Cardiff Country Fair

01 Oct

I had this sent through to me on Monday and after checking out the source, who is a person who was there throughout the event; I thought that some of you, who didn’t attend might find it of interest.

Written by Serious Foodie: A a dedicated and very disappointed Foodie who may well next year go to Italy for the real show………

Did you know there was a Country Fair in Cardiff Castle last weekend?  ‘No?’  Don’t worry too much, you’re not alone. Judging from the overall attendance figures the show was a well-kept secret and amongst those that did attend, many thought they were attending the usual British Cheese Festival.

It seems the event organisers are not very good at multi-tasking as last year’s British Cheese Festival was blighted by poor organisation. The official excuse was, ‘they’ say, caused by the council staff being overwhelmed with the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations and the Olympic Torch staggering through the city.  Why either event should prevent sending out invitations to hopeful vendors, followed by response delays so long, that many decided to take their products and produce elsewhere, but that’s what happened resulting in a much smaller show than previous years.

So what was the excuse this year?   At first it wasn’t clear if there was even going to be a Cheese Festival at all, rumour had it that it clashed with something going on somewhere in Italy, which was true. The Bra Cheese Festival which is far from a new event has been going on for years. 

Then we were informed that as the Italian Festival was a bi-annual event, then the Cardiff British Cheese Festival was now going to be every other year to avoid the clash. Heads up Cardiff, here’s the provisional dates for The Bra Cheese Festival for 2014, 19th – 21st September.

OK, so no Cheese Festival in Cardiff in 2013. The event team or committee, or whatever, wandered around in a dither as to whether or not to do something else and as before, took so long to make a decision, that most of the possible vendors made alternative plans.  So instead of a Cheese Festival we ended up with a sort of village Fete.  

From the footfall I’d guess they managed to keep the whole thing a secret from the public as well. Of course the footfall increased round about lunch time when the local students arrived for their annual lunch of free samples. They apparently have no shame as they stand around discussing the various merits of what’s on offer before wandering off to the beer tent to wash things down, before heading back for round of ‘See how much free food you can neck down.’ 

As a casual observer at these events it seems that the point that it’s supposed to be ‘Try Before You Buy’ and not a free lunch, is lost on many who come to these shows. The fact that for many of the stall holders and vendors who forked out the guts of £500 to be there and that this is how they make their living is largely lost or probably just ignored by the great unwashed hoards.

Was it a good event? Hardly. Very disappointing from what was on offer with, I’m sure, a lot of very disappointed people from both sides. There were lots of negative comments about increased costs and abysmal attendance.

As far as the highly successful Cheese Festivals of the past, I can’t help feeling that the Cardiff event team shot themselves in the foot for the second year in a row. Nor can I believe that all the cheese producers went to Italy and that there wasn’t enough left to come to Cardiff and put on a decent show. 

As I point out above, the Slow Food Festival may be Bi-annual, but the same venue in Italy is planning a Cheese Festival next year and the dates look as if a clash is once more inevitable. It does make you wonder what next year’s excuses will be for a poor event in Cardiff and how long we have to wait to hear them!    

Rumour has it the event organisers are thinking of another Country Fair for 2015. Good Luck with that kids but I do wonder if you will find enough gullible vendors to come!    

Thanks so much for sending this through as I cannot possibly attend more festivals than I do. So that is much appreciated. We are all entitled to our views and I understand perfectly when you’ve paid our your hard-earned cash you do expect a fair return. We’ve all got mortgages and kids to pay for!

How disappointing to get a festival report back from someone who spent the entire show there – unlike me who is definitely a day visitor!!! I’ve have always got positive feedback from the Cheese Festival, with some of our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers saying it’s one of their best festivals of the year. So I’m concerned that what appears to have been a poorly attended event will put visitors off next year. Cheese is on of the many food products that we excel at in Wales and any opportunity to get behind it with a big promotional push must be taken and done well.

