Narbeth Food Festival

26 Sep

Gosh, I cannot remember visiting Narbeth food festival when they haven’t been blessed with beautiful sunny weather. Driving over to Pembrokeshire, scowling at the dark skies, I saw two AA signs and then a sign for the Park & Ride as I entered the town. So apart from the weather as the rain came down, it was a good start.

But as I wandered down the High Street, I was puzzled as to the lack of festival flyers or posters. Down one side of the street, I only saw the Wheatsheaf shop and then Andrew Rees the butchers, that had made any effort at all to use their windows to plug the festival. I was very put out about this as I have held Narbeth up for many years as a shining example of how the committee get the town on side to give the festival and the town itself a huge push and buzz over the festival weekend. To be fair in that weather I wasn’t going to trawl the town, but that was my view as I walked down.  Oh Narbeth, how dare you let me down? 

The rain coming so early on Saturday morning must have hit turnout considerably, it certainly doesn’t encourage locals or holiday makers to get out early. Saturday is always a much busier day than the Sunday so my worry as always is how busy the traders would be. I spent 2 -3 hours there and I thought numbers were much lower than usual, which was  backed up by many traders that I spoke to as well. Maybe the Sunday weather this year was better and trade was up.  I had a lot of Best Of Welsh & Borders producers there so it will be interesting to get their feedback later.  

The outside stands were of course struggling with the weather but not only that, they were battling too against the live music which was in the centre of their stands. Now I really don’t have any objections at all with having music to help provide a cheery atmosphere, and live music is certainly a bonus, but I cannot understand why ‘someone’ doesn’t use the volume control and turn it down a touch. I was trying to talk to one of the burger stands and we had to shout to make ourselves heard. How can traders ply their wares if they have to keep shouting at people?             

On the inside stands I was delighted to see butcher Andrew Rees doing good trade with a special 2011 Narbeth festival sausage made from Dexter beef with tomato, leek and ginger – they were delicious! Andrew was busy sampling the lovely sausages and that paid off with good sales resulting. I was given a programme when I entered, but the rain did not encourage you to browse it as you went around, so I think a white board or a sign board by the kitchen demo area would have been a huge help to let people know which chef was cooking and at what time.

I was told that a lady who wished to attend the festival was furious at being charged £3.00 toenter and wanted to know why. She couldn’t find an organiser, but was quite incensed at such a high charge when all she wanted to do was buy food. I must say I can see her point. You’re not charged to go into a shop and that was how she was viewing the event as one large food shop. She didn’t want to listen to music in the rain, watch children’s entertainment, or watch a cookery demo, her mission was to buy food, but the result was she didn’t go in. So how much trade was lost from her? I’ve talked to a few organisers who say an entrance fee is vital for them to balance their books and many do put on lots of entertainment. The Really Wild were a classic example of this, with plenty to do there, especially for the younger ones.  I’m sure this debate will continue, but I’d love to have more feedback on entrance fees.

Let me finish off this post by saying, yet again, that this is yet another funded festival that I didn’t have a single press release about. In past years Narbeth’s PR was done by Sarah Hoss who I thought did a great job. I got lots of information from her about what was going on, but she’s no longer there and I, as part of the Welsh media with a huge interest in food, wasn’t even sent a press release! Why was this?

Last year, Miller Research was tasked by Wag to do a food festival survey and a follow-up report and I know that all festivals received the Miller feedback. So I’d be furious if many festival reports were not highlighted and taken to task for a lack of signage and a lack of basic PR & Marketing, which includes press releases. So if I’m correct on this, why am I still reporting very few improvements at festivals that are still being funded? What was the point of spending all that money with Miller if ‘we’ can coast along this year without any real improvements being made at far too many festivals? It seems to me that something is still seriously wrong here.

It is the festival’s responsibility to get punters into the event of that there is no question or discussion. Then when the punters are there it’s the up to the traders to tempt visitors with their produce, not sit down looking bored! But if the organisers can’t get punters in, then you can rest assured that some traders will not be back next year, please do not forget that they are running businesses, not charities.  I understand that stands were being charged £150 for the two days with a £30.00 electric charge – not sure if my info. is correct or not, but with these charges, the traders really do have to see some decent trade.                  



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  1. visitor

    October 6, 2011 at 11:16 am

    I often attend this one but £3.00 to go in put me and my wife off
    £6.00 before we even bought any food – that is what we wanted to do – but instead we walked away.
    we are not interested in cooking dems, not interested in face painting or loud music
    I’m quite upset but pleased I found this site

  2. local lady

    October 6, 2011 at 3:04 pm

    I don’t think it was as good as usual
    I was not happy paying £3.00 to do food shopping either but I wonder how much it costs to have all these fancy chefs attend – they will not be free or cheap will they?
    Maybe local chefs would be cheaper and they can use it to plug their restaurants which if they did it properly, could pay off rather well.
    The town should have supported the event more too.