibility to showcase our food to help our producers and help locals and visitors understand how good a selection of artisan producers Wales has.  

I was told that a Wag official did visit the event in the morning and hope that Wag’s feedback was as thorough as mine and not simply a box-ticking exercise. Other visitors that I was told also attended were ‘spies’ from Llandysul Food Festival that runs shortly who were trying to persuade traders to attend their event too!


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  1. Lesley Parker

    June 20, 2011 at 4:59 pm

    I attended the Newcastle Emlyn Food Festival, and I am the chair of the Llandysul Food Festival committee. I wanted to support the event. I enjoy food festivals and it’s great to go to one without having any responsibility. Of course I wanted to see how they did and how it was all set up. It was lovely, congratulations to them and to everyone on the committee and to the town. I really enjoyed the event and I liked the way they’d set the field up and I liked the communal area with the picnic benches for everyone to eat and talk. There was a lovely atmosphere.
    Of course I spoke to traders and if the Llandysul Food festival was mentioned, why not? If those producers wish to come to Llandysul, then the Teifi Valley gets two helpings of great produce. As you point out in your blog “within Ceredigion, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire, there’s some of the best local produce to be found in Wales and a festival has a responsibility to showcase our food to help our producers and help locals and visitors understand how good a selection of artisan producers Wales has.”
    We have contacted producers from all over Wales, we went to the Food and Drink Trade Show in April at Ty Glyn and have contacted producers at the Food Centre Wales, endeavouring to bring to Llandysul a variety of the best food producers which this Country has to offer. I am very sorry if anyone thought that I or any other members of the Llandysul Food Festival Committee were spying, no offence was meant.
    I hope that you come to Llandysul Food festival next week, please come and say hello and we’ll have a chat and you can see how unlike a spy I am.

  2. In the know

    June 20, 2011 at 8:39 pm

    I, as a very local producer to this festival, was very glad to have an opportunity to trade near to home. It is always difficult to judge how much produce to take, especially for a new event, and with the weather forecast to be dreadful, I think some of us decided to play it a bit safe and not have wasted produce. I ran out half an hour before closing time, so not too bad!
    It is a shame that the “celebrities”, chefs etc do not make an effort and go round the stalls to see what is on offer locally. Ludo (one of the chefs) had printed out the recipe for those watching, which is brilliant and not something that is often done. There were many chairs and tables to have a sit and a chat, which were well used and good to see.
    For a first attempt, I was impressed. Lets hope this festival goes from strength to strength!
    No-one from WAG made themselves known to me, but they might have known they would have been thrown on the griddle and slow roasted!

  3. admin

    June 21, 2011 at 10:14 am

    Thank you for leaving your informative comment and my apology for not being clear about spying. The comment came from a couple of producers, not from me, as I had no idea you were there. However it was certainly my fault for not qualifing that comment.
    It is unusual for a festival organiser to visit other festivals, which I would have thought was the perect market research opportunity. You can always learn something – even if it’s how not to do it!. But in fairness to the producers, they were surprised and suspicious, because as I say, it doesn’t usually happen. As Welsh Country has such a strong local food stance, we know many of the prducers very well and they do talk to us giving us feedback that they might not give to organisers or to Wag. I always attend an event badged up, nor am I simply ticking boxes on some meaningless form. Producers know I will not ‘quote’ them, so are happy to chat if they are not too busy. This feedback from them, is very useful and helpful, especially if it’s read and acted upon. I’m not sure Emlyn listened to any of my unsolicited advice, but outside seating is a wonderful way of giving visitors somewhere to sit, eat, drink from the stalls, chat catch up with friends and stay much longer and outside is great if the weather’s fine too!!
    I congratulate you and your team for making the effort to vist and support the Emlyn festival and do some sensible promotion whilst you were there. I’m also pleased that you attended the very useful food event held at Ty Glyn.
    Sorry but Llanydsul is not on my food festival – ‘I must-attend’ list, – which includes all food festivals that support us with advertising in Welsh Country or we’ve already been asked to and agreed to attend. Sadly Llandysul has said they’ve no money to advertise with us. I’ve not even had a Press Release from Ann Jones, although maybe that’s not her role along with advertising. So I have no idea what is happening at Llandysul and which producers are attending, although I’ve had a couple of Press Releases from the food festival being held the same day at Hay On Wye………………………..

