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Archive for April, 2014

Request For Information – Reference 8331

28 Apr

In March I sent a Freedom Of Information question through (FOI 8254) asking which food festivals did not adhere to wag food’s criteria and got a response as shown below. This I followed up by a further question asking how much these 3 festivals had had their funding reduced by and follows is the latest reply under FOI 8331:   

I wrote to you on 11 April 2014 following your request for information. In your request you asked for:

The amount by which the Mold; Abergavenny; and, Abergavenny Christmas Food Festivals had their funding reduced by.

I am enclosing the information which you requested which is as follows:

Mold Food Festival: £1170

Abergavenny Food Festival: £2000

Abergavenny Christmas Food Festival: £325.53

Request for Information – reference 8254

I wrote to you on 7th March 2014 following your request for information. In your request you asked for:

1).      As not all the 32 food festivals did not adhere to the Welsh Government’s criteria, please identify which festivals did not receive the amount the full amount of funding provisionally allocated by the Welsh Government.

2)       With 2013 being the first year the Welsh Government have implemented a ceiling of £10k in funding per festival, which festivals were able to access other government funding? Full details required.

 I am enclosing the information which you requested which is as follows.

 1)  Three Food Festivals for the funding period 2013/14 did not adhere to the criteria set for Welsh Food and Drink Producers, as a result they were penalised, the original approved funding offer was reduced pro-rata to the number of Welsh Food and Drink Producers attending. Those affected were:

  • Abergavenny Food Festival
  • Mold Food Festival
  • Abergavenny Christmas Food Festival

 2)    In 2013 the Major Events Unit; Economy, Science & Transport Department provided support towards specific elements outside of the Food Divisions remit to the following:

  • Pembrokeshire Fish Week (£21,000)  
  • Gwledd Conwy Feast (£25,000)

To be honest with you, I’m not sure that any of the three festivals mentioned would have had their funding reduced if Ian and I hadn’t queried with wag food that in our opinion Abergavenny Food festival hadn’t. We sent our working list through to wag food, we didn’t get an acknowledgement, no surprise there I guess and certainly not a thank-you, which I felt was rude.  But we did hear on our grapevine that shortly after our list was sent through, wag food did ask all funded festivals to submit a list of their tradestands and show which were Welsh.

In case any of you are concerned about the time scale, I must just remind you that FOI are allowed to take to 20 days to respond to each question. Please don’t ask me why two festivals get additional funding from the Major Events Unit because even if I could be bothered to ask I doubt the answer would be acceptable to me.

 
 

Gorseinon Food Festival

28 Apr

Happy 5th Birthday Gorseinon Food Festival and what a birthday it was too! Ian and I have been attending this event for many of those five years and the reason for us taking this three hour round trip is that this festival doesn’t just go through the motions each year, each year they wish to improve and that’s just what they do. Head Honcho Bill Sweetman and his team are focused and determined not to rest on their laurels, which is why this year, this festival attracted over 100 stalls. Many of them within a 50 mile radius and everyone of them Welsh. It was a great selection of Welsh food and drink, so well done guys!This year I was determined to have an early start and not miss anything. But the nearer we got to Gorseinon, the sky grew darker, oh dear, a wet day is not what we wanted or needed. As soon as we left the M4 there were clear AA direction signs, what a great start. The first people we met were those volunteers looking after parking and traffic flow, which is certainly not the easiest job to do, but they always manage to do it with efficiency, friendliness and a real, ‘how can we help’ instead of ‘the answer is no, now what was your question!’ There’s also a convenient Park & Ride service which always seems to work well and is certainly welcomed by the people I spoke to.

The festival is held under cover which is so often a bonus in our unpredictable weather and my goodness, as the rain came down as we walked in at 9.30, it was not required. But I did like how this even larger marquee worked as it does create a great atmosphere. When the marquee ran off the tarmac onto grass the team had arranged for wooden flooring to be laid, which worked well and just showed how much  thought is being put into this festival. The larger marquee meant more stands could be accepted and as this festival grows in popularity many new traders were pleased to get a stand. Their successful Cookery Demo was moved across to the permanent  Community building only a few yards away. Whoever came up with that idea desrves more congratulations, it was a genius move as there was also room for a few more stands there too and some lovely comfy seating too!

