Abergavenny Food Festival

23 Sep

Wag’s festival funding changes have hit the likes of Abergavenny hard this year. They only received the maximum £10k from the food festival budget as opposed to £46,800 last year – so that was quite a drop.

But what concerned me this year was to see that Visit Wales and HCC, Meat Promotion Wales,  both listed on the festival website as sponsors. This led me to believe that these bodies were then helping make up the shortfall in Abergavenny’s festival funding pot. So I asked wag’s press office and was told Visit Wales were not sponsoring Abergavenny. Then I was told to talk to HCC directly as they had their own press team, so that’s what I did, to be then told that HCC were simply an exhibitor at Abergavenny, not a sponsor. Further confused, I then contacted Abergavenny who said: we are working in partnership with them but we don’t differentiate that from sponsors on our website or other material as it gets too complicated.  Meat Promotion Wales are happy with their arrangement with us. We have different levels of relationship with various stakeholders in the festival and this is reflected in how we profile the individual organisations through our various media.

I find it bewildering that HCC class themselves as an exhibitor and  are shown on the festival website as a sponsor, that seemingly didn’t apply to the other 200+ traders who were also paying for stands to exhibit. But if Abergavenny class HCC and Visit Wales as stakeholders, does that mean additional money has changed hands between the three of them? Well who knows? Because despite me the real run-around I’ve been getting, I’m still not sure. So I’m afraid I’m no further forward, still perplexed so sorry dear reader, but I did try.

A brilliant bonus at this event is being able to use the hospitality section located at the back of the Kings Head. Run by Suzanah from her own company, sbh events, that lady is a star. There was an excellent range of food and drink on offer, which was what the visiting guest speakers and media required throughout the day. A board also gave a list of producers who had donated produce and I really hope that they all got good feedback for their generosity. Suzanah and her team should be congratulated for putting on such a professional and tasty show. I was impressed by how quickly the tables were cleared, which was necessary as it did get busy but everyone was so polite and helpful. Of course all the produce on offer should have been Welsh, that goes without saying, but I’ve not attended another food event that has looked after media so well, so as I say, a real bonus.

Ian and I were obviously earlier getting there this year, arriving at the event at 8.00. We tried to get in Hospitality for a much needed coffee boost, but sadly we’re too early for Suzanah this year. Not to be beaten, we continued our caffeine search and went into Cross Street, finding just one coffee shop that had the foresight to open at that time and boy that was worth the effort for them. When we sat down, there were 31 people in Luigis, * with many eating breakfasts! Good coffee, pleasant helpful service. I was just surprised that no other cafés in the area bothered to open early too. It’s only on for two days and it seemed silly not to make as much money as possible when so many people were arriving. Whilst I’m on my coffee theme, I’d a few comments from traders saying when they were setting up they’d no hope of getting a coffee. That was another disappointment. Over the years, Ian and I have done many tradestands, so we’re aware that coffee is essential to help you through the tough setting up process. I can’t understand that the few coffee stands that were around, and in fairness I didn’t see that many, hadn’t been encouraged to make and early start, make some early cash and provide a welcomed, much-needed service to the rest of the traders.

Signing in to the festival after my caffeine fix, I was cross to see a stand just by the hospitality entrance promoting Paella Fresh Seafood from Cornwall, yes Cornwall, seemingly our Welsh waters are barren! I’m afraid that annoyed me all day, even though they did describe themselves as Paella Pirates from Penzance. But of course they weren’t the only stands there not Welsh, we’d veal from south east Cornwall, who somehow got into the popular Market Hall, pies from Devon, there were chillis from Wiltshire, bread from Devon, Spanish food, and of course the regular garlic man for the Isle of Wight, who also got a priority place on the Brewery upper level with their other stand alongside selling tomato related products Their two stands looked huge, I’d guess about 25-30 feet, but there’s no way you could miss them, that’s for sure. Before attending Ian did a calculation of where the stands came from and he found not quite 50% Welsh stands, although wag food have decreed funded festivals must have at least 75% Welsh stands. I think 75% is a fair amount, but I also feel very strongly that some Welsh stands shouldn’t be pushed away into slower trading areas either. Wag food must be promoting Welsh food producers and if wag food fund a festival, the organisers must put Welsh producers first.

