Welsh Food At The Smallholder Show

21 May

The only way I can start this post is to query, yet again, why this event has not got funding from wag again this year. In my research, I’ve established that this event has never been funded from the Food Festival budget, but from ‘Promoting Welsh Food’ – Budget Expenditure Line. From last year under the latest festival criteria rules, festivals have to have food as the core activity. Some years ago Steve Shearman, was asked by wag to run this event for them, but last year was then told that there would be no funding for the Smallholder. Further investigation uncovered how Smallholder had been funded. I asked how much had
been in the ‘Promoting Welsh Food’ – Budget Expenditure Line for 2008/9, 2009/10, 2010/11, who received funding from this budget over these three years and finally how this funding was allocated. I was told that my questions were so time consuming, it would cost wag over £600 to determine if they hold this information, to retrieve and extract it, so wag decided not to process my

Well that wasn’t useful, bearing in mind this is funding from a wag budget and I’m simply asking how it was spent. Can you really expect me to believe that wag are so sloppy that they don’t keep financial records of how they spend our money? Of course the RWS Show and the Winter Fair food halls are funded by wag and these two events obviously don’t have food as their core activity, but seemingly those two exceptions are allowed because wag are allowed to make their own rules
and keep the secret if they so wish.

In 2010, food hall hire for RWS was £65,403.32 and for the Winter Fair was £19,975.00. Event Build and Management Costs were £131,968.22 and £56,078.64 respectively. So these are not cheap events to put on but wag in its wisdom have decided to pull the plug again this year for Smallholder and in effect give out food producers another slap in the face. In the RWS especially you see large, large companies that are purely there for PR and can easily afford stands that are not subsidised by wag, whilst genuine micro and small producers simply cannot afford to take a stand at the RWS. But sadly wag appears not to care about this
quirk either.

Now I’ve reminded you of my background work, let me return to my visit there yesterday. Hardworking organiser Steve Shearman had no choice last year to substantially raise his stand prices and this has a huge knock on effect down the line, some traders couldn’t cope with the increase and didn’t attend, others had to take this hit and accept their overheads had rocketed. Thankfully all traders were aware that the tradestand price increase was down to an unsupportive wag, not to Steve.

I had many complaints from producers about the number of festivals they’d not been accepted for and the main culprits were: Abergavenny, Cardiff and Cowbridge. I know that these three are popular festivals and organisers know that they are in the fortunate position that they can pick and choose who they accept. But I do wish that applications gave producers full details and not say when they are rejected maybe they should have sent samples in because we don’t know you. I can tell you now that being a True Taste winner didn’t help this particular company! What I would also like some organisers to think about whilst they are in the position of playing God, that some of these companies rely on festivals and markets for their livelihood, not many of them have the back up of also being in super markets, they are simply too small to take this route. My final comment is that when producers have been loyal, supporting your event since it first started surely should count from something instead of being thrown out like last weeks rubbish.

There was a good mix of stands in the food hall, some superb produce available. It’s always a pleasure too to see so many of our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers there too. Steve had put  tentage outside with tables and chairs so visitors could buy and eat their food in comfort, but I hated seeing people using this area for their own packed lunch. Yes I know they were saving money and I no times are tough, but I’m also sure they did not give the producers a thought. In their eyes it was just somewhere to sit and eat their picnic in comfort!!!!

I got very mixed reports, which is the normal, but I’m safe in saying that many traders were well down on last year and the year before. The recession isn’t helping anyone, but all those traders would have been far happier if wag had supported this event.

Try as I might I cannot understand why wag don’t fund the Smallholder. How can wag food appear to think that it’s not important to have a Welsh food presence at the Smallholder? If they do believe that’s true then I think some of them need reminding of which department they are working for.

Well done wag another own goal.

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