  4. food producer

    June 22, 2011 at 11:40 am

    good to see both kath and ian at this festival.
    it was a good event but I’d have liked to have seen more stands from other counties and there were too many local guys.
    they wer lucky with the weather and good idea for seating area outside, know kath has been going on and on about this at festivals so maybe someone is listening to her!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Are you sure there was anyone from wag there? I didn’t see anyone and no-one from wag came and said hello to me. see another commnet that said no wag person spoke to them either so if they don’;t speak to us why are they there? Is kath right when she says they attend to tick another box? if that’s the case, why waste more money, as they’ll be getting paid? the two people who ‘worked’ that event were kath and ian and kath’s report shows what she found out whilst there.

  5. another food producer

    June 27, 2011 at 11:27 am

    your information and then the comments, especially the latest about festivals is accurate and fair, but very upsetting and annoying. This festival situation has not improved, it’s got worse, thanks as always to Wag who just can’t or wont listen or take any advice. This is our living, we’re not out there trying to earn extra money as a weekend job.
    I’m furious with Emlyn. They must have paid a fortune for Bryn Williams, who has worked in London for years to attend and do very little when he arrived in a chauffer driven car. What a joke. Why pay high him lots of money? Why not use more local chefs? I wonder how many people have heard of him anyway, he swanned around with his ‘people’ and did not using our products to cook with – WHY NOT? it’s just not fair on us producers .

  6. admin

    June 27, 2011 at 11:42 am

    I hope I’m correct with what I’m about to say. I have no idea how much Bryn costs per day, I’ve heard £1k. mentioned but this cannot be taken as the true and accurate figure. It’s the decision of the organisers who they invite to cook but I do agree with you that I’d much rather see local chefs and think they should be tempted in to festivals and be allowed to use it to promote their establishment – if they are not charging a forutne!!!
    As regards the chefs using produce from the event, I couldn’t agree more and have be moaning about this for years. At Emlyn, they had Coop in as sponsors and I understand that the Coop insisted that they use and promote their own produce. I’m afraid I disagree with this set-up, regardless of how much they put in to the festival kitty – if it was a huge amount the festival did well as they were also supported by Wag too. A compromise would have been to have allowed the Coop a few cooking slots and of course they woud have been local producers that they already stock, but allowed some of the chefs to use produce from the traders there on the day. I think the Coop must be reminded that they are a large national company and we look to them to support our local producers, not be petty and hog the event. I trust Emlyn Coop is awash with local produce……………………..

  7. food producers

    June 28, 2011 at 8:15 am

    well done on setting up a new festival but as a producer can I ask that for next year if you run again, that on your committee you have more people that know and understand what producers need from an event?
    Why did the power keep failing? Have you any idea how important power is to many of the producers?
    Toilets – why weren’t there toilets on site? I was running a stand on my own and although my neighbours were happy to cover for 5 mins none of us were impressed on having to troll into town for a call of nature. I’m not at all sure that Health & Safety would have been impressed.
    I’m not sure what support and hand-holding you got from Wag, but I guess not much, if any. If this is true it’s not fair on the committee.

  8. stallholder

    July 4, 2011 at 8:45 am

    My only comments on Newcastle Emlyn food festival, is the lack of signs on all roads in a larger area outside of NCE. The Game Fair advertises as far away as Monmouth and Milford Haven and Aberystwth, in NCE I only saw 3 signs just a few days before and no more than a mile away from Emlyn. Also day should have been longer 10-6 or even later, it’s a lot of preparation for us to then have so little time 11-4 just stupidity!

    But all things aside a good day, far superior to Llandysul!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!