A disappointment to me and the producers sited there was the Lower Brewery Yard, because there was no traffic flow, or more precisely people flow. There was no entrance/exit at that end, so what it was a cul-de-sac, which doesn’t encourage people to move down to that area, when they did they didn’t stay there very long, even though there were some tables and chairs there. Many traders allocated space there were most unhappy and I can see their point. It was a shame another entrance/exit couldn’t have been sited there, but you will certainly not have traders wanting to go back in that area again, not that they seem to have a choice where they are sited. I do wonder when the garlic man is allocated space in that lower quarter instead of the busy Upper Brewery Yard itself. I appreciate it’s impossible to keep all traders happy, I appreciate that traders aren’t always easy to deal with, but then all organisers aren’t either and we all must remember that traders are there to earn their living. I do wish there was a fairer way to allocate the better sited trade stands more fairly. If traders are put in a known slower area then a fair way would be at least to adjust those stands fees. What I did like in the lower area though was a new walk way through to the Priory, which has never been a favourite area of mine I must admit. But this walkway did move some people through quite easily to it. The Priory didn’t seem to quite know which sort of area it was, but having said that some did say that they’d not had a bad time overall – so something was working – and that’s all that matters, despite my misgivings.

An area that did work well was the Lion’s Place, some brilliant artisan cheese stalls, wine, beer, hot food all in all a great selection that created a wonderful atmosphere. This area really works. When I say I spoke to quite a few traders in that area at the beginning and at the end of the day, I didn’t chat to anyone who’d had a bad weekend. In fact one said it was the best event he’s been to for a long time – how about that? With another difficult trading year for producers, that was music to my ears, especially as the company was on of our Best of Welsh & Borders producers! A few of our Best Of Welsh & Borders who normally attend this event weren’t there this year but they’d had problem over the last few years, and had been moved form their usual busy pitches and pushed out to the quieter Priory. Some of them complained, during the event and some after and this year, they weren’t there. Whether they’d decided not to apply again, I’ll have to find out later, but these were professional long-standing Welsh producers. In my ideal world I would have hope someone from Abergavenny might have picked the phone up to them and tried to re-build bridges, but as I say I’m not sure yet if anything did happen. I  got good feedback too from many traders sited in Cross Street, they’d also been busy and enjoyed themselves.

I called into the Monmouthshire craft area, which was around the back of Lions Place, on Lion Street in Horsington’s Yard as we’d a few advertisers with stands there. But I was livid when I arrived to hear a Jazz band, literally belting out their music. Now I’m not anti-jazz, in fact, especially as the group was quite good, but they needed a volume control, they were way, way, too loud. People were stood enjoying the music, but the few people trying to shop, couldn’t hear themselves speak. The traders were there to sell, not be deafened by music. As one trader told me – We traders are the entertainment, not jazz musicians! After the close of business, the jazz band would have been brilliant entertainment, but not when traders are trying to engage potential customers to purchase in what is a very tough trading climate. Light background music is great, it creates a good atmosphere, but people and traders should not be deafened out by loud noise, even it is music!

Overall I have to say that the event was good and for those Welsh traders that did manage to get a space, many did  seemingly do well. It is also good that the festival attracts so many people from all over the UK. I do though remain worried about the funding, the smoke and mirrors of Visit Wales and Meat Promotion Wales. Taken on its own, the value from Wag’s food department has to be good, but will the criteria be upheld from that department? I just can’t see any policing of their policies that wag food have set in place.  So why bother?

*Sorry but I completely forgot to tell you about meeting Mr Holtister in Luigis. This lovely gentleman was soon chatting with me about the festival and showing me some super photographs he’d taken. But what also surprised me was he was also a poet. He gave me this poem which I wanted to share with you:

Food Festival

 The Glory of a festival is there to be seen. As you go round the corner it will make you beam,

Enjoy yourself while you can – because our festival is so grand.    

From the festival poet G. Holtister  

Abergavenny Update posted 020113  

I have obviously hit a nerve!  

Today I have received a letter of complaint from HCC stating that I am implying that HCC is corrupt.

I state most emphatically that I am not implying that at all. What I am saying is that HCC is not giving me all the facts about their spending.

HCC have been asked how much they spent overall on their stand at the Royal Welsh, no specifics, just an overall figure. This question followed comments into us from butchers, who felt that this was not the best way to promote Welsh Meat. So this is HCC butchers that are not happy and have different ideas about meat marketing. This question would not have been raised unless it came from one of our Best Of Welsh & Border producers. HCC told us that this was information was commercially sensitive and could upset their stand builder. I didn’t think I was clever enough to work out how much the stand provider gets from HCC from an overall figure, but there we are. That’s financial information HCC can’t supply to me.      

