Archive for May, 2014

WCM Wag Invite Lost In The Post???

28 May

Too busy to post yesterday, so belated thanks to one of our very helpful Best Of Welsh & Border producers, BOW, who rang in on Tuesday to check that we’d received our invitation to the official launch of the Action Plan Food & Drinks Industry for 2014-20. Well what a surprise dear readers to inform our BOW person that we hadn’t been invited and still haven’t.

Maybe our invite has got lost in the post, or maybe wag food forgot to release their delivery pigeon that should have headed to Welsh Country magazine at Aberbanc. Or maybe wag food have chosen to continue to ignore us in the hope we’ll go away, or maybe if we are being honest they simply don’t want us there – which was the feeling we got at the 5th meeting too!

I’m no longer interested if wag food come up with some excuse as to why we’ve not been invited. If this BOW producer has been invited then surely so should we. Welsh Country magazine sent through a full report on their proposed plan, we also attended, at least in part, the fifth ‘Quango’ meeting. Yet after all that work, time and effort and all at our cost, it seems that was insufficient to warrant an invite. That of course is despite the fact that wag food are saying that this food plan is for the industry, from the industry and will be led by the industry. Yes that’s what they are saying, so it’s no longer a surprise to us that this is more government food spin. My take on this, if the 5th meeting was anything to go by, was that the meeting was totally dominated by Welsh funded Government Quangos. Quangos that are paid from the public purse and seem to specialise in meetings, especially those held during the day. Of course the government are going to give a huge focus of their time and budgets on large companies, but I’m certain they’ll continue to ignore the micro/small businesses as they always have done. They ignore the fact that some micro businesses need help and guidance to grow and there’s every chance, given that guidance that many of these businesses could take on one member of staff and give them training, which would be an all round help on employment figures and for the companies too. But I cannot see that happening as there are no Radio or TV sound bites for the Alun Davies, Food Minister to grasp and no photo opportunities for ribbon cutting either, so a real no-winner there for this ignored sector of the Welsh food market.

Thinking about it though, I guess wag food could have invited Welsh Country Foods as that’s what Welsh Country magazine was down as on wag foods invitation list. Of course we pointed that out to them, but wag food being wag food it wasn’t altered and the list of attendees that went out showed Welsh Country Foods not Welsh Country magazine. It was just too big a job to alter it and get things factually correct!

To keep everyone up to speed follows is the original post, which was posted on 24th April:

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…………………….




Food Festival Evaluation Report 2013

23 May

Well at long last, the outsiders, that’s us on the outside of the government circle, have been allowed to have access to the words of wisdom, which were put together by CLES/Wavehill who were awarded the tender by wag food at a cost of £27,800 ex vat.

For me, the important question is why was this evaluation report commissioned? Well it isn’t, as you might think, to help, assist and guide the organisers to provide better festivals for our Welsh food and drink producers. Oh no, that would be too obvious. This report is first and foremost for wag to send through to Europe to show that they’ve obediently ticked all Europe’s boxes and have been really good boys – go to the top of the class wag.

I get cross with some producers I’ve spoken to when they dismiss Europe. Although they now sadly accept that wag waste much money whether it be from the UK or from Europe, they realise they’ve no hope of changing wag food. What they tend to forget is that Europe is only returning part of the money that we, as tax payers, send to Europe. The fact that wag have often failed to make good use of the European grants that come into Wales, is hardly Europe’s fault, but there seems little we can do to ensure that Wales gets value for taxpayers’ money.

I’m not convinced that this report is much help to our hard pressed organisers or producers, or me come to that.