Gorseinon food festival provides a real family day with plenty for the kids to do so that takes pressure off the parents and gives them time to enjoy the wonderful variety of fresh produce which is literally available on their doorstep.

We had plenty of our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers there. We’d emailed Gorseinon’s stand application to our entire BOW, confident that this festival is a good one and worth attending, so it was great to see so many of them there. Despite the horrendous wet, windy weather, the event was busy. I lost count of the number of circuits I did trying to at least say hello to some of our guys, as many of were far too busy to chat to me – so that IS a good festival. Happy Best Of Welsh producers are just what was needed. Of course some traders said takings were down on last year, but what delighted me was that I did not see any trader sat down behind their stand doing nothing – yippee. Many of them had samples out and once people have stopped to taste it’s down to the traders to clinch a sale. But I do accept that we’ll never, ever, ever get away from some visitors who have decided they’ve paid £3.00 to come in and they must eat at least £3.00 of whatever before they leave! Yes I say ‘whatever’ because some people don’t even ask for example what type of cheese is that before they snaffle a sample! So I do take on board that your samples cost money but I can’t see a solution. Many traders did impress me as they had some good show offers on and really did worked hard to sell them. Running a tradestand is not easy and if you haven’t done that job you really have no idea.

Now back again to Bill Sweetman, organiser extra-ordinaire, who surprised me again as he had even more volunteers, all clearly identifiable in yellow high viz vests, who first thing in the morning went around every tradestand introducing themselves and saying if you need anything, have any problems, tell me and I’ll get them sorted!!!!

There were chairs and some tables in the main marquee, which gave people and chance to have a break, but also the chance to have some delicious hot food, and there was plenty to choose from, in comfort. Although there were plenty of waste bins around I was furious that a lot of people couldn’t be bothered to take their food cartons etc. to them, just what is wrong with these people? How untidy are they? With wag food criteria frightening organisers to bits, there were not many craft stands there, but those that were there were of excellent quality and Welsh! The festival also offered printed up yellow bags which were handed out to those people that required them. Again another nice touch, and a good advert for the festival. There were plenty of flyers all over giving details of entertainment and the cookery demos. There was some great music from Loughor Town Band and The Move and I was pleased to see such a strong link that has been forged with with Gower College.

Despite coming in a 9.30, I just don’t know where the time went and I was keen to see at least one cookery demo. So I was pleased to catch local lad made good, chef Jonathon Woohway who now works in London for the St John Group. He got full marks from me for using local produce from the festival and cooking a lamb’s heart, brave move but one that paid off. He was a great chef and his demo was very popular. I was sat next to a lady writing furiously and hoping to cook his recipe for herself when she got home. I’m sure it’s a job too far, but if there was a way to run off the recipe and method, even just on ordinary paper off a computer, visitors would appreciate that. Why not charge them 10p – 20p per copy and donate funds to a local charity. Sorry, I’m getting carried away now which is what happens to me at such a good festival! Producers were clearly shown on their website too which is another regular moan of mine, then the committee made good use of social media. Brilliant job guys.

It was 4.30 by the time Ian and I walked back to the car to find our car sat in the middle of an enormous pool of water, no need to ask which one of us got wet trying to get in either! However despite spending 7 hours there, neither Ian nor I saw anyone from wag food. We met the Mayor, we met many local councillors and volunteers, but no-one from wag food, which isn’t surprising is it? Maybe some civil food servant managed to get around the festival unnoticed by any of us, or perhaps they were too busy enjoying an extended Easter holiday. Never mind this splendid festival ran well without a wag visit.

It’s pointless for me to return once again to the late notification of food festival funding, I’m getting dizzy going around in circles and wag food either don’t care, or have no wish to listen, which is a pity. I often ask on welshfoodbites why organisers take on a food festival when wag food constantly appear to work against the very festivals they have a responsibility to help. But the reason was clear to see at Gorseinon, and believe me I talked to many, many people from all different sectors, this festival runs for Welsh food producers and for their area, the community of Gorseinon. Well it did the job brilliant and brought many families and friends together and was such a help for our food producers.

