Food Festival Review 2012/13

19 Sep

It seems like forever that I’ve been asking, rather impatiently I must add, for a copy of the Review of Welsh Food Festivals 2012/13. My thoughts are, if it takes so long to get this review published, what use is it for helping to formulate plans for 2013/14? Well obviously none, but once again a classic example of wag food simply ticking their beloved, essential boxes.

This review was undertaken once again by Miller Research. The cost to us, the taxpayer was £42,301 for Miller to visit 32 of the 33 wag funded festivals. Not a bad rate if you cost it out @ £1k per festival and then £10k to put together at their office their figures and views. It was actually published in June 2013 and I’ve been trying to get a copy of it ever since. In July I was told it was going to be posted on wag’s website ‘later this summer’. So of course I’d then to go back and get an explanation of wag’s ‘late summer’. So then I was told it would be posted on their website around end of August with them assuming of course anyone would know where to look for it!

Yesterday I chased wag again, after wrongly assuming that wag would be kind enough to send it to me when they’d posted it. Silly me, that would mean wag food helping me, wouldn’t it? Anyway I followed the link I was given and have printed off something like 32 pages. I will not bother posting it all for you, but if you wish some bedtime reading and maybe it will just get you off to sleep, just visit:

But if 32 pages is too much for you and you’d rather have a summary, if you’re a regular welshfoodbites visitor, then maybe there’s little need for you to bother, apart from some of the facts and figures that I can’t always understand.

Searching through wag’s site made me chuckle though, as under  ‘news posts’ one was dated 23/8 – Food & Drink Producers Survey, then the Food Festivals Review was posted on 16/8 and that was followed by a Newsletter posted on 4/6 along with a further Newsletter posted on 30/11. So not much food news and seemingly not a busy site, but why not? Answers on email please…………………..

This might interest you though as in this report it states: food festivals 2009-10 showed that, over a two year period, supported festivals attracted some 700,000 customers and generated some £7m in direct sales and up to £42m in additional spend in host communities. In addition, some 2,400 additional jobs were created by producers attending festivals and a total of almost 4,000 full-time equivalent jobs were supported overall. However it was also noted that some events were not proving to be an effective investment for WG, using food as a convenient label to attract funding for more general events, subsidising value-added markets or re-branding Christmas Fair and many of these presented a risk to the brand of food festivals in Wales. 

You are all well aware by now that I’m not pro any reviews or surveys, I simply cannot believe people tell the truth to survey or reviewers. Many give vague answers because they feel they shouldn’t be asked those questions in the first place, others give a totally false answer just to be awkward, whilst some are just not going to reveal their financials from festivals because it is not wag’s business, it’s theirs! I’m surprised that a figure of 700,000 people attending can be taken as gospel, because they are many festivals that don’t charge an entry fee. I could quote one festival, that doesn’t have an entry fee, but quote 10,000 people through. As this festival doesn’t run a Park & Ride and with little public parking, that figure cannot possibly be true, but I as a journalist am supposed to believe it and use it in an article for them! I’m also intrigued how figures can be quoted for direct sales and additional spend in host communities. Where do these figures come from? Do all businesses tell the truth? Being forever cynical, I say possibly not.

Another snippet was that food festivals had to have their main focus on food. Fair enough in some instances, but not when funding is then pulled from the Smallholder Event, held at the Royal Welsh showground, which has caused massive problems. Shouldn’t wag in theory have a little flexibility and have funded the Smallholder form another budget like they fund The Royal Welsh and Winter Fair? If it can be done for those two events, why is the Smallholder treated differently and penalised? Smallholder has never appeared on the Food Festivals funding list, so their funding should never have been withdrawn under this pretext of main focus on food. I went through the Freedom Of Information Act, and was told that Smallholder was funded, not from the food festival budget, but from ‘Promoting Welsh Food’ – Budget Expenditure Line. I think this was an ill-thought through decision from wag and it’s about time someone from that department explained why this has happened.

I was pleased that Miller did manage to pick up on the criteria, or lack of criteria that is, that some larger food festivals use to select stalls. I also hope that they picked this issue up off their own bat and not from welshfoodbites. There has always been a lack of transparency about how stands are selected, apart from the obvious face-fitting one. I asked some larger festivals about their selection process. Cowbridge responded promptly to my questions and their criteria was sent through to me and posted on welshfoodbites. Cardiff also sent their criteria through but sadly Cardiff and I have yet to agree on how tradestand selection should work………

I was puzzled to read under ‘food related event’ that it stated cookery demos remained the predominant form of food entertainment, well that’s hardly a surprise as wag state in their criteria: Supplemented by chefs demos / opportunities to showcase produce.

I read that as wag saying you’ve got to have a cookery demo. No comment about focusing on local chefs though.

As Miller state that visitor spend is approx. £18.50 a head, I have no idea why so many producers moan to me that they are having a bad time, saying that their takings are down as against last year. In some cases they are down 50% and others even more.

Another snippet that will interest some of you, but rile others: The assumption is made that that two thirds of spend within festivals goes to producers; this would imply approx. £3.6m across the 32 events reviewed. Given that the total of £1,911 per producer per event is reached. So why are many producers struggling at food festivals?

Miller estimates a total economic impact of up to £22.7m on communities across Wales, from an investment of £327,444, which represents excellent value for money. This could also support up to 950 full time equivalent jobs in Wales. Yes, but did that actually happen?   

If you have the time and energy, download this longwinded report and read it for yourselves and see how much you agree with, bearing in mind you’ll have attended many of these events yourself, and as I did  and will no doubt have very much a different take on them, as I have!!!!


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  1. Producer

    September 19, 2013 at 8:09 pm

    I read it, some interesting points, and some good observations, and it does build a good case for further funding for next year, which can only be a good thing.

    One thing made me laugh out loud, and then sob in despair. They estimated that each producers income per festival was £1911. Oh how I wish!!! I do not know anyone on the food festival circuit who is making anything like this.

  2. producer two

    September 20, 2013 at 3:35 pm

    I don’t know what we’d do without you K.
    Take nearly £2k at one festival what utter rubbish where have they made up this review from – hot air and paid very well for
    This is a bad taste joke