When this tender was awarded, I was told that Wavehill were to be working from paperwork sent into wag and telephone interviews between them and the organisers and producers. But scanning this report it appears that Wavehill attended just 7 of the 32 festivals wag funded in 2013. I don’t understand this. At the 7 festivals they attended they spoke to just 542 people. But why attend just 7 and not all 32 festivals that wag supported? How is that fair? However get to Page 14 out of 44 pages* and I’m informed that Wavehill were ‘asked to visit a sample of festivals’. Next question is why did they choose those seven? One problem seems to be that although the funded festivals kicked off in April, wag didn’t award the tender until June 2013. But why didn’t wag do that sooner? Could it be that wag had forgotten that their funded festivals started in April? Or were they just too busy to organise a tender?

Festivals have been funded from wag core funding, but during 2009 – 2012 wag secured funding through the Supply Chain Efficiency Scheme, (SCES) through the Rural Development Plan. Then in 2013, funding was back with wag core funding with wag placing emphasis, on what they’d been telling me for four years or more, that food festivals should be sustainable. Not sure, officially anyway when the sustainable button was hit but it sure wasn’t during 2009-12. But it’s ironic isn’t it that during the SCES years, when for example, Abergavenny went from £37,360, on 2008/9 to £50,435 in 2009/10 to £52,200 in 2010/11 – sustainable, don’t make me laugh. For the record, Abergavenny also got funding for their Christmas Fair too which went from £3,840 in 2008/9 to £5,093.13 for 09/10 and 10/11. I wonder who can clarify for me why, according to wag’s funding list for 2014, Abergavenny Christmas Fair now gets £7,500? How can that be if wag is serious about food festivals being sustainable? It appears to me that wag’s criteria or threat of being sustainable is not applicable to all their funded festivals? Unless my sums are wrong, it would appear wag prefer some festivals than others.

Of the 32 festivals awarded funding; only 30 went ahead. But with continued tightening of some wag budgets, organisers were asked what would happen with they had no wag funding. 35% felt that they’d either cancel their event or scale it down which is a worrying thought.

As in 2012, wag again issued various criteria, max £10k, food must be the core, Welsh food and drink forming at least 75% of total exhibitors and no less than 25 Welsh food and drink producers to be eligible for support and only specific elements eligible for wag funding. I feel there is some greyness of criteria here as in 2014, this has been clarified by saying that food should be the core and that food should 80% of all stands of which 75% of the food stands should be Welsh. Exhibitor lists were taken all food festivals and the report identified an estimated 971 different ‘organisations’ represented at the 30 festivals. No idea what ‘organisations’ means, I thought we were talking about food producers, but perhaps not!

The seven festivals attended by Wavehill were St Fagan’s, Abergavenny, Mold, Narbeth, Newport, Conwy, and Hay Winter festival. Wavehill reported customers spent £20.00 per head, which I find hard to believe. Over the years I’ve spent a lot of time, at a lot of festivals and you only need to check the number of bags people are carrying, let alone the cost of the contents to wonder if these ‘average spend’ figures mean anything at all. In my experience, being approached by anyone with a clipboard or iPad is daunting, with many simply wanting to escape ASAP and offer answers they think are required to make their  experience less painful. Whilst we are talking financials, I must say that I do not accept, for similar reasons, the figures producers are supposed to take at each event. This is private, personal information and in nine years I’ve only spoken to one food producer who fills in their evaluation form honestly. Yes just the one. Are the interviewers going to reveal their salary or the salaries of those civil servants working in wag food? Of course they are not. So not impressed at all with the figures, but I’m sure the Minister Alun Davies will relish them and he’ll be able to churn them out at us for the next twelve months.

One point the report did make was the lateness of wag sending out the application forms and the pressure it put the festivals under. Well done for doing that Wavehill and as wag have paid you to feedback to them, maybe, just maybe wag food will take notice, although everyone is aware we’ve been saying that for years. I did note that the report stated that some festivals had newly established businesses of a small scale, and assumed that their presence at the festival assumed a desire for growth. Well not necessarily so, unless you asked if these people were full-time producers, or doing festivals at weekends for cash, and helping the growing black economy. Then on Page 41 I’m told there’s a desire within the Welsh Government for festivals securing funding to promote opportunities for new business to test trade – well this is worthy but it’s difficult for organisers to ascertain from application forms if the trader is professional or as we call them pin-money producers working weekends for cash.    

