This is a professionally run event, in a beautiful part of Wales, of that there is no doubt. Abergavenny has a well established committee and in this, its 13th year has developed the festival enormously. They have made the most of the technology available, from websites to newsletters, to Facebook and Twitter, and an informative and professional programme. Abergavenny have certainly embraced PR & Marketing, they understand how this side of it works and what it achieves. They are one of the few funded festivals I would congratulate on this side. Another positive is the number of volunteers. I have no idea how they manage to find so many, but they were all clearly visible in their yellow t-shirts, and I didn’t meet any who weren’t very polite and helpful – and what a difference that made to my day.
This event is unusual in another area, as it’s the only one I attend where they have a hospitality area in the King’s Head pub, right in the midst of the festival. Now ungrateful I might therefore be called, because in the past I have had the nerve to then criticise the event as they didn’t use this opportunity to push and promote our superb Welsh producers that were attending by showcasing their food. But I will not dwell on the past, because this year they got it right! Not only did Suzanah from sbh events and her well-organised team work extremely hard over the festival, watering and feeding VIPS, guest speakers and the media, but they also had a very professional pop-up banner listing all their suppliers as well as the goods they had produced. That was much-needed and did work brilliantly. It’s the first Welsh event I have ever seen that do that and I hope others mamy goodness it worked well. Thankfully quite a few of our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers were amongst those take note. All producers attneding I understand were contacted by Abergavenny and many were so pleased to have another opportunity to showcase their produce. Suzanah explained that all stand holders were asked if they’d like to contribute to hospitality and many of those that offered were accepted, which totalled over 30 producers and although all of them weren’t Welsh, quite a lot of them were – so another sensible and successful addition.
Wag have told me for years that food festivals must work towards self-funding. But this year Abergavenny are funded to the tune of £52,200.00, just the same as last year, so no budget reduction there then. This amount along with Cardiff, (£37,500) and Conwy, (£41,000) takes a huge chunk out of a rapidly decreasing budget and makes you think that much of Wag’s focus is towards the larger events. Wag are classing the ‘Big Three’ as flagship events, because their focus is on food and because of the way they manage to attract a large number of ‘outside’ visitors. As always I’d be interested in your view on festival funding.
Because of the event’s popularity, I do understand that Abergavenny cannot please all the traders, all of the time – that would be impossible – but is there a way that it can look a little more open? As always with this festival I have had too many calls, emails and chats when I have seen people at other festivals. From the producer’s point of view, there doesn’t seem to be a system of selection for tradestands and very little logic as to where stands are actually sited. Producers that have been in one position for years, are for some reason then moved out to the likes of the Priory area but no sensible explantion as to why or would they like to move there. Mind you, maybe you’d call those producers the lucky ones as many Welsh ones, who’ve been attending for years, weren’t successful in their application this year. This is an issue I raised with Abergavenny last year and was told that visitors need a change of stands. Well I don’t agree on this, I think Abergavenny is clever enough, ringing the changes with their popular talks, rather then use this as a reason for dumping some Welsh tradestands. Visitors only attend once a year, so I would have thought if I’d found a product I loved last year, I’d want to purchase it again this year, and what if the trader is no longer there? That doesn’t make sense to me? I looked for the Welsh Brew tea stand, who are normally there, but I was told he’s not got in this year, but why?
There were just over 200 stands there and a huge number from the Isle of Wight, Dorset andLondon, actually according to my count, 66 stands were from outside Wales & the Borders. I’m endlessly being told that funding is from European money, so no-one can be turned away because they are not Welsh, but it appears that many, many Welsh stands are regularly turned away which seemingly is ok! I just wonder if for example I took a party of food traders to a French festival, would the French throw their producers out to let our Welsh traders in? Answers on email please!!!!!
I’ve rung Wag in the past and been told that Welsh producers complaining that they couldn’t get in Abergavenny were told to go to Aberystwyth, but on Saturday I certainly didn’t see any stands at Aberystwyth from Dorset or Devon………………
Abergavenny has grown and prospered through the support in the early years of the Welsh producers and I think a better, fairer system should be brought in to stop, or at least reduced this constant moaning.
The Market Hall had problems last year, it was swamped by its own popularity and often seriously overcrowded. This year there were less stands and more seating, but I do wonder about the lack of logic in where some of the stands were put. There was one selling hot food with onions, alongside a stand selling brownies with another cake stand behind them. Goodness knows how much space they had paid for, because they certainly looked squashed and it looked so difficult for all of them to work in such a confined space. So who would want brownies and cakes with an aroma of onions?
