Archive for June, 2012

How Do Traders Know Each Festival’s Tradestand Criteria?

18 Jun

I get asked this question on a regular basis and it is yet another that I haven’t got an answer to. The main festivals causing traders headaches are: Abergavenny, Cardiff and Cowbridge, three of our biggest and busiest festivals. So it’s obvious that these three are going to have far too many applications and so culling will of course be done. But its how this culling is done that sparks the grumbles and the complaints from producers.

Chatting to Cowbridge about this issue, it’s really good to talk and makes so much more sense. Cowbridge were more than happy to clarify how they work, which was really helpful, so I then decided to email Abergavenny and Cardiff and asked them to send me their criteria. I didn’t get a response so sent a reminder and Cardiff was hoping to send it through by the end of last week and apparently Abergavenny are looking at it. When of if either come through they will of course be posted as I’m sure you’ll find them

It’s puzzling for traders to understand why they have been bumped off a particular festival. ‘We’ve had too many applications’, might be acceptable if festivals aren’t your main source of trading and therefore income. But if a trader has supported a festival since its early days and the festival has grown thanks to these quality traders, then isn’t it reasonable that the festivals owe these traders some loyalty? Or am I being too old-fashioned? The tales I’m told is that a these festivals grow, a touch of arrogance can sometimes creep in and the old guard of traders are either dumped or in the case of Abergavenny last year moved from a busy, popular area by the Market Hall and moved into the Fish Market. It was highly inappropriate siting for most of these guys, not to
mention totally unfair. Last year I posted fully on Abergavenny, so no need for me to go over this ground yet again, but it’s there for you to check out if you wish.

Loyalty in my opinion, should matter and I don’t agree with organisers telling me that visitors want a change. If visitors are only going there once a year; cannot the chefs, the entertainment, lectures and talks be classed as entertainment and therefore variety? If visitors didn’t like the traders produce, they wouldn’t purchase and if that happened it wouldn’t be in the trader’s interest to attend, would it? I think there are more unhappy visitors when a trader has been moved and they struggle to find them, or even worse, the organiser has not allowed one of their favourites in that year! Maybe I’m making this too simple, but I can’t really see why traders are not told how each event makes their selection. Are festivals there initially for the producers, or as a tourist attraction?


You have nothing to fear by leaving your comments. I enjoy reading your comments and sharing your thoughts, even if you disagree with me – that’s allowed! You can rest assured your details will only be known to me and that’s where they’ll stay – you have my word. You don’t have to put your name either, a pen name or nickname will suffice, we do have a large number of traders – but that’s fine, it’s the content that matters, what you’re happy with, what you are cross about, what in your view needs changing, etc.

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Newcastle Emlyn Food Festival

18 Jun

To view last year’s post on Newcastle Emlyn see 20th June 2011

The week before the festival, I went into Emlyn and spotted one festival sign going into town from Aberbanc, bearing in mind I don’t think that a sign was taken downafter last year’s event, so maybe that was not likely to draw people’s attention. There was also one banner going across the High Street, but it was scrunched up and totally unreadable – so that was not a good start. But I did spot a sign on the far end of town too. Although I could have missed some, I could only see one shop that had a blackboard notice giving the festival date in their window. By the festival day they were a few more signs about but as one trader told me we only saw signs when we got to Emlyn itself, but lots directing us to the Game Fair which was also on at the same time – with a Food Hall.

So this is a massive disappointment to a town that wasn’t giving the impression of embracing their food festival, even though it is now in its second year. Last year I suggested that they organise a window shop display competition, but that idea obviously went down like a lead balloon, or maybe that was just too much for the organisers to cope with. Please do not give me the ‘busy committee explanation’ as people volunteered last year, as Welsh Country magazine did and we were not required. So far not going well and I have to moan, once again, that I haven’t had a press release about this event and before any of you are cheeky enough to say the organisers don’t know about Welsh Country magazine, they most certainly do!!! They advertised with us last year and we have discussed advertising this year but sadly to no avail.

I’ve been on their website, and it’s a plus point that they do have one but on the home page, there’s a Press Release, so why on earth can’t organisers manage to send a press release to the press? Is that too difficult? Or did they restrict for some reason the number of press releases they sent out? However on the website I did find a list of producers attending so there’s a plus point, but
unfortunately on the day it was proved not to be that accurate. I understand that Penlon Brewery hadn’t attended due to a burst pipe, which is fair enough. We’ve rung Penlon this morning and things are thankfully back to normal which is a huge relief. The website showed there are over 30 stalls already booked in which is a fair number. Sadly on the day I was quite frustrated with the
quality of some of the stands and would ask why one stand was selling preserves that didn’t show the ingredients listed or even a size on each jar. Methinks that is illegal……….