Trawling through the report, Wavehill had picked up about the north Wales organisers organising a food festival organisers’ conference, but no mention of the fact that up to 2012 wag had done this themselves. But guess that would come under biting the hand that was feeding you wouldn’t it? It was also commented about clash of local festival dates, but this is hardly news, when it’s something we’ve again been saying for years. Why for instance did wag approve funding for Brecon, Neath and Newport all run on the same day in 2013? Brecon has been long established but wag then decide they can fund another two festivals on the same day. What’s wrong in saying if you want funding you must change your date to avoid hampering Brecon? Is it because Brecon is not one of wag’s favoured festivals? It has not been common practice for organisers to work together and help each other, even when they are in the same area, but wag aren’t helping putting local festivals against one another. How is that helping Welsh food, Welsh food producers or festival organisers? Festival co-operation should be focused on because surely some savings could be made in say for example hiring tentage etc.

I was not aware until recently that organisers had to send list of exhibitors for the festival to the wag 14 days prior to their event. But if that’s the case, why isn’t that list of exhibitors then put up on their websites? That isn’t a problem with all festivals but it is with far too many. But who notices or in fact who cares? Well I do, because if any of our Best Of Welsh & Border producers are attending I want them to get as much publicity as possible. Plus if I’m attending, I too want to know who is going to be there. But this has been happening for years and wag have not sorted it out.

Another part that made me chuckle is that organisers have to send in a post event report and the first on their list is footfall. That question cannot apply to all festivals as some still don’t or can’t charge and entrance fee. Hay and Brecon are held in towns and no way can anyone can say how many attended. Get to Page 33 and this is then mentioned about town festivals – so a little confusing. It’s only the producers who can say a festival is viable for them or not. Plenty of people through does not guarantee they’ll be spending their money. However if organisers have got the people there, it’s down to the producers to sell to them!

What I found totalling annoying was some festival organisers had given quotes, but the quotes were not credited or organisers named.  So I cannot see the point in doing that because unless you happen to visit many Welsh food festivals and know for instance that children’s day on a Friday relates to Narbeth it’s pointless doing that or including it in this report. It’s just not interesting reading for me. If you’re getting quotes, name the people or don’t bother.

I’m unaware if all or any of wag’s 30 funded food festivals had an individual report sent to them, stating how it was felt their festival could progress. But in my view this is what it is all about. What’s the point if this has not happened? Oops sorry of course, I’ve forgotten, wag food needs to tick boxes more than helped festivals improve………………………

Please do read this report yourself and let me know how you feel about it.

* This report would not be so long and off-putting for us busy people to trawl through if so much information was not repeated and repeated and repeated ……………….


Food Festival Funding 2014

16 May

Funded food festival list from wag.

