Food Festival Consultation Workshop

14 Nov

After visiting over 20, mostly funded food festivals this year, and then taken the time and trouble to blog them, I must confess to be feeling very disenchanted about the food festival scene inWales.

Wherever Ian and I go, whenever we are talking to the food industry, we are constantly being asked about festivals and their future – as if anyone in power would tell me! But this is generally from producers who are also rather disillusioned about what Wag might have planned for 2012.  For many years Ian and I have been asking and advising Wag to talk to producers and more importantly to listen to what they have to say, sadlly I thought this had fallen on deaf ears.  

But dear readers, it looks like we are making some progress after all – hurrah, hurrah!!! I’m grateful for the organisers who have told me about a Food Festivals Consultation Workshop that is being held on 16th November. Of course it’s Wag’s agenda, and of course Wag haven’t told us about it, and of course Ian and I aren’t invited, BUT the important issue is that it’s happening.  

I have to accept that Wag are hardly likely to admit that Welsh Country magazine and welshfoodbites can offer any help to the food industry. Maybe it’s just too difficult for them to accept that we can be of use to them and after working so hard for Welsh food over the last seven years, that’s disappointing, to say the least, but we do apprecaite it takes strong, confident people to say ‘we got it wrong.’ Our food producers however know what’s happening and our concern is for them. It’s our objective to build a better Welsh food industry, but why Wag can’t see that and work with us, is down to them. That we have to plough through the Welsh politics and Welsh Civil Service twaddle to make progress, is par for the course and will no doubt continue.

Anyway this Workshop is the good news and something that has been badly needed and is years overdue. Now we must hope that the organisers will give full and frank feedback, along with their comments, without worrying that if they ‘say the wrong thing, i.e. something Wag doesn’t wish to hear, their future funding could be in jeopardy. This is one of Wag’s main problems. I’d like to know if some of our professional food festival producers have been invited, because what is so important is that this industry is their livelihood and they too have a right to be consulted. I am well aware that some comments come back that producers shouldn’t rely on festivals, but I don’t agree with that, not every producer can plan or wants to go the supermarket way.         

What has been interesting is the response to welshfoodbites, where of course, food festivals have been a very hot topic. I have been forthright in my views of what I have seen at the food festivals I have attended. Yes ok these are my thoughts, but as a passionate Welsh foodie why am I not coming away from these events delighted to have made the effort to attend them? Well quite frankly, far too many have still got the basics wrong. I’ll not bore regular readers, yet again, by spouting my ‘could-do-better’ lists. Suffice it to say if organisers cannot get the town behind them and get basic signage out early, they shouldn’t be running and certainly not be funded.   

I didn’t attend many festivals in the north this year, which is purely down to lack of time. But of those I did attend, the ones that stood out for me that were funded were: Cowbridge and Really Wild and for non-funded ones: Big Cheese and St Fagans. But four out of twenty is not a good ratio at all from a foodie.

I have been vocal in the amount of money that Abergavenny,Cardiff and Conwy take from the festival budget and I know that Wag have this year elevated the ‘Big Three’ to international status, citing their value for tourism. But if tourism is so vital in relation to food, how much does Visit Wales put into the food festival budget? This also links into another question being asked, who are food festivals for: producers/tourism/economic development/other? But surely if food festivals are not there for food producers, why did Wag work to a criteria that this year food festivals had to have food as the core activity? Hitting some festivals hard including The Smallholder. If food producers aren’t that important to food festivals then why do organisers generally want their stands fees in so early, or maybe, being really silly, why do food producers have to pay to go to festivals at all? Another question is self-funding, which Wag have told me for years food festivals should aim to be, yet appears to contradict that statement when it raises the big three to international status and maintains their funding levels. Aren’t these three in particular capable of getting sponsorship? Because it they can’t there’s is no hope for some of the smaller ones. Let’s also be sensible here too, one size does not fit all and that applies to food festivals too – the needs for a small festival from Wag will surely be different say to Cardiff wont it?  

For once I can congratulate Wag for listening and putting on this event. I do query who will actually be attending, but at least they are making a start. Hopefully it will prove a successful meeting and maybe pave the way forward for a more profitable stable future for food producers. I’m sure I will get feedback after the meeting, maybe not of course from Wag, but that is realistically not expected.