Bill please pass on our thanks for a super festival, the team you have gathered together are totally amazing. I’m sorry the weather worked against you, but even that didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of you all, although it certainly gave you a few more challenges that you didn’t need.

 

 

 
 

Action Plan Launch Food & Drinks Industry 2014-20

24 Apr

I shall start this post as I did my last post, I got some news in this morning, needless to say, not from wag food. This one was about the Action Plan for 2014 -2020. Apparently next month this Action Plan is being officially launched in Cardiff. Obviously it is not important to tell the Welsh media so early about this launch at St Davids’ Hotel, but pleased wag’s budgets can run to paying for this venue, they must think that cost effective and value for our tax payers money. Thankfully our Best Of Welsh grapevine is working well, although I was told if I’d had stayed to the end of the fifth meeting I would have been told then. Well now need to defend my corner. Initially I was invited to this 5th meeting, then my invitation was withdrawn. After making a fuss, I was told I could attend providing everyone there knew I was press! Then on signing in wag food got our company name wrong, didn’t bother to alter it when they sent out to everyone a list of attendees! However I did tell wag food we’d be leaving early afternoon to go onto Cardiff for the Countryside Alliance Awards evening but of course I didn’t expect anyone in wag food to update me. That would come under the heading of wag communicating with me ……

I’m sure many of you will be aware of my views of this Action Plan which has been promoted as for Welsh food, with ideas from the industry, not the Welsh Government. Wag food ran 5 meetings but stupidly, again in my view, these were all held during the day. Does wag food seriously think most producers can take time out their working day? Sorry silly question, we know how difficult it is for wag food to think and certainly at micro producer level. But then as that group of producers tell me wag food have never been interested in them, they can’t visualise growth for them with the right support, Welsh food and drink is important to Wales but wag food have no right to dismiss micro food producers.

I’m a cynical journalist, that’s a fact, but as I understand it only 77 ‘people/companies from the food industry submitted their views and comments. Just 77 from an industry that has 14,000 registered businesses and employs 45,000 people. If I’d have been working for wag food, 77 attendees is not something I’d want broadcasting, because it is proof of wag’s complete failure in communicating with the industry they are supposedly working for. I know I go on endlessly about communication, or in wag foods’ case the total lack of it, but I was hoping my water-on-a-stone-technique would work with wag food, but not so far. If I’d been doing the PR for these meetings, I’d sure hope I could have persuaded more to attend, which could easily have been achieved if the meetings had been held at night!!! If I couldn’t obtain e more than 77 responses I’d be asking why? Why isn’t the industry interested? Wag food could have easily got my opinion if they wanted it, which is now even clear to me that they don’t!

The fifth meeting that Ian and I attending was an additional meeting asked for by people attending the other four, well cynical Kath thinks Quango people like meetings! You’ll not be surprised that I was disappointed that my fellow attendees at that final meeting were by and large from Welsh Food Quangos, I only noticed 2-3 food producers. So what does that tell you? Firstly that Wales funds a heck of a lot of food related Quangos, so it doesn’t appear wag foods’ budgets have been chopped too much in that area and secondly, that Quangos can take time away from their desks during the day, unlike food producers.

So that’s the latest news, and many thanks to those of you keeping me updated, it’s good to talk…………………….

 

 

 
 

Update On Food Festival Funding

23 Apr

I got some news in this morning, needless to say not from wag food, which was that some Welsh food festival organisers have had an email giving an amount wag food are offering them for their festival. As far as I’m aware there’s been no information that anyone has received an official funding offer by letter from wag food. Some organisers say it’s a letter they require before they are assured it’s fully official – which seems to be an on going lack of trust between them.

A ‘polite’ way for me to describe this situation is farcical, but there are many other adjectives that are more appropriate to describe how the Welsh Country team are feeling about wag food festivals!