20th April Broneirion Food Fair, Llandinam


26th April Gorseinon-Swansea Food Festival


10th May Caerphilly Food Festival


17-18th May Wrexham Food Festival Guild Hall


23-26th May Welsh Perry & Cider Festival


14th June Gwyl Fwyd Castell Newydd Emlyn Centre


28th June Hay Summer Food Festival


11-13th July Cardiff International Food & Drink Festival


13th July Cardigan Bay Seafood Festival


26th July Lampeter Food Festival Lampeter


2-3rd August Big Welsh Bite Rhondda


16th August Cardigan River & Food Festival


6-7th Sept Newtown Food & Drink Festival


6-7th Sept St Fagans Food Festival


20-21st Sept Abergavenny Food Festival


20-21st Sept Mold Food Festival


26-27th Sept Feastival Bridgend


28-28th Sept Narberth Food Festival Narberth


3-4th Oct Neath Food & Drink Festival


4th Oct Brecon Beacons Food Festival


4th Oct Newport Food Festival


11-12th Oct The Anglesey Oyster & Welsh Produce Festival


18-19th Oct Llangollen Food Festival


23-27th Oct Mumbles Oyster Festival


25-26th Oct Gwledd Conwy Feast


29th Nov Hay Winter Food Festival


5th – 7th Dec Gwyl Fwyd a Chrefft Portmeirion


14th Dec Abergavenny Christmas Food & Drink Fair


Wag this year have only funded 28 festivals and as you’ll have already read on a previous post, funding has been cut – again. But never mind the Minister, Alun Davies,  is still saying or spinning, he’s for Welsh food and drink – well that’s good to hear but I’ve yet to believe it.

I’m not sure how much paperwork is entailed when a festival has been finished for the organiser and the committee, but as this is for wag food to tick more European boxes then it will be a fair amount, that’s for sure. But if I’d only been offered £1,899 or £1,746 I’d be so tempted to look for funding and support from elsewhere, bearing in mind wag food insists on recycling, and everything  bi-lingual, which of course doubles print costs. and so it goes on. Food festival organisers are stuck between a rock and a hard place, but what in my mind is most hurtful is that there’s really no genuine support for them, bearing in mind that many of these super people are volunteers.

I expected, as in previous years, that I’d be sent from wag food a full list of food festivals, including the dates, the amount offered and also the amount asked for. Well, as you are aware wag food cannot communicate to me by email or telephone, but this year it has taken many, many emails to get as much information as is posted above. The missing link is how much festivals asked for and if any festivals applied and were turned down. But to get that info I’ve had to do yet another Freedom Of Information question and to wait for 20 days for a response. Now who said things were improving in wag food under the new regime? Oh yes, I remember, it was a member of the wag food team…………………………….what a surprise ………………………………………



Food Festival Evaluation Report 2013

16 May

Regular readers will know that I’ve been constantly chasing and questioning the press office when this Wavehill report will be available. Early this week I contacted the press office to be told it would be available ‘shortly’. I’ve also been constantly chasing and questioning the press office for so long it is pathetic, this lack of co-operation and helpfulness.

I asked the press office again today at 12.57 when they’ll actually supply the dates the funded festivals are taking place and the amounts they’ve been offered. Well I was then sent a link that gave me the festival dates and the amounts offered early this afternoon, which was dated today. I printed off a copy then later went back onto their site and was flabbergasted to see that under the pdf for the list of festivals, guess what? There was the Wavehill evaluation report……………………….117 pages of it. I haven’t the time to read it but sure sometime I will. It is though important you all know it’s there and let me know what you think should any of you wish for some send yourself-to-sleep bedtime reading.

Obviously the press office are too busy, or maybe just unconcerned to send me a copy. Is the press office there to help me? It certainly doesn’t seem to be. I cannot understand their thinking when a journalist has been asking and asking WHEN this report will be available and has constantly been fobbed off, with ‘soon and ‘shortly’ that when they do get it, they can’t be bothered to send it to me or at least tell me off their own bat that it’s now available.

This report has cost us £27,800 plus VAT so do let me know if you think it was worth it.

Communication is still the key ……

But it would be easier for me to give up wouldn’t it?


Latest Food Festival Rumour

15 May

The latest rumour into our office today has come from a good source, but cannot be certain it’s true. Normally my course of action would be to talk to wag food directly but I’m not allowed to do that. I have to go to the press office and as have such a list of unanswered questions in with them I actually can’t be bothered to send through another one – sorry!