Abergavenny Food Festival lost in excess of £30,000 of Food Festival Funding this year. On the Abergavenny Food Festival website both HCC and Visit Wales appeared as sponsors. My admittedly cynical view was wondering if the funding had been directed via different ‘government’ parties. So I asked questions, to be told that both HCC and Visit Wales are just exhibitors. I then asked why all the trade stands are not listed as sponsors, as this simply still doesn’t make sense.

So I am not implying or accusing any corruption, but I am stating that in my view, transparency and openness is lacking and obviously raises queries.   





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  1. Lamb Man

    September 23, 2013 at 8:29 pm

    Your hypocrisy just amazes me. You criticise festivals for their funding, their sponsors and their choice of stallholders, yet see no conflict in setting up camp in hospitality to graze on freebies whilst producers are struggling to make a living. Time to get out there Kath and put some money in producers’ pockets.

  2. Benji7???

    September 24, 2013 at 8:42 am

    Then carry on and be amazed, that’s obviously another talent I have isn’t it?

    I’m not criticising festivals for their funding, only how they spend it.
    I’m criticising wag food for the money they throw at food festivals, which often doesn’t work. I’m criticising some festivals that don’t always use their funding well and help Welsh producers.

    You are of course not brave enough to state who you are, guess I’m expecting too much of you for that aren’t I? But I don’t understand where you are coming from. I’ve a problem why HCC and Visit Wales are listed as sponsors and I’ve explain why, HCC insist they are exhibitors so why aren’t all exhibitors listed as sponsors? Why just the likes of HCC? Yet if that’s ok with you, that’s your view, but it’s not ok with me.

    During the nine hours I was at the festival, I spent about 30 minutes in total in hospitality. If you think that is too long and I shouldn’t have been there, that is your problem not mine, you don’t pay me. You probably are not aware, or maybe don’t even care, that because of welshfoodbites, some of the food in hospitality is now Welsh and not from a well-known supermarket. Do you have a problem with that too? Maybe I should have left that for you to change ………………..

    If you approve of lots of non-Welsh stands at festivals, I don’t and it’s not what wag has decreed. But maybe that’s ok with you too. As long as you get in with your stand maybe that all that matters to you.
    But if you’re a Welsh trader, and of course you haven’t been open and honest about that have you, sniping blind at me probably makes you feel important, but if you’re Welsh and can’t get in a Welsh funded festival, that’s not ok with me and shouldn’t be with anyone that cares about our food industry. Maybe you just care about yourself – that is if you are actually a Welsh trader………………

    I bought food at the festival, as I always do and I bought only from our Best Of Welsh producers. Welsh Country have been fighting and lobbying for producers and have been for the last nine years. If you are not happy with that – who cares?

    How many wag food people where there over the weekend buying from you – should you be a trader? Lots and lots? I don’t think so.

    I’m amazed why you’re come onto my site in the first place. Why not visit Fork2Fork and see how their latest government £43k for updating their website for 2013 is helping ‘you’ as producers. Go and ask them how the £800k they spent over 2 years helped farmers markets, farm shops and box schemes has helped ‘you’ as producers, hopefully you might be able to work that out for yourself, because it hasn’t has it? Nearly a £1 million pounds in 3 years has gone into that one company to help with Welsh food and producers, mare you having a go at them to for doing little with their £1m donation from wag?

    Why be so rude to try and tell me producers are struggling. Do you really think that with 120+ Best Of Welsh producers I don’t know what is going on? So why not take the time and trouble to tell Fork2Fork, because I’m sure they’ll be grateful for that, or talk to wag food yourself and see how you get on – should you be a trader. Talk to HCC, should you actually be a meat producer, nmaybe they can tell you how many independent butchers we have here in Wales.

    Feedback from our Best Of Welsh producers is what’s important to me and the team.
    As to whether you think I’m doing a good job or not for Welsh food, that’s not important.

    You’re entitled to your opinion. But I’m entitled to mine, more so as this is my site, with my views, paid for and run by me not wag at £43k per year.

    Comments have to be approve so I suggest if you don’t like my views, don’t waste your valuable time visiting again, I’ll not be upset – promise!

  3. producer

    September 24, 2013 at 9:53 am

    You should have binned his comment not put it up. Lamb man’s comments sum him up as an idiot my polite description
    If he’s a producer, I’m the first minister.
    Pull his comment down.
    He’s no idea what you do for us and the efforts you and the guys put in to help us,
    He’ll not talk to HCC or wag , too much effort easier to have a pop at you without saying who he is.
    Hiding behind Lamb Man is cowardly, stop being a coward and have the guts to put your name there Mister Chicken before you unfairly slate Kath. She’s worth a billion of you.