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  1. producer

    November 14, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    as you say some good news but I’ve heard nothing about this. I’ve not heard any procuders that have been invited either and we had lots of time to chat at the market at the weekend
    I’ll do a ring around tonight. Why can’t you and Ian go and listen, even if you’re banned for talking. Gosh this situation with you and wag is pathetic but if you weren’t on our side they might even like you!
    But if some good long standing producers are going then it might be worth it, but for organisers understanding what we need there’s not much hope
    You only have to talk to some that went to Abergavenny, which was a bad, bad, festival for too many and it’s usually one of the best. Organisers need to talk and listen to us too. We are like the forgotten folk .

  2. food guy

    November 14, 2011 at 5:16 pm

    new one to me too
    shouldn’t we at least have been told it was going ahead?
    Ignore the producers wag – just as always
    thanks Kath for letting me know what’s happening in my industry.

  3. cheese

    November 15, 2011 at 9:07 am

    I know nothing about this either so thanks for keeping us in the loop, but there again I’m only a producer.
    If wag do listen to comments raised on Wed by organisers, what do orgnaisers know about the life of a producer? Very little, if anything.
    Are food festivals for food producers is a very good question because quite often at these events it feels like producers are seen a pests. Some are very good and again I would agree St Fagans in only their second year put on a great event and Cowbridge as always came up with the people with money to make a super event.

  4. beer boy

    November 16, 2011 at 9:23 am

    I’m grateful to know about this. I’d hardly expect the wg to be civil and let us producers know what is going on why should they do that for goodness sake? Communicate to producers – that’s a laugh
    our communication is through this brill site and welsh country magazine. As one of their best of welsh producers they tell me more about what is going on with food than anyone else in wales. And this is when I know their team get frustrated that wag tell them very little. I rang the magazine yesterday to say what I felt but was told they’d not been asked to go either.
    reading about this workshop I agree it’s a start but asking organisers only which is what is seems to be is only tackling part of the problem. Producers should have been invited or at least a few so that our voice can be heard.
    If food festivals are not there for food producers but are maybe viewed as tourism, then Visit Wales should be funding the whole lot – which will save a lot of money in the food budgets.

  5. hunny mummy

    November 16, 2011 at 3:39 pm

    Is it too much to hope that WG are planning to do a workshop for the food producers next?
    Throughout this site there are endless comments about WG talking to us but it never happens, can’t they see this is where the whole food scene falls flat on its face?
    We’ve needed this site for years – well done you people for doing this. If a union is set up for food producers then WG will have to listen to us, they will not have a choice. It is a pity that this has to be done but there are no options left for us. We are producers without a voice. We have farmers markets that are doing very little trade and this is after £800k has been ‘donated’ to a two year project for markets, boxes and shops. But what has it achieved? The few markets I am still doing are not good enough, they are just not. What a lot of money has been wasted.

  6. listen

    November 16, 2011 at 3:42 pm

    The Welsh Government Food is there to work on our behalf and part of that job is listening to us producers.
    Communication is a basic concept, but apparently too basic for WG to do. Does anyone know how we can change civil servants?

  7. cheesed off

    November 17, 2011 at 10:50 am

    I can’t wait for feedback on this workshop
    it seems that very few food producers knew about this, but thank goodness Kath’s team did and they kept us in the loop.
    At least WG remain consistent in continuing to keep producers in the dark. Well done WG. Butit the reason for you doing that because for you to change and improve is too tough for you to tackle? As for WG communicating with us, well that is a long way from being funny from where I am standing and I’m hardly a lone voice if this site is anything to go by and the chat at markets and festivals. Talk to us, just what is so difficult in you doing that?
    As someone has already said, you actually work for us, but if my staff didn’t do their jobs, I wouldn’t pay them ———–does that make sense to you? Well no matter if it does or doesn’t you’ll still get paid, that’s the difference between our two sections.