Welsh Country magazine have many sectors that are concerned about wag’ festival funding – organisers, obviously, food producers, of course and also our readers both for Welsh Country magazine and on welshcountry.co.uk. Our M/June issue is on the printing press tomorrow and I’ve been unable to cover many festivals because I don’t know for certain much of what is going ahead. But fret not wag food, you carry on doing what I guess you think is a good job on food festivals and just ignore the rest of us being left in the dark, not knowing what on earth is happening. We lost another festival advert this week because the organisers hadn’t received an official letter confirmation from wag food. But again wag food, that’s not for you to worry about, your salaries will still plop in the bank at the end of the month. Plus, once you have finally handed out your funding offer, it’s not your responsibility to get producers into festivals or to get visitors through the gates. If your current form continues you’ll take little interest in food festivals until European box-ticking has to be completed. This is surely a case of wag food saying ‘I’m alright Jack’

We used to publish a full list of wag funded food festivals in our M/June issue and then follow that up in our J/A, S/Oct and N/Dec with festivals running then. This acted as a reminder to our food producers and also to our readers. A full wag funded food festival listing also ran on welshcountry.co.uk. Anyway that was back in 2008 and 2009 when wag were advertising with us in each issue and so we were happy to support wag food in any way we could. We always promise to give additional support to our advertisers and this 2-way street, does work.

Since 2010 we’ve been fobbed off, or in my view bullied, with the ‘no budget scenario’ and yes, it appears our additional work in 2008-9 was irrelevant. I guess no-one in wag food evaluated what extra work we did for them, which is par for the wag. If you need to guess when welshfoodbites was born – try 2010!

Ian was told officially yesterday that there will be no advertising from wag food for 2014 – quelle surprise, but I think it’s important that you know where things stand here this year between us and wag food. Wag food are responsible for food festivals and part of their criteria is that festivals must market and advertise, but wag are throwing this totally back to organisers, even though wag food are penalising festivals running early. It’s also important that food producers ask each festival about what marketing/advertising programmes are in place before their cheques are sent off. That must be your safe-guard and it’s no good moaning to me when a festival is not working with us.

Losing wag food’s support from 2010 has caused some confusion and queries from our readers. They’re are unaware of the huge problems that still exist with wag food and have been expecting me to cover all festivals as we did in the past, but that’s not viable for Welsh Country and also not fair on festivals that are working with us, so that’s where we now are.

We’re running a business, so it goes without saying that in an ideal Welsh world I’d want all wag funded food festivals to advertise and support us. But the reality is that that’s unlikely to happen. It’s up to organisers to make their decisions, the choices are theirs. Ian’s often told of funded festivals saying they’ve no advertising budget, which could be a fob-off or rather that they’d rather run in their local rag and local radio. Of course we accept their decisions, it’s pointless wasting more time doing anything else, but those festivals have to accept that if they’re not advertising, we’ll not give them any coverage either in Welsh Country magazine or on welshcountry.co.uk. We’re also unlikely to visit them either, but maybe some festivals will find that a blessing as that means they haven’t a hope of getting on welshfoodbites either!!!

But don’t get too down about all this, just remember how often we are told how important Welsh food and drink is to Wales ……………………………………….

P.S.

Spoken to more festivals today and can confirm that others have also had wag’s email offer, but NONE have yet been sent an official letter.

 
 

The Shed – Porthgain, Pembrokeshire

22 Apr

Visitors over Easter gave Ian and I the best excuse we could have to make a late booking for lunch and head over to the beautiful area around Porthgain, Pembrokeshire.  On Good Friday, the weather could not have been better and I haven’t seen that area so busy for a long time.

I must confess that The Shed is one of my favourite places, but I always feel more at ease travelling across when we’ve made a booking. The Shed have their emphasis on fish and chips, but a meat alternative is available, just give them a call. It’s a great menu, with  The Shed catching much of it themselves and it often arrives in their kitchen just after being caught. If you can better that, I’m not sure how. They often have lobster available, but it’s best to order ahead. If in any doubt just pick up the phone.