  4. cheeseman

    September 24, 2013 at 11:41 am

    Pull Lamb Man down
    Have a go at someone by all means, but not from hiding in the shadows mate.
    I’m positive you’re not a producer and sure as anything you don’t run a tradestand every week. Because if you were a producer you’d know how this lot work for us There’s no doubt about it, you’re just too stupid to know that and see that.
    Battling with wag food, battling with HCC, both of these should be working with the magazine, the three supporting each other. That’s one way to get the message out to Welsh people about Welsh food in an easy to read fashion.
    Your comment sickened me – stop hiding – tell us who you are.
    I can’t believe you’re a producer and I’m cross with Kath for letting your stupid comment stay up.

  5. Benji7???

    September 24, 2013 at 12:00 pm

    He’s allowed his views, he’s allowed to hide behind Lamb Man too – it might just make him feel brave.
    I don’t expect everyone to agree with me, I’m not that stupid, but I don’t appreciate being slated from someone in hiding. You’re right he’s a coward.

    I’ve nearly sure I know where this guy is from, but I’ve promised I’ll not reveal anyone and that’s how it will stay. Hide behind a pen name, by all means, but if you wish to slag me off, stick your name there.
    I’ll wait for him to reveal himself………….if he dares to, which I very much doubt.
    Thanks though for those comments following his, supporting me, that means a lot after a 14 hour day at Abergavenny.

    If Welsh food could work together, and that means the government and HCC too – we’d make some progress. Instead people can stand snipe on the side lines, criticise and help no-one, that’s not a great way to behave.

  6. trader

    September 24, 2013 at 3:52 pm

    I think this site is for traders and you know well enough we don’t want to be mentioned and then targeted by wag food but this guy isn’t one of us, he just can’t be.
    My long shot is that he works for one of the sponsors – no exhibitors, those tow that matter more than the other 200 or so others of us to be listed as sponsors.
    You’ve highlighted another flaw or backhanders maybe here and it is tough to swallow for some.
    I’d pull his comments down until he tells us who he is and why he’s having a go at you.

  7. Producer2

    September 24, 2013 at 11:06 pm

    Lamb Man is missing the point – producers donated quality food for the hospitality to advertise their goods. Someone in the hospitality section (press etc) may have tasted something that took their fancy and followed it up. It is the same as offering tasters on your stall. It is called ADVERTISING. Maybe this gives us a clue as to where he may work….

  8. producer 3

    September 25, 2013 at 1:28 pm

    I’m with last comment left – Lamb Man works I suspect for HCC, wag food or the festival itself.
    Note he hasn’t the guts to give us his name

  9. trader

    September 26, 2013 at 8:48 am

    Kath’s comments that there were many producers not from Wales who were given priority places is spot on. I know of one company from Lincolnshire who make chocolate that were amazed when they were selected for a stall in the Market Hall. When they arrived to set up they could not believe their luck that they had been allocated a stall next to the Market Hall entrance. They were first time exhibitors to the event so I do question the selection process for stall location. Perhaps someone could enlighten me.

  10. Benji7???

    September 26, 2013 at 9:08 am

    Thanks for leaving a comment. This site is for you all in this industry, as sometimes it helps to share your views and concerns.
    I just wouldn’t hold your breath about anyone ‘in power’ enlightening you………………..

  11. Trader Ted

    September 26, 2013 at 10:40 am

    Your cowardice has amazed many of us Lamb Man. Notice that you haven’t had the bottle to come back and tells Kath and us which official body you are working for, but let’s guess your pen name gives us a clue and you ‘work’ for HCC. How typical of you to slate Kath in public, but haven’t the brains to work with them, instead you do yet one more stupid ad on TV that really makes no sense. So you’re not the only coward there.
    Kath you should not have allowed his comment to stay on this site. He’s not worthy of joining us.
    I think what you’ve said is pathetic, to do that, well guess that makes you feel a big man, but none of us are impressed. Grow up Lamb Man then you can surely follow the rest of the sheep at HCC

  12. Benji7???

    September 26, 2013 at 10:52 am

    You’re kind to leave such a great comment.
    I feel I should have approved Lamb Man’s comment – after all he’s entitled to his view. What I dislike is being slagged off by someone then feels if fair to hide behind a pen name. Have the courage of your convictions and be honest!!!
    It would help our producers, it would help and encourage our readers to buy more local if we could work with wag food and HCC but the balls are in their court. I’m sure Ian and I have a very different take on things because we’ve spent so many years doing PR & Marketing and we are not going to pat public bodies on the back for ideas, plans that we don’t think will work. We always try to be constructive but that seems not to be appreciated, which is sad and not then productive for our industry.