Some stands didn’t have business cards of literature, some didn’t even show clearly  who they were either. Obviously the festival cannot monitor every aspect of every stand, but perhaps someone should spot check these things on the day. It’s a problem our
food industry has and we must try to get it solved.

I was very disappointed to read on the website that the only local chef doing any cooking at the event was Ludo, the others booked to attend were Steve Terry from Abergavenny, and Dudley who is also booked in at Lampeter for their July festival, plus an S4C presenter is opening the event. I have no idea how much top chefs charge to attend food festivals or the going rate for TV stars come to that, but I’m guessing that they don’t come too cheaply. I also query the point of asking ‘top’ chefs to what is a town food festival. How many people who braved the rain on Saturday came just to see Steve or Dudley? That would be interesting to know.

I only saw part of Ludo’s demo, but wish it was a rule that chefs planned ahead what they were going to cook, HAD to use the producers that where there, HAD to plug them and HAD to have just basic recipes leaflets to give the punters. So it’s a good job wag were kind to Emlyn again this year giving them funding of £7,133.80, an increase on last year’s £5,089.24. Which I guess meant that the organisers didn’t have to put on as many, if any, fund raising events, but I’m not sure where the extra £2k funding value went. There’s no problem in festivals being ‘local food fetes’, until they have wag funding and then they have a duty to put on a good event for the producers. It does appear though, that it’s only me that can see any value in plugging local chefs and of course their local eateries. I’m sure if I was a local chef in the Newcastle Emlyn area, I’d have been banging the organisers’ door down to make sure I got my invitation to cook there, perhaps that happened, perhaps it didn’t, or perhaps they were not required like
we and many others haven’t been, who knows…………

The weather of course was a massive blow to this event and you can only feel sorry not only for the organisers as they battled against the wet, but also for the producers who were so cold and for those that had to stand in puddles of water trying to sell their wares. It was really not at all funny, it’s a fact of life and we’ll never, ever have control over our weather. I think the last few wet weeks complete with floods, gave everyone plenty of warning of what they might expect. I’m not sure if this idea is feasible, actually as my last years ideas bit the dust, maybe I should even bother, but couldn’t the car park and cattle market both adjacent
to the playing field have been utilised for the main tents?

Anyway wet as I was, I did chat to quite a few producers as did Ian, I only found one who said the event was ok, others that the weather had killed it and local people just weren’t bothered to support their town event. Another thought I had was wondering why two smaller food tents were used instead of one larger one. That seems stupid to me because I would have though that one larger tent could build a better atmosphere, a better buzz and get people in the mood to spend. Ideally I’d like the demo kitchen in there too. What I couldn’t understand is having two food tents and Preseli Coffee and Welsh Brew Tea put in the same one!
Another puzzle for me was having six stands selling hot food, SIX stands. For goodness sake, that was 50% too many for any of them to make a living, even if you had managed to get more punters through the gate. Those hot food stands were spread around the field, with some inside for those not cooking, or creating cooking smells, but not in any logical order, again in my view. They had got a tent with tables and chairs so people could sit, eat and chat, so great news there. I will not repeat last year’s comment about the Clocktower area, with some ships closed there so that they could attend. Hopefully they made enough on the day to warrant closing their shops and sure we would have had many tourists to have been concerned about the closed shops.

After spending all this time and effort blogging this event, not to mention Saturday afternoon too, I wonder why I bother. Well the reason I bother is because our Best Of Welsh & Borders food producers deserve a good deal from food festivals and we need to get organisers working with producers and understanding what each other needs and making sure they get it – it really is as simple as that. Having said that if organisers don’t feel the points I raise are valid, then I might as well stay at home……….now how many food festival organisers were agreeing with that comment?


You have nothing to fear by leaving your comments. I enjoy reading your comments and sharing your thoughts, even if you disagree with me – that’s allowed! You can rest assured your details will only be known to me and that’s where they’ll stay – you have my word. You don’t have to put your name either, a pen name or nickname will suffice, we do have a large number of traders – but that’s fine, it’s the content that matters, what you’re happy with, what you are cross about, what in your view needs changing, etc.





WAG Food – More Like A Game Of Smoke & Mirrors

15 Jun

Let me take you back to 16th November and the foodfestivals organisers’ conference, organised by Miller Research at wag’s request
at a cost of £8,712.00. When queried, Wag told me:

This was commissioned following your originalenquiry received on the 25th July.

Gosh this is puzzling, because on 11th June a Welsh Government spokesman said:

If your question is “did we commission Miller Research as a result of your queries?” – then the answer is a straightforward NO!