With views over Porthgain harbour and the Pembrokeshire Coastal path literally on their doorstep, the setting in my view is hard to beat, especially on a sunny day. It’s absolutely ages since we’ve been there, but, as expected, standards have not slipped. As always we got a lovely welcome and our party by and large settled on hake and chips. The quality of fish in their own beer batter, with home-made tartare sauce and super hand cut Pembrokeshire chips, gave us a lunch to relish. Service was spot-on and all the staff were friendly and polite, despite being rushed of their feet as the Bank Holiday sunshine had certainly brought both locals and visitors out in force.

It’s such a relaxed, informal atmosphere at The Shed and so I’ve no hesitation in rating them as one of the best places to chill out in whilst enjoying their fabulous, fresh local food. But don’t just take my word for it, call in if you are in the area and check them out for yourself, I’m sure you’ll not be disappointed.

Visit: www.theshedporthgain.co.uk

 

 
 

Brian Powdrill

14 Apr

Brian Powdrill, one of the founders of the Really Wild Food Festival along with his wife Julia, has sadly lost his battle with cancer.

Kath, Ian and the Welsh Country team are very upset to hear this news. The Really Wild festival has always been a firm favourite of Kath and Ian and that’s down to the hard work, vision, dedication and enthusiasm of this amazing couple.

We shall really miss Brian.   Our thoughts our with Julia and her family.

20th September 1935 – 13th April 2014.

 
 

Food Festival Funding For 2014

11 Apr

I’ve no idea how many times I’ve asked for this listing from the wag food press office, but having chased again on Wednesday, have today received the following response:

We’re aiming for June.

Well that’s useful isn’t it? Wag food are aiming for June, well wowee!!! But with their track record to date, do you know if their ‘aim’ is good or not? I’m sure it is not relevant to wag food that for those of us in the real world, June is halfway through the year.

On a serious level, I can only feel sorry for Welsh food festival organisers, especially those that are running early. I know how some of them are feeling about this situation, because they tell me. They can hardly have-a-go at wag food when they want funding from them can they?  I think this situation is disgraceful and totally unfair and it goes on year after year after year. Wag food don’t deserve the loyal band of organisers that they have. Many of them are volunteers and as much as I love food festivals, I have to ask, is it really worth it worth it for them?  Of course they are doing it for their communities, but the needless stress wag food put them under is beyond my comprehension.

But don’t forget that wag food say Welsh food and drink is important to them and Wales.

There surely is no doubt

But don’t forget that wag food say Welsh food and drink is important to them and to Wales!!

There surely is no doubt that you couldn’t run a business like this…………………………………

P.S  

I’ve now had the following revelation from the press office – apparently their response to me is correct, the list will be available in June – no date given of course, because that would come under being helpful. But as in previous years, food festivals organisers  will be told ahead of this.

I have never been told wag food when they’ll be informing the festival organisers, because again, that would come under the banner of wag food being helpful to me wouldn’t it? I’ve just spent a great deal of time, once again this year, trying to get some basic information, information that people are asking about. I didn’t realise when talking to organisers that I should have thought to ask them when they were told by wag of their funding – well silly me. But this year a couple of organisers  have told me they’ve been given different dates by wag food when they be notified about funding. So once again this food festival funding is as clear as mud. Who cares? Well not the press office and seemingly not wag food either – this is such a waste of everyone’s time.

I’m fed-up of saying that we are trying to help wag food, that message has not got through. In the big scheme of things, it really doesn’t concern our business when the food festival list comes out, because I’m not and would not run food festival. However it matters to our organisers and to our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers and we promise them all we’ll support them. Stupidly, I didn’t realise when making that promise, how difficult it would be with wag food’s lack of communication and being forced to go through the press office.

I’ve also been told, again by an organiser, that there is an unofficial copy of Wavehill’s 2013 food festival evaluation in circulation. However I’ve also been told by the press office that this report will not go on their website until end of April. Well if you’ll excuse my saying, it looks like there’s a ‘mole’ in wag food as well as in Welsh Country – but sadly this wag mole hasn’t bothered to send a copy to me. In fact I’ve not had information sent in brown envelopes for some time, though I’m not sure why.