The rumour is that next year food festivals that apply for funding will be allocated for three years – 2015, 2016 and 2017. It’s one of many, many issue we’ve raised for far too many years, but maybe someone, somewhere has listened which could easily be a first! Of course I’ve no details about what happens to new festivals that crop up in that three year period or if festivals restricted to the same £10k limit. What wag’s criteria will be or how food festivals will be evaluated. It’s also a puzzle how wag food can plan and allocate money for three years hence, when once again this year we couldn’t get details of funded festivals as supposedly this budget hadn’t been approved. On the very outside of wag it just appears a case of wags left hand & right hand not knowing what they are doing, but there we are, we no longer expect changes for the better. How, in practice, some budgets are known three years ahead, is confusing, but as to how that works I’ll never find out.

If this rumour is true, please don’t ask me why wag food couldn’t be bothered to tell me of their latest three year plan. Let’s face it that would come under the banner of communication wouldn’t it? Perhaps, unbeknown to me, there’s a mass of Welsh media out there who are as passionate and interested in Welsh food as Welsh Country magazine is and they’ve decided to keep it a secret – again. I very much doubt other Welsh media works even 10% as hard as we do for Welsh food, but my view remains unchanged, wag food aren’t that bothered in promotion or marketing, otherwise they could communicate to me through their press office. Perhaps wag food are silly enough to think that I will not be interested in this news. Perhaps though they haven’t even given it a thought. But why not? Simple, because it doesn’t bother them one way or another that this will at least take some pressure off our food festival organisers and it will help our Welsh food and drink producers.

Wag food cannot talk to me by phone or email, but in the future should any wag food personnel ever give me one of their business cards I shall tear it up in front of them and then decide where to put it! Suggestions on a postcard please……….

Please don’t hold you breath for an update on this rumour. As it’s only supposedly coming into effect next year, guess it could be at least 12 months or more before wag food confirm or deny this rumour.

You sure couldn’t run a business like this – unless you were propped up with wag funding!!

Communication is the key, but that message still hasn’t got through to wag food.


Further Delays On Food Festival Evaluation Report

13 May

Sorry to bore you with yet another post about the food festival evaluation report once again, but I’m still getting asked why I haven’t sent this report to our Best Of Welsh & Border, (BOW), producers. Well I thought you knew me better than that, but do apologise if I’ve not made it clear. Here’s how we work. Anything food related that comes into Welsh Country, by whatever means, will always be emailed around our BOW. The fact is we get very few press releases in from wag food and certainly no news comes in from them. It appears it’s down to me to keep asking wag food, via the press office questions. Then I might, sometime, get answers!! Best advice there is not to hold my breath whilst waiting…..

But let me return to the gist of this post. I’ve still not received a copy of the CLES/Wavehill Food Festival Evaluation Report which the Welsh Government requested these two companies to undertake. I’ve certainly lost count of the number of times I’ve asked the press office for this report, and don’t forget I’m not allowed to talk to the wag food department directly, but the press office have constantly fobbed me off. Why who knows, I’m certainly not told why. So after returning from working at Badminton Horse Trials over the last four days, I contacted the press office once more, to be told yet again: It is not available, yet but we hope it will be shortly.

Who knows what ‘shortly’ means? Well to me it means absolutely nothing apart from feeling fobbed off yet again. The press office have been telling me ‘shortly’ for weeks. So are the press office being helpful? No. Do they really care about helping me? Well from where I’m sitting I think that answer is crystal clear! Do they think I’ve nothing better to do? Without a doubt!

However I do think that now we are virtually in the middle of May, this report is purely for government purposes, it allows them to tick their many boxes for Europe. The Minister Alun Davies can extract some food facts, be they true or relevant or not and spin us another food story about wonderful Welsh food and drink. The fact that organisers of last year’s funded food festivals have no idea whatsoever what this long awaited report says about their festival. For the early ones especially, any developments or upgrading they have done have been done off their own bat. So it is apparent that this food festival report is certainly not an advantage or assistance to food festivals, unless perhaps they are running in late summer!

