Narbeth Food Festival

26 Sep

I wasn’t going to put up any more food festival posts, but many producers have said they enjoy reading them, so I’ll do my best to post a few more. Of course my other reason to resist doing festivals posts is that I’m not keen on assisting Miller, who a being paid £42,301 to attend 32 wag supported festivals. This time their role is to report back after assessing each food festival’s performance against the criteria set up for all food and drink festivals and to ensure that they are all complaint to the grant support offered by wag. A couple of producers asked me if Miller were there, but although I spent five hours at Narbeth festival, I still didn’t spot Miller anywhere. Ian did see them though and Miller seemed surprised at what they judged that I’d posted two favourable reports on Aberystwyth and Abergavenny. Well I don’t agree with that at all.  I judge festivals firstly as a journalist interested in food and then I listen and take feedback from many of our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers that have paid their hard-earned money to attend each festival – they make the best judges on whether a festival is good or bad. My posts are honest, they’re there to help organisers both with what I felt was good and what I also feel could be improved. These are of course my views and my opinions and I do appreciate those organisers that are working on a voluntary basis. The way I look at food festivals is the same now as it was when welshfoodbites was set up over two years ago. In that couple of years I’m pleased to report that some food festivals have improved but sadly others haven’t. But hey guys if you are looking out for Miller at any festivals, take care because they are still not badged up as Miller.  Now back to Narbeth. I didn’t get any press releases about this festival.  The AA had set up good signage going in and once again Narbeth ran a Park & Ride set up, which was much needed as Narbeth does not have plenty of parking available. It was £3.50 to enter which is something I will never agree with. £7.00 for two adults to go in could have been better spent on two pasties from the Little Welsh Deli, two coffees from Preseli Coffee Company or two ice-creams from Cowpots and with the latter two lots of change too! As last year I did speak to an elderly couple who hadn’t realised you’d to pay to enter and they refused and went home instead. They had no wish to sit and listen to the live music, good and varied that it was or to sit and watch a cookery demo of listen to a food talk – they just wanted to buy some local food. So that was sad to hear. I also felt that there were too many food-to-go stands I think there were about eight of them outside and another three inside the marquee. I feel that is over-kill bearing in mind these guys are there to earn money – it’s as simple as that.

One highlight which I’m delighted to report on is Pembrokeshire Product Direct. I’ve been harsh about this project, but with   justification. This much needed project has been badly run, no-one, from wag to Pembrokeshire Council appears to have monitored it or had alarm bells ringing years ago, despite £500k going in the pot. Whoever is responsible for this project should have the guts to stand up and be counted rather than trying to sweep it under the carpet. I was appalled at PPD’s stand at Milford Haven, at Fish Week, but it had improved at Really Wild festival. But on Saturday I couldn’t believe the transformation and more importantly how busy it was. The stand was full of the produce they had for sale, there must have been 4-5 staff manning it and not just standing there, but engaging with anyone that came near them. Literature was being given out and a raffle for a £50 hamper was a good additional draw, especially if all those leads are followed up, which I’m sure they will be. I was so impressed to see this stand buzzing and I hope that sales and contacts for both days were outstanding.

There has been a very small group of producers that have been determined that this project is worth it, and they must have literally worked their socks off, bearing in mind they all have their own businesses to run. I congratulate you for your massive efforts at getting to Narbeth and putting on such a fantastic stand. You all realise you still have much work to do, I just hope that the remainder of the producers listed on PPD have the guts and drive to get behind you and not just sit back and watch as you deserve and need their support and commitment too. It’s not fair if just a small sector tries to carry this project. With your hard work you looked to be getting the support of local people, but sad after all these years so many still hadn’t heard of PPD. Good luck guys!

I was pleased with some of the cookery demos, and at least they did have a saying who was working and what times. This was helpful and I did stay for a while and listen to M/s Hansen with Angela Gray. Another plus was that a leaflet was given out showing the recipe that was being cooked on it and also included the method. I have forgotten how long I have been asking chefs to do this, but maybe my ‘water on the stone technique’ is paying off!!! Well partly anyway, because what I did learn was that M/s Hansen had come up from London to be at Narbeth. She wasn’t Welsh either, but there we are. My other moan was the dish she cooked was crab although there was no Welsh fishmonger in attendance. My plea is still that all chefs would use the producers that have paid for stands at each festival and stop cooking fish unless there’s a fishmonger there. Please let’s support our producers, because isn’t that after all why we have a food festival budget?  I’m still of the opinion that using local chefs can also be very beneficial to local hotels and restaurants that are finding life tough and would highlight some of the super chefs that we have literally on our doorstep.

I’d heard beforehand of traders who’d been refused a stand even though they really couldn’t have been more local – all Pembrokeshire based, which is very annoying for them but we did have a stand from Devon there doing fish cakes I think. If there’s some logic there I think I’ve missed it. However on the outskirts of the festival there was I’ve termed the ‘Fringe’ which is for craft traders and food traders that couldn’t get into Narbeth themselves. This is a great idea and worked well the quality of stands was good and in my view often better than those in Queens Hall. It was a shame that the ‘Fringe’ couldn’t take over the Queens Hall because it would surely have worked better.


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  1. annoyed trader

    September 27, 2012 at 9:36 am

    I’ve had enough of festivals charging for entrance and wish we got to see all their accounts. If they take funding, use chefs from the area, can’t they make it break even without charging people on the gate?
    We need people in buying from us, not walking away or spending as happened in Narbeth, more time listening to the music and using the bar in the corner, than visiting us traders. There weren’t many Welsh brewers there, so was the busy beer tent serving Welsh beer?

  2. Suzi

    October 2, 2012 at 1:20 pm

    It’s way over due that the food civil servants and /or the government make sure that welsh producers are not thrown out, or not even allowed to take stands at welsh festivals
    look after local producers should be first and foremost as to who can get stands
    it’s not right and it’s not fair that this keeps happening year after year after year.
    It has been mentioned on this site many times that welsh producers can’t get stands but the english can
    where is loyalty in al this?

  3. Pam

    October 3, 2012 at 8:26 am

    I was lucky enough to be in the ‘fringe’ fair and sold a decent amount of product. If I’d paid the fee to be in the main festival, I would not have made pence. And I was proud to partake in thee ppd stall on Sunday. Hope all these last efforts won’t be in vain.