The comment about samples is always an ongoing one, but one that I think is made much worse when people have to pay to come in. Some people then take the attitude that if I’ve HAD to pay £3, £4, £5, £8 or £13 or whatever the entrance fee is to come into this event, I shall make sure that I eat at least that amount to break even. If you talk to any producer that has samples out, or like I do, simply watch people as they ‘browse’ the sampling stands and then listen to parents encouraging their children to ‘grab a handful’ – then you’ll realise that far too many people have no intention at all of purchasing at all. They don’t give a hoot that these samples cost the producers money and cut their profits. However, if your competitors are sampling, then producers have to be resigned to often taking a hit on sampling and hope for bumper sales.

Stands prices, so I’m told were a whacking £420 for the two days, which is really a lot of money. I wish organisers could realise that the stand price is only the start of a producer’s outgoings for each festival. I’ve been concerned for years about stand costs generally and always about the stand costs at the Royal Welsh and Winter Fair and £210 a day is getting on a par with them, but in view is excessive if you’re  not getting the massive numbers of people through the gate. I think I’m right in saying that the Cheese festival stand price last year was about £300, which is a huge difference. I still think some organisers  find it hard to understand what producers actually need from festivals. Of course you can sum it up with the obvious, make a decent return whilst they are there, but I do appreciate that if you’re  cocooned in the security blanket of getting your regular salary at the end of each  month, it must be hard for them to ‘get’ the life of the self-employed ……………………


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

  1. trader

    October 1, 2013 at 3:57 pm

    shambles and an expensive shambles at that
    typical council
    I should have stayed at home

  2. trader

    October 2, 2013 at 8:53 am

    after good cheese festivals this seems to have been dreadful, totally dreadful
    I did Narbeth and thank goodness I ducked out of Cardiff.
    Pity the poor traders making another loss because of lack of advertising.
    The confusion to locals and visitors thinking it was still the cheese festival, sums up as a mess but ok for the council staff, bet they’ve still got a salary this month

  3. Merlin

    October 2, 2013 at 11:18 am

    I think one of the many errors event organisers seem to make is to mistake footfall for quality visitors. Food Festivals need to be about the food attended by those who love and appreciate food.
    To boost the coffers most organisers go for the family day out, thousands of visitors, few buyers.
    One event I went to recently had an empty stall with a sign on the table saying “I Have Lost the Will to Give!”

  4. trader two

    October 2, 2013 at 2:55 pm

    I think the cheese fest should have gone ahead as it’s been a good event and we had good takings
    Too many at the weekend thought they were in the cheese fest and we’re confused but then not many people were there, so something serious went wrong and we can’t afford these events to dive bomb

  5. foodie

    October 2, 2013 at 3:15 pm

    I think one of the many errors event organisers seem to make is to mistake footfall for quality visitors. Food Festivals need to be about the food attended by those who love and appreciate food.
    To boost the coffers most organisers go for the family day out, thousands of visitors, few buyers.
    One event I went to recently had an empty stall with a sign on the table saying “I Have Lost the Will to Give!”

  6. trader

    October 2, 2013 at 3:30 pm

    This is such a pity because it could be detrimental to the Cheese Festival next year which has always been so good

  7. Steve Garrett

    October 3, 2013 at 1:42 pm

    The other main reason footfall at the ‘Country Fair’ was so low was a ticket price of £8! Many people came to the Castle gates and left because of that. I know because I stood there for half and hour watching them. You can’t expect people to pay a stiff entry fee for what was essentially a small market with a few animal stands. It’s insane!! And many of the stalls were from outside Wales! (‘Bread of Devon’ etc.) and included such ‘country’ products as Tango Slushies and Braces Bread!!

  8. Benji7???

    October 3, 2013 at 1:54 pm

    £8.00 is a steep entrance fee that’s for sure. How many people can afford that? And as you say for what? To have to spend more money.
    Having stands that aren’t Welsh is an on going issue which, ‘in theory’ wag is trying to address, but as no-one seems to be double-checking that some organisers must find 75% Welsh stands, it’s not working and never really could.
    Weren’t Braces Bread a sponsor or supporter?

  9. trader girl

    October 7, 2013 at 2:53 pm

    It is our fault as traders not to quiz organisers as to how they are going to market and advertise their event
    Kath keeps saying we should, but we rarely do, so the organisers win by doing a poor job for us and we lose out.