So who do I believe and why was I given wrong information? But if you understand those two statements, please leave a comment for me and I’ll just apologise for being rather dim! I’m certainly wasting my time with wag’s game of smoke and mirrors.

One of our team heard a comment from an ex Assembly Member yesterday who said that Civil Servants should be accountable for their actions, now why did we let an Assembly member with such sense leave the Assembly? Accountable Civil Servants – let’s start a petition?

Now back to the conference and a further statement:

A Welsh Government spokesperson said:
“The Welsh Government organised this conference to enable us to understand some of  the issues facing producers and food festival organisers and help us to jointly review – and agree – future funding criteria. Representatives from both funded and non funded festivals attended, and around 40 producers were invited. Miller Research secured the tender to lead on the event. Given that this is the first time we have held such a conference, it is wrong to suggest that the Welsh Government has “always run it.” Clearly, it is important that we listen and talk to the people involved in this important part of our economy. Comments
made by the attendees were reflected in the changes to the funding criteria for 2012/13 and helped to improve our understanding of some of the issues faced by the food sector.”

I then went back with five further questions, but wag have nothing to add to their statement. I don’t understand why Miller Research were asked to do this conference, as I understand wag organised a food festival organisers’ conference in February. I’m not allowed to know which traders were invited, how wag decided who to invite or which traders actually bothered to go.

Someone recently described wag food as the secret service which is one adjective to use, I can think of others too.  I cannot imagine the amount of time I have spent on this, the number of times I have been refused information or given differing information. Anyone agree that the working of our civil service should be transparent?


You have nothing to fear by leaving your comments. I enjoy reading your comments and sharing your thoughts, even if you disagree with me – that’s allowed! You can rest assured your details will only be known to me and that’s where they’ll stay – you have my word. You don’t have to put your name either, a pen name or nickname will suffice, we do have a large number of traders – but that’s fine, it’s the content that matters, what you’re happy with, what you are cross about, what in your view needs changing, etc.





Welsh Government Wants Views Re Marine Conservation Zones

12 Jun

Our team has had many queries and rants about Marine Conservation Zones. So having received this statement from the Welsh Government, it was sent around all our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers. But then thought it would be in everyone’s interest if it  was posted in full.

If any of you can get to the meetings, please go and have your say, the dates are shown below. But before any of you come back to me and say will not be worth it because ‘they’ will not listen – rubbish, just please go and make them!!!!!!

The Welsh Government is holding a series of public events and meetings to gather views and information on the options for highly protected areas within Welsh seas. Environment Minister, John Griffiths launched a consultation in April that set out 10 potential sites as options for highly protected, Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs).
The Welsh Government is proposing the selection of a maximum of three or four sites which would be left to function as naturally as possible. This is to improve ecosystem recovery and resilience in Welsh seas and to learn more about the ways that marine ecosystems function.
The Government is keen to emphasise that it is still at the very early stages of this process. It wants to learn a lot more about the sites and the potential effects of designation on local communities and their local economy’s before making any decisions on the selected sites or the boundaries. The current consultation is the first of a three stage consultation process.
Environment Minister, John Griffiths said: “This first stage in the consultation process is about gathering as much information as we can about the site options. That is why we are keen to encourage input and views from the public and from all groups with an interest, especially fishermen, environment groups and tourism and leisure operators. We will be holding a number of meetings with interested groups and organisations over the period of the consultation so that we can engage directly with them.
We really are at a very early stage of this process and want to gather as much information and intelligence as possible to inform this work. No decisions have been made as yet and I would urge anyone with an interest to get involved and share their views. “
A public meeting is being held between 9.30am and 8pm on Wednesday 27 June at Merlin Theatre, Pembrokeshire College, Haverfordwest, SA61 1SZ . A meeting is also being held between 9.30am and 8pm on Tuesday 3rd July at the Celtic Royal Hotel, Caernarfon, LL55 1AY. If you would like to attend either event please register on the Welsh Government website.The Welsh Government is also holding a number of events for both recreational and commercial fisherman and would urge interested parties to come along and feed into the process. The consultation will run until 31 July 2012. You can access the full consultation and a Q&A document on the Welsh Government website.

I couldn’t even hazzard a guess as to how much of ‘our’ money the Welsh Government have pout into the fishing industry. The feedback I’m getting from our fishing guys is that much of this is wasted and let me put this politely, has not been put to best use. I’m being told that the Welsh Government are happliy going along and destroying and industry which we were once very proud of. There are many family businesses are involved in our fishing industry and it’s about time wag got behind these guys and gave them some pratical help, before we have no Welsh fish left. The Government firstlly need to listen to fishermen, rather than consult with them when wag plans are already very nearly in place. Wag you must start with a blank sheet of paper and talk to the guys whose living you are in danger of destroying.