  13. trader

    September 27, 2013 at 2:24 pm

    Appears Lamb Man hasn’t found the time or nerve to say he works, well he gets paid, by HCC
    what a coward hiding behind a pen name
    you are a joke, a pathetic joke.

  14. beefy

    October 23, 2013 at 9:53 am

    How dare HCC take the moral high ground when all you’re doing is asking a question for someone else? That doesn’t make sense to me.
    Why should HCC be down as a sponsor like visitwales?
    I wasn’t down as a sponsor, so what’s the difference between them and me?
    I’m not happy at all with this and HCC and Abergavenny should explain fully and clearly so us mere mortals can understand.
    Sending you a letter which sounds threatening or bullying is not on. Why can’t they talk to you? But that’s HCC so threats are better it seems.
    Why they can’t work with you is mind blowing for me. It’s so obvious, even to someone lacking understanding of marketing. Your magazine is pushing Wales and pushing local food, but HCC would rather advertise in UK papers and on TV. Ignore their home market, ignore their local butchers let’s push our meat abroad and get a few trips away for ourselves.
    I will not rage about the cowardice of Lamb Man, but be surprised if he doesn’t work at HCC.

  15. producer 3

    October 25, 2013 at 11:55 am

    You were sent a letter by HCC, WOW, is this threats and bullying? All because you asked a question a producer didn’t dare do. I’m disgusted with this. You have a job to do, but take it upon yourself to support the producers that are with you and then have to take this flack.
    As I say I’m disgusted. I got turned down again at Abergavenny but friends on mine got in, but they weren’t treated as sponsors like HCC and visit Wales so something is seriously wrong. I don’t like being treated as stupid by HCC visit Wales and Abergavenny.
    As for Lamb Man, he must work for HCC but he’s nothing but a coward not to come forward with his name and job title. Kath’s got her opinion and she’s entitled to go into hospitality if she’s invited. She’s also the one that’s pushed them to use Welsh producers in there instead of Tesco. So stop battering her for helping us and trying to find the truth.
    It’s a pity you lot can’t work with their brill magazine, but then you’d lose face after all that’s on this site, but if you can’t see the advantage their with the trade and their readers, well so much for marketing. I’m no marketing guru but even I can work out the obvious.
    What a shambles which could be partly sorted if people could work together instead of bullying.

  16. producer

    November 4, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    I’ve neglected this site for a while but now having to play catch-up.
    I’m disgusted reading. It sounds like they are threatening you, but what a pity no-one threatens Lamb Man the biggest coward going. He must work for HCC and they are then approving his rudeness. But you can’t ask questions, what rubbish. He’s a coward, nothing but a coward.
    I couldn’t get in Abergavenny again. But friends did and they weren’t treated as sponsors like HCC and visit wales. Between these 3 it stinks and at the least this is unfairness at the most who knows? Those that know will not tell us and leave us in the dark.
    What an industry to try and earn a living in
    Honesty is always the best policy but that’s not what you’re finding out, exhibitor? Pull the other one and Abergavenny treat tradestands the same, or stop taking government money and carry on playing to your own rules.

  17. Producer

    November 13, 2013 at 2:46 pm

    Lamb Man accuses you of hypocrisy, from a downright coward that’s rich!
    I’d lay money he works for HCC, whilst HCC send you a letter, legal no doubt.
    I’ve read on here in many pieces, work together, that’s a dream whilst you are having to put up with threats. You should have deleted his comment, no guts to give his name, his place of work, so you shouldn’t have given this coward any space.
    He makes me livid.
    You and Ian are at many of the festivals and markets. You’ve told me and I’ve spied on you buying most times you’re out. You cracked me up when you told one producer you couldn’t buy from him because he wasn’t with us on Best of welsh. He thought you were joking, and then had to explain that you buy from those that support you. Hope you signed him up. And it’s a pity others haven’t got your ethics.
    Bet this HCC guy doesn’t visit any festivals unless we are paying him to attend, can’t say work as he’s not a producer doing a 10 – 15 hour day.
    Grow up chicken man