I’ll say again you could NOT run a business like this……………………………

 

 

 

 

 
 

Cancellation Of The Really Wild Festival

10 Apr

Sorry to be the bearer of such sad news. Our thoughts are with Julia, the family and all the Really Wild team. 

Follows is the statement sent to trade stands from the festival: 

It is with regret that we are emailing to let you know that the Really Wild Festival to be held 24th& 25th May 2014 in St Davids has been cancelled.

Brian Powdrill has almost lost his battle with cancer and we, the Directors, feel that it is impossible for Julia to continue to organise the Festival and nurse Brian. With the best will in the world Julia has continued because she is so passionate about the event, but even with the fantastic assistance of Ali Belton and Diane Corbett we have decided not to run it this year and have taken the unprecedented step of cancelling.

Julia and Brian founded and set up the Really Wild Festival with a lot of their own funds 10 years ago to enable local producers this far west to show off their wonderful products. Together they have been a successful and hard-working team and it is very much against Julia’s wishes that we have taken this decision on this occasion.

We can only apologise for all the inconvenience and disruption that we know this information will inevitably cause you and hope you will understand. Your application fees will be returned in full by 25th April.

 

 
 

Supply Chain Efficiencies Scheme

07 Apr

Regular readers will know my views on this scheme and in particular the Fork2Fork Project. Knowing their 12 month extension, valued at £100k, was due the end on 31st March, I thought I’d do a final check and sent the following questions through:

1. We are assuming the fork2fork project, including their extension is now completed?

2. As the fork2fork database has been funded by public money, may we ask whose property this is now and is it accessible to others within the world of Welsh Food?

3. We’d also like to know what happens now to the trailer purchased under SCES. Does that now become their property?

1. All Supply Chain Efficiencies Scheme and Knowledge Transfer Scheme projects, including Fork2Fork, have been invited to submit proposals for additional work over the coming year. No decision has yet been taken about these proposals.

2. As the creators of the database, it now belongs to FBA – this is inline with UK legislation.

3. FBA purchased the trailer.

1. Well dear readers isn’t this interesting? It appears once Welsh companies are on the SCES/ European gravy train, they don’t get bumped off, instead they are allowed to offer further suggestions on how to spend the second or third tranch of European money that has just been allocated to Wales. Does that mean that any new projects that go ahead, along with the accompanying box-ticking are not up for tender? Or if these projects are then put up for tender, does that mean that companies being asked to send ideas in now sending in are destined to get their projects after the tendering process?

2. How in the real world, can that database now ‘belong’ to FBA? FBA as a company DID NOT pay for this, Europe did as part of their £800k donation to FBA for a 2 year project. But now seemingly through SCES it now belongs to FBA. Have wag food been given a copy? Why aren’t other interested parties offered a copy? I strongly object to this answer.

3. As above. As a final thought though, I have yet to talk to anyone who has actually seen this trailer, but perhaps you have……………………………………………………………….

 
 

Sosban Restaurant, Llanelli

03 Apr

I’ve heard many good reports of this restaurant, but my cynical journalistic head wants me to see for myself, which is what Ian and I did on Saturday. The sun was shining and all I can say it was well worth the drive and this is another that goes on my Kath’s Coffee favourites.

The staff were preparing for a charity luncheon, but despite being busy we were given a lovely welcome and wonderful coffee in the most beautiful surroundings. The restaurant is situated by the waterside in Llanelli and is dominated by a 90ft stone tower which certainly made them easy to find. The building a former church was been beautifully converted and I could have sat there for hours. There is lots of space outside and in the warm weather will be the perfect place to eat and relax with friends and family. Of course we couldn’t resist browsing the food menu and that was just up my street with them using the best produce that the area has to offer. They serve good, honest local food with that touch of finesse. Their wine list was also extensive and remarkable

If you are in the area, please do pay them a visit, I am sure you will be as impressed as Ian and I were. AA Restaurant of the Year, Wales 2012-2013 is amazing!!!