  8. puzzler

    November 17, 2011 at 3:41 pm

    congratulations Foodie Rulers on doing this workshop
    I’d love to know who you invited. Can you send an invitee list through to welshfoodbites then Kath can post it up here?
    I’m astonished that one of the questions you are asking is are food festivals for food producers. It seems you are moving away from the basics and I wonder how much this is to do with the bucket full of money you handed over for your food festival review last year. I must read that again and find out how many the report says were tourists attending. I’m not sure that many people actually filled in the survey in the first place, so can this really stand up and hold a great deal of weight? I’d be very surprised if there are lots of tourists at food festivals because food festicvals are not marketed that well at all, apart from the large ones who get lots of funding anyway.
    at least with this you are doing something pity it’s not the best way to go about it.
    foodie rulers are surrounded by ‘yes’ men/ladies who are in your payroll and under those circumstances you will never get the truth, any idiot can work that out.

  9. fed-up

    November 18, 2011 at 11:21 am

    WG’s latest ill-thought plan which no doubt ticks yet another blinking box so they can gather more funding and waste it once again.
    How can you have this type of workshop and not have a fair representation of producers there?
    I knew nothing about this workshop until I read it on here and then rang Kath.
    I’m guessing why she was not invited was because she has the guts to say what we are telling her and it’s stuff WG don’t want to hear. Well it’s about time you lot grew up and listened. I’ve read on here that you work for us, but actually you’d never ever think that is how it worked. WG’s attitude is that WG’s in charge, Civil Servants rule the country, WG make the decisions and if they are the wrong ones, well it’s a shame but doesn’t make any difference to your salary or your pension. Aren’t you the lucky ones????????.

  10. admin

    November 18, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    well done wg
    at least you are making an effort to communicate to one sector of the food industry albeit one that doesn’t rely on food to earn it’s living byandlarge
    at least you have made a start, let’s hope you ahevn’t run out of steam before you talk to producers, should you decided that should be your next move. But perhaps after you have been asked endlessly to do so maybe you just will not bother, who knows

  11. Listener

    November 23, 2011 at 9:43 pm

    I have been listening for feedback on this event, and heard a couple of things. Around 4 producers did attend but did not have a chance to say or contribute, and there was some talk about the people behind the Miller Report having more of an input into how festivals are run. That is a good idea – lets pay a private company to get information that could be obtained by just listening to producers! You could not make it up!

    A few festivals had their knuckles rapped for not producing enough entertainment and the festivals being glorified Farmers Markets, and the number of producers selling the same things should be limited to three. I agree wholeheartedly with this, so maybe something good will come out of this event. Lets hope.

  12. admin

    November 24, 2011 at 9:11 am

    I’ve only had a little feedback as yet. But have heard that a few producers were ‘invited’ but if they did not have the opportunity to speak, why waste their time and money asking them to go? Plus how did Wag ‘select’ these chosen few? Was the purpose simply to tick another few boxes?
    I can only suggest that people do take the time and trouble to plough through the Miller report and let me know how much of it you agree with. As to paying a company like Miller to run our food festivals, which budget might that come out of? They were paid £80k for visiting 50 odd festivals and only did a day at each, so how much is that idea likely to cost? And does that mean that food funding is nt going to be as tight next year?
    I’d be interested to know how many food festivals Miller visited this year…………………………….maybe not many if Wag weren’t paying
    I agree to a limit with similar producers, I think 7 cheese producers is one of the worst I’ve seen, but organisers must understand that producers have to make a living!

  13. traderman

    November 24, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    well done WG. Invite a few producers, keep their names secret from the rest of us, then don’t allow them to speak. How rude of you to waste their time and money, it’s not fair.
    I’m sure Miller people had their say in an effort to get more work and more money from WG
    Obviously Kath, Miller are saying the things WG want to hear and you are not, hence you and Ian didn’t get an invite. But you don’t need me to tell you that after being a regular on this site. That’s so typical of WG, they want ‘yes people’ which is why our industry is struggling, that and WG is wasting too much of our money.
    My view, and it’s probably not worth much, is that you are being bullied by WG or sent to Coventry by them. Don’t give up.

  14. Bee

    November 24, 2011 at 3:20 pm

    Wag food seems to excel at doing a half-hearted little thought out job.
    which producers to the lucky invites? but what was the point if they couldn’t give their views. How dare you wag make them lose a day’s work to achieve nothing.
    I’ve no idea who Miller are unless the kids that were at the festivals last yearbut are they now food festival experts in wag’s eyes?
    wag favourites I guess is nearer the mark.