You have nothing to fear by leaving your comments. I enjoy reading your comments and sharing your thoughts, even if you disagree with me – that’s allowed! You can rest assured your details will only be known to me and that’s where they’ll stay – you have my word. You don’t have to put your name either, a pen name or nickname will suffice, we do have a large number of traders – but that’s fine, it’s the content that matters, what you’re happy with, what you are cross about, what in your view needs changing, etc.


Does The Urdd National Eisteddfod Support Welsh Food Producers?

08 Jun

Currently running near Caernarfon, The Urdd National Eisteddfod is being promoted as one of Europe’s largest cultural youth festivals. So why am I angry to the point of fury to learn that the ice cream sellers in attendance are not from Wales?

I do love my Welsh ice-cream, but that is not really what this is all about. I haven’t been to this event, but how can such a Welsh event appear to fail to support and promote its producers? My wrath is directed at all those involved in the organisation of this event and surely it is about time that any event held in Wales should be compelled to support Welsh food – end of story no further arguments allowed.

But that simply isn’t happening and if anyone knows how I /We get this changed let me know.

The wag don’t pay me to promote Welsh food, yet we, as taxpayers, pay their food department handsomely, as does Europe, to do just that – promote Welsh food. So why does it feel it’s just me gettting cross with this continued pathetic situation?  Marketing and promotion can never be classed as rocket science or brain surgery come to that, in my book it is plain common sense, but why does wag food department find it so difficult. Any food producer want to do a job swap with one of our food civil servants?

But back to the Urdd. With the dreadful wet and cold weather, I’m not that sure that ice-creams sales would be very high, but that cannot detract from the fact that as I understand it, there were no Welsh ice-cream guys there. But why not? There are Welsh ice-cream producers in north Wales and it totally puzzles me why they were not there in their mobile vans instead of the English ones.

My fury is also directed to any Welsh Ministers, Welsh officials and Civil Servants who visited The Urdd. Sure there must have been some of the wag (food) department there, surely? Because guess what else I’ve been told guys? Following on from where one Cornish ice-cream mobile van was parked, next door was the rather inconspicuous, easy-to-miss True Taste tent! Now before you say maybe our Welsh ice-cream traders might have been inside the TT tent, just think about it and as to how many parents would be able to drag their chiuldren away from the Cornish van in the hope that there might be a Welsh ice-cream trader inside the TT tent. That’s if we have got the message through to many people that they should be buying Welsh food. I have no idea how many TT traders were there inside the tent, because I haven’t had a Press Release from wag saying they were having a TT tent there. But let’s face it – that’s sadly no surprise to me now, rather par for the rocky course I’m one.

Wag does have a Promotion & Marketing budget, but tragically for our industry, agencies that are being very well paid for doing, in my view, a very poor job. But then I have to remind myself that I’m only a journalist with a strong interest in Welsh food. In fairness, perhaps wag haven’t told all their agencies with responsibility for Welsh food about Welsh Country magazine. Guess that could have happened as we’re only approaching our eighth birthday, so maybe it is a longer process than that for the messgae to get through –  if it was ever sent that is.  Still it doesn’t make sense to me, but wag appear unconcerned, as always it seems.

So did any of our ‘officials’ spot the English ice-cream vans and wonder where our Welsh ice-cream producers where? If not – why not?

I’m all for supporting the Welsh language, but only if the Welsh Government can genuinely support our Welsh food producers, not. Just paying lip-service to our producers and then so often waste the limited funds that are supposed to help our food industry survive and grow, is not acceptable.

I think it is a total disgrace and I hope those responsible take note and improve this whilst we still have a Welsh food industry.



Reminder – Check Terms & Condition When Booking Tradestands

08 Jun

During our constant telephone communication with businesses across Wales and the Borders, my team have just been made aware of an event being held in Much Marcle, Herefordshire, the Garden Festival. About three days before the event was due
to be held, it was  cancelled ‘due to bad weather’.

The reason I feel this is worth a posting on welshfoodbites is that the traders will not get their tradestand fee back. The organisers explanation is that they state in their Terms & Conditions, Item 10  that there are NO REFUNDS.

10. The organisers reserve the right to cancel the event, without refunds, at any time due to circumstances beyond our control.

This was a two day event with tradestand prices ranging from £80 – £130.00 and there were about 86 stands booked in, which with my poor maths calculationsbrings in a tradestand income from £6880 – £11,180.