Another problem that really does need attention for next year, is that some of the tentage supplied by the event, wouldn’t have looked out of place at a car boot sale. I noticed this tacky tentage, particularly in the Priory and the Lion’s Place. Three stands in Lion’s Place were doing hot food and seemingly couldn’t be supplied with better tentage because there was a fire risk. Some traders, who had been allocated this inferior sheeting, returned home and brought their own tentage, which for some reason was no longer classed as a fire risk. Some stands didn’t have sides provided, the plastic sheeting was not secured and at night there were no front covers to sheet up. Now if you are paying £350+ and an additional charge for electric for 2 days trading, then decent workable tentage should be supplied. This poor tentage really let these two areas down, which I don’t think is good enough for a flagship event. If you want traders to bring their own tenting, then tell them and reduce their price accordingly.
It was great that the Park & Ride service was in operation as it certainly eased congestion in the town. But some traders from the Priory could see the buses dropping off passengers, but an abundance of No Entry signs directed the passengers away from them, and stopped them walking through the car park lower down from their stands which was very disappointing. Hopefully they did get to the Priory eventually but you cannot always be sure they’ll still be shopping at the end of their day. Surely the powers-that-be give this some thought and think how they would feel if they were trading themselves? If the reason is that the passengers are made to go through a different way to ensure they pay first, could a pay point not be set up below the Priory Yard?
Producer Bouquets & Brickbats:
This is the best food festival I do and despite the recession I’m not much down on last year.
I’d like to stay in the same position rather than keep being moved each year.
You will not get me saying anything is wrong here as I want to be allowed back next year.
I’m delighted to supply for the hospitality area and think this is the best idea. It’s a great way for me to promote my products. I love this event.
The Priory looked a mess and unproffesional, hardly loked like a flagship event to me and trade was poor.
I’m sorry, I’m paying a lot of money for my stand, let alone, cooking, transport, B&B and my time and we are given a stand that is too tatty for words. I’m disgusted – it’s not a good image for an event of this size.
I don’t think as many people as normal overall. There seemed lots on Saturday but not many bags. It’s now two hours to closing and I’m not too far from last year’s figure.
We’ve not done too badly but did expect much more. The weather has not helped but I’m pleased I’m not selling ice-cream.
I’d attended this event regardless as we are a larger company and can work it as PR but smaller companies cannot do that they simply haven’t the money.
Brewery Yard looked tacky with much of its tentage. The Park & Ride should have allowed the passengers to come through our way. Trade there very slow.
It’s my 1st time here and I’m horrified at how little we’ve taken. There are 2 of us on the stand and it makes this the worst stand I have ever done. We are in totally the wrong place and no way will we apply again. We’ve made a loss.
We have had a busy time and are just over last year’s figures – would have liked more but that would be greedy.
I’m not giving you any comments because I want to come back again.
We know a few producers who again have not got in and I’d love to know how many outside Wales were turned away. Visitors are coming to a Welsh food festival, funded well by our government, but all these stands outside Wales are here. That’s not fair.
We did ok. Not as good as in previous years by a long way, but better than some we’ve done this year. We expect Abergavenny to trade just under Royal Welsh, but this year it didn’t and the costs are high to take a stand at Abergavenny.
We haven’t seen an organiser all weekend and if they would just make an effort and keep checking with us all, I’m sure many problems could be sorted provided they don’t take it the wrong way and ban us next year.
The organisers need to be more active at the event and note what is happening. But don’t complain to them or you could easily be dropped for next year.
Plenty of people of Saturday, but they were not spending – sharing a beef burger – that’s not a good sign is it?
The Priory area did not look good and the trade through there was not good enough to justify waht we had to pay. Organisers need to think what stands will work in that area and how to get people there. It was a messy area without little trade. Traders were moved into this area without their agreement and told it would be wonderful, but that was more Abergavenny hot air.
Our first time here and we’ve done ok. Obviously liked to have been busier, but it’s not been bad.
Lousy weather, but OK all things considered. Most festivals are way down this year. I hate an event as Abergavenny were doing, ringing after you have paid and wanting more money for electric, that’s not on. I’d like to see how they work out electric charges- these are a rip off.
Quite a good event and good press interest.