  15. cheeseman

    November 25, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    Not having been one of the favoured few producers to be invited to this event. I’m puzzled. Why did WAG invite any producers if they are not given time to give their views> WAG you are out of order and no right to waste a day of their time. They’ve better things to do, I’m certain of that.
    I also don’t fully understand that there was talk about some festivals that seemed to be like farmers markets. Aren’t these the festivals that WAG agreed to fund again this year? The very expensive survey that was paid for by WAG, was completed on festivals in 2010, so then why did WAG fund them in 2011 if they were like markets? Where’s the sense in that WAG? If some were like markets in 2011 they were surely like a market in 2010
    Who decides there has to be lots of entertainment? Is that going to be another WAG rule next year? Not much craft but lots of music and kids stuff. Maybe the question that needs an answer is who is in charge of festivals? Is it WAG or is it Miller?
    I have actually read a lot of the Miller report and if I say it’s great bedtime reading I am sure some of you will understand what I mean.
    I don’t know quite how long Kath has been suggesting that WAG talk to us producers, but it is a huge pity that WAG cannot listen to her. Kath and Ian are the ones I see on a regular basis at festivals and markets. I don’t see anyone from WAG if they go at all and no-one from Miller this year either.
    I’m now actually feeling sorry for WAG because it would take a strong and sensible WAG person to say to Kath and Ian, we’ve got a ‘few’ things wrong, and we think you can give us some help
    I’m dreaming that that will happen of course!
    Move on with a union and then we’ll get our say. I can’t see another option for us and we need to act beofre more of our producers fail

  16. soleless

    November 25, 2011 at 2:44 pm

    There are so many comments about this piece and the way they are in agreement should be telling the welsh government food guys something. Now though as you are all struggling, let me help you, you are still most things wrong and you are too self-satisfied with yourselves to see it.
    It’s a large pity we have people like this looking after food, we deserve better, much better

  17. celtic crab products

    November 28, 2011 at 3:40 pm

    well we were invited and did attend. we were told there was in excess of 60 others invited also. we were 1 of 4. yes we thought it was a total waste of our time. it was an organisers meeting, we as a producer felt totally totally left out of everything. it was not geared up to inviting any comments from producers. in fact we felt like a spare ***** at a wedding?
    many people who attended got a £25 parking ticket for parking in the car park right outside the venue!!! well organised??? no one missed anything on the day. we dont mind being named , we went hoping it would be beneficial for producers to air their views and ideas. no such luck.
    we need a producers meeting for producers only, after all without us what do they have?
    numbers are detiorating at these festivals and will continue to do so unless we have a voice. we had no opportunity to voice our thoughts or opinions. but we went. we were 1 of 4 out of 60+ invited, who were the other 56? lets ask who was on the list?
    why don’t we form our own group and request a meeting with WAG.

  18. food producer

    November 30, 2011 at 9:29 am

    must respond to Celtic Crab
    I wasn’t invited but if I’d taken a day off work and travelled all that way, again at my cost, I’m not sure that I’d not want my say. If not why go there in the first place?
    I’ve spoken to Kath and she was not invited either. She wouldn’t have known anything about if one of the best of welsh guys hadn’t told her.
    Kath, Ian and her team did organise a meeting with Elin Jones some years ago which was very useful.
    I’m impressed that you wish to form a producers group. I hope you mean it. Can I suggest you get on with it as soon as you can please?

  19. cakes and brownies

    November 30, 2011 at 11:35 am

    Well done Celtic Crab for going to the event but a
    pity you didn’t get the chaence to stand up and have your say. To have taken a day off and the cost of getting there is not funny.
    no idea how anyone can get a £25.00 parking fine, parking outside the venue. I’d have sent my ticket to the organisers whoever they were or to wag. That is the most stupid thing I’ve heard of.
    I’m pleased you’re offering to organise a producers group although I’m not sure how you are going to do it but the sooner the better please.
    As you say it’s much needed.
    Can you let us know via here how your plans are going?

  20. food lady

    November 30, 2011 at 11:37 am

    Celtic Crab -well done guys for going and for offering to start a producer group.
    That’s the way to get our views heard and thanks for saying you’ll do it.
    How will we know about it?