Of course this producer is not the first to be caught out like this,  because how many of us have time, or the inclination, to read the small print? But just in case this appalling wet weather continues through the summer, please be aware of the small print!


Update On Pembrokeshire Fish Week Funding

07 Jun

I’ve been busy trying to answer your questions about Pembrokeshire Fish Week, (PFW). I’m sorry that so many of you are not happy about the large amount of funding PFW have received from wag festival funding list, but it’s not fair for you to shoot the messenger, really it isn’t, I don’t deserve to be shot! Anyway my latest news to share on Pembrokeshire Fish Week funding follows:

The First Minister has agreed to provide financial support up to a maximum of £75,000, for three years (2012-2014 inclusive) to support Pembrokeshire Fish Week. The First Minister has been asked to agree Welsh Government financial support for Pembrokeshire Fish Week in 2012, 2013, and 2014. Pembrokeshire Fish Week is an award winning annual countywide festival, built around the theme of ‘Fish’, which utilises the counties natural assets to bring economic benefit and attract tourism to Pembrokeshire in the ‘shoulder’ season of late June early July.

I received this news from the Welsh Government following my sending through an FOI today. Now don’t make me laugh, the ‘system of FOI responses’ hasn’t suddenly speeded-up and gone into over-drive, it still takes 20 days, but apparently this information was released on 21st December 2011. I didn’t get a Press Release about this, as maybe I’m not on the right mailing list, otherwise I would not have wasted my time doing an FOI, but there we are, keeps me busy doesn’t it? To clarify, in case any of you haven’t read any other Fish Week posts, PFW year is getting £31,671 from the wag festival budget and an additional £25k from the Major Events Unit, (MEU), which is run under the Visit Wales banner. Plus Fish Week is usually backed by Pembrokeshire County Council, unless the council now feels they can opt out of funding Fish Week this year. Last year Pembrokeshire County Council put £31k into the Fish Week pot. But aren’t Fish Week lucky as they also benefit from local sponsors too, which last year amounted to £13,300. I also asked if other food events have received funding from MEU and have been told only Fish Week. I have no idea if Abergavenny actually applied for funding from MEU. But if not, I wonder why not. I’ve had lots of grumbles from some organisers, cross that they haven’t got as much as they requested, or even worse didn’t get offered any funding at all. It appears that for some food events, you only have to ask for funding – but if you want to know how that works, maybe ask PFW for advice………………


Pembrokeshire’s Fish Week Gets Further Funding

06 Jun

Whoever sent me a spade to keep digging on wag food issues, will appreciate how much work it has been having!

I’ve had so many grumbles and complaints about food festival funding, with many of you being very cross that Pembrokeshire Fish Week, PFW, has been given £31,671.00 out of this year’s festival budget.

I have been asking question after question and although I have been assured by wag that PFW met the criteria set by wag, I shall be intrigued how many stands are at the first event and even more intrigued at how many of them will be from Wales. I’ve been told that wag play no role in selecting producers, which is a great opt out for them, isn’t it? But I still stand by my statement that it would be  helpful for traders if they knew each festivals’ tradestand criteria, before they apply? I get complaints, year after
year, that English stands are allowed at Welsh festivals and Welsh traders then excluded ‘because the festival is full’

Why cannot wag address this problem instead of hiding behind their criteria?

Who from wag will be there every day at PFW, monitoring how PCC obey wag’s rules? I’m hoping that wag will not allow our visitors to be told, as we were last year in Saundersfoot, by a BBQ trader who was selling haddock. He told us it came out of the sea just in front of us……………..what a con!

I am still waiting for a response after a Best Of Welsh producer asked about EU money and that if it was allocated to Wales, the money should benefit Wales. I still trying to establish if this is correct. The same producer also asked how wag check that their criteria was being adhered to and how this is achieved? The wag response was that measurements are in place to monitor against their requirements, which must be government speak and tells me very little. I want to know what the measurements are and how they will work. When I get any further updates I’ll let you know.

However more digging and I find that not only is PFW getting festival funding, money from PCC and sponsorship money guess what else they’ll be getting?

Spokesman for the Welsh Government said, “This year, Pembrokeshire Fish Week secured funding from our Major Events Unit as well as from our Food Festival Grant. The support from the Major Events Unit will help the festival to grow in profile and quality. Food Festival Grant funding is associated to Food Related costs only.

In case you haven’t heard of the Major Events Unit, MEU, it is part of the Tourism and Marketing Division within the Department for Business, Enterprise, Technology & Science. I remain puzzled once again how an event can obtain EU funding from the food
festival budget and then take a second bite of the cherry by obtaining a MEU funding as well. Just how does this work out?