After nine years beating one of my many food drums for wag food to back and support our food festival organisers and therefore our producers, I’m getting absolutely nowhere. But why is this? Is it because wag food think they are doing such a good job? Is it down the Minister? Is it because the government’s priority is ticking boxes so they can keep upping their money from Europe? Is it because food festivals by and large support mainly smaller producers and wag food have never been really interested in micro producers? Is my only choice now to go directly to Europe?

Answers on a postcard please or simply post your views whenever you have time……………………


Welsh Food Festivals Take Another Hit On Funding

06 May

The Minister for Natural Resources and Food, Alun Davies has announced over £184,000 to support food and drink festivals across Wales and strengthen the nation’s reputation as a producer of high quality food. 

The funding will help showcase the best of Welsh food and drink to people living in and visiting Wales by supporting 28 festivals taking place across the country this year. Festivals set to benefit from funding include the Mumbles Oyster Festival, the Christmas Food & Drink Fair in Abergavenny and the Llangollen Food Festival.

 The support, of up to £10,000 per festival, will help raise the profile of the high quality food and drink Wales has to offer and develop the country’s growing food culture.

Alun Davies said: “Food festivals are an excellent way of showcasing the best produce Wales has to offer and can help small, local food producers increase their customers and strengthen their business. Food festivals also attract thousands of people into the hearts of our towns and villages, providing a welcome boost to local businesses and the rural economy. I am therefore delighted to announce over £184,000 to support 28 food and drink festivals across Wales this year.”

The Welsh Government is committed to increasing the profile and reputation of Welsh food and the Minister will launch his new action plan for the Welsh food and drinks industry this spring.

He added: “High quality, distinctive food is a central part of our culture here in Wales and I am determined to help develop this culture to help our food and drinks industry thrive. That is why I am launching a new action plan this spring that seeks to increase the profile and reputation of Welsh food and drink and deliver a 30% increase in the sector’s turnover by 2020.”

The festivals offered Welsh Government funding are listed below:

Abergavenny Christmas Food & Drink Fair, Abergavenny Town Centre

Abergavenny Food Festival, Abergavenny Town Centre

Big Welsh Bite, Rhondda Heritage Park

Brecon Beacons Food Festival, Brecon Market Hall

Broneirion Food Fair, Broneirion, Llandinam

Caerphilly Food Festival, Caerphilly Town Centre

Cardiff International Food & Drink Festival, Cardiff Bay

Cardigan Bay Seafood Festival, Aberaeron

Cardigan River & Food Festival, Quay St Carpark, Cardigan

Feastival, Bridgend Town Centre

Gorseinon-Swansea Food Festival, Gorseinon Centre

Gwledd Conwy Feast, Conwy Town and Harbour

Gwyl Fwyd a Chrefft Portmeirion, Portmeirion Village

Gwyl Fwyd Castell Newydd Emlyn, Newcastle Emlyn Town Centre

Hay Summer Food Festival, Hay Town Centre

Hay Winter Food Festival, Hay Town Centre

Lampeter Food Festival, Trinity St Davids, Lampeter

Llangollen Food Festival, Llangollen International Pavilion

Mold Food Festival, Mold Town Centre

Mumbles Oyster Festival, Mumbles Promenade & Village

Narberth Food Festival, Narberth

Neath Food & Drink Festival, Neath Town Centre

Newport Food Festival, Newport Town Centre

Newtown Food & Drink Festival, Newtown

St Fagans Food Festival, St Fagans

The Anglesey Oyster & Welsh Produce Festival, Trearddur Bay, Anglesey

Welsh Perry & Cider Festival & Championships, Caldicot Castle, Monmouth

Wrexham Food Festival, Guild Hall, Wrexham

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve asked for the food festival list of funding for this year. Anyway it finally arrived on Friday afternoon but not only was it Embargoed until 5th May 00.01 am – yes folks, embargoed until Bank Holiday Monday. There were no figures showing the amount of funding festivals asked for or the amount they have been offered, neither did it show the dates they were running either!!! What a useful press release. I think not! Worth the wait? Hardly.

With no other option, I went back to the press office asking for answers to my queries, to be told: A full list will be available on the website shortly that will include the amounts awarded to the festival organisers. If you require additional information then this would need to be formally handled through the FOI process. (Freedom Of Information question).

Thank goodness I’ve nothing better to do than do than yet another food FOI. It has come as rather a shock, in that after many, many years in journalism, that this press office doesn’t appear to want to help. Perhaps they’d like me if I stopped asking questions, now that’s a thought. So despite being told by wag food that I have to deal with their press office, I’m getting nowhere and nowhere fast, that’s for sure.  So it’s another FOI and another delay as I have to wait a further 20 days for this information. By the end of May I should know………………

I still insist that communication is the key, but sadly that message hasn’t been accepted by wag food or the press team.

What is also absent from Minister Alun Davies’ press release was that there no explanation as to how many, if any, food festivals applied and were turned down for funding. Of course no mention was made whilst Minister Davies was blowing his – I support Welsh food trumpet – that last year, 32 festivals were funding to the tune of over £210,000 but this year he’s reduced that budget to just over £184,000 which supports only 28 festivals. ( In 2012 33 festivals were supported to the tune of £339,281,121). That doesn’t make sense to me when in his next breath he’s expecting 30% growth in food turnover by 2020. I’m assuming he’s got his foreign food trips booked to get his food growth from abroad as he certainly appears to be strangling home growth and especially the micro food producers. Of course Minister Davies then spins again as to how important food festivals are in showcasing the best produce Wales has to offer – well if Welsh food is that important, why is the food festival budget always being slashed? Minister Davies also tells us that festivals can help small, local food producers can increase their customers and strengthen their business. Well that’s very true Minister Davies, but that’s only going to happen if our producers can get accepted into those food festivals which many have supported since they started. But that is not the case. My feedback so far says that loyal Welsh producers have been thrown out of St Fagan’s, even those that went there in its first poor year. These discarded producers now have to travel into Cheshire to find a festival to attend as they are unwanted in St Fagan’s.

I’m sure these problems, which you will no doubt discount as trivial, will pass over your head and that of your food department, because quite simply it will not affect your livelihood.  



2013 Food Festival Evaluation Report

02 May

I thought I’d made it clear, but seemingly I haven’t, so my apologies. I’m still being asked for a copy of this report which was requested by wag of CLES/Wavehill for last year’s festivals. This is another occasion when I’ve asked the press office so many times when it will be available and got nowhere!

I asked yet again on  28th April and was told: It is not available yet but is in the process of being finalised so should be available on the website soon.

I went back once more, for civil service definition of ‘soon’ and was then was told that the press office: will try and let me know when it’s published. Or if I want to, email them again in about 2 weeks?  

Well that’s a huge amount of help isn’t it? Of course I’ve nothing else worthwhile to do but keep chasing the press office for information which I think should have been out in the public domain months ago, but that means nothing at all to wag food.

Anyway when we do eventually get this evaluation report it will be emailed around our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers. Those of you that are with us on Best Of Welsh know that we keep you updated with as much information as  we can extricate from wag food. I appreciate it’s not much, but you also know by now that wag food do not wish to communicate to food producers about what’s happening in their industry. Their onus appears to be waste as much of Kath’s time as we can, make her life as difficult as we can and then if we really have to give her some answers she’ll circulate them and we then don’t have to bother!

There have been rumours that there is a rogue copy of this evaluation report in circulation, but it has certainly not been sent here in a brown envelope with childish hand writing as other interesting wag food information has been. Great pity that. But what will be an even greater shame is when we do eventually get this report, if it’s not worth the paper that it’s printed on…………………………

Perhaps this delay is because we’ve to wait until Minister Alun Davies launches hi new action plan, that doesn’t make sense to me, but then I’m not a civil servant so it doesn’t have to!!!