This Is A First Folks………………..

04 Sep

Refused press tickets to a Welsh food festival!

I applied yesterday for press tickets for Abergavenny Food Festival an event that we’ve attended and covered in Welsh Country magazine and on welshfoodbites for at least the last nine years. This morning I received a reply from an Abergavenny spokesperson, which I’ll share with you:

This year we have undertaken a review of all the complimentary tickets we give out to various people and organisations. We have done this as part of our continued efforts to become financially self-sustainable. For this reason we are not able to offer you complimentary press passes this year. 

So this really is a first, the first occasion I’ve been refused press tickets to any Welsh food festival since Welsh Country started in 2005. However should Abergavenny ever become financially self-sustainable, which wag food have been telling me for the last nine years, that’s what food festivals have to do, then I shall be the first to applaud them. Whether refusing press accreditation and press passes is a sensible move to achieve Abergavenny’s self-sustainability, I shall leave to you to decide………..

After last year’s event, off my own bat, I submitted to wag food a full list of Abergavenny exhibitors, which highlighted the fact that Abergavenny didn’t fulfil wag food’s criteria of 75% Welsh producers. Unsurprisingly I didn’t get a response from wag food, but I was later told by an organiser that wag food had asked all organisers to send into them a list of exhibitors and where they came from, that attended their festival. Later I followed this up with an FOI Number 8331, which was posted welshfoodbites on 28th April. It revealed that Abergavenny Food Festival had to repay to wag food £2k from their £10k grant for failing to meet wag’s criteria they also have to refund for their Christmas festival too. So did my action have anything to do with my being refused press tickets this year? If that’s the case it seems rather petty, but if wag were doing their job properly they’d have known this festival along with a few others was ignoring their 75% Welsh stand criteria. I’m not ‘various people’, I’m not ‘an organisation’, just an editor/journalist whose publication Welsh Country is very strong on Welsh food. A lack of Welsh producers has been a problem at Abergavenny for many years.  Surely there is an obligation if you are accepting wag funding, regardless of their criteria, that Welsh stands should have priority. As wag food don’t speak to me it’s surely perfectly obvious that I have nothing to do with the criteria they come up with, but if wag are paying, it’s down to the organisers to follow all wag criteria, not just the ones they are happy to follow. If more people like me believed food festivals were firstly for our food producers, our food producers would not have as many complaints about them, year after year. Of course we have some brilliant festivals, that are always improving. Perhaps I’m greedy wanting more top class festivals, but so do our producers and so should wag food and that shouldn’t be wrong should it?

If a food festival doesn’t receive funding from wag food, then it is totally up to that food festival how they run their festival. The percentage of Welsh food producers would be totally irrelevant as it’s down to the organiser to decide how they want their festival to run. But if a food festival receives wag funding then I will stand up for Welsh producers who have  no say as to whether they can get into a festival or not. Can you imagine the French or Irish governments funding food festivals and allowing this scenario to happen?  I’m not a nationalist in the political sense, but I’m aware of the situation across Europe,  the ending of milk quotas and the effect this is already having on Welsh producers, is hideous and could get even deeper.  I make no apologies for standing up for our Best Of Welsh & Border producers. If the wag food department and all Welsh food festivals did just that, then these pathetic situations would not keep recurring.  If wag food and now festival organisers want to shoot me as the messenger, then carry on doing so. I’d actually prefer grown-up behaviour and get food festivals to improve, just stop rejecting bona-fide Welsh producers at Welsh food festivals. It makes blood boil when this happens time and time again and those poor producers have no recourse whatsoever. Their explanation ‘we’re oversubscribed is a great fob off and woe betide any producer that follows through and asks why is it me left out?  But shooting the messenger is now getting rather boring and it’s achieving nothing to improve Welsh food and drink or the lot of our food producers – they and they alone should be our priority.

I’ve no idea which of our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers, (BOW) have been accepted this year at Abergavenny. But I’ve already had a complaint about one BOW who was not allowed in Abergavenny this year. But to save time and work I’ll send this email from Abergavenny around our BOW and then they’ll understand why we’ll not be there seeing how they are getting on.

What a very sad and pathetic situation this is.


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  1. producer

    September 5, 2014 at 8:47 am

    The Welsh food industry has gone mad.
    There are many food festivals that do not put Welsh producers first, but the top of the heap and always has been is Abergavenny. They are too big for their boots and so off-hand and rude to many Welsh producers. I agree with Kath don’t take Welsh funding and do whatever you like.
    In the past Abergavenny has had £40k – £50k per festival and still not allowed Welsh producers in.
    Now they’ve had a reality check and had to pay back some money but only because they bent the rules and finally been caught out – just what you deserved.
    If wag food did their work properly and did not rely on organisers filling their forms in, often incorrectly, this would not have gone on, with tax payers and producers being cheated on. If those being paid well to evaluate food festivals did their work well, they too would have picked up these errors. But maybe there was no box for them to tick to count Welsh stands.
    Abergavenny are refusing Kath and Ian press tickets with the excuse that they have only now got the message they should be self-funding. Abergavenny should have been able to be self-funding year’s ago with all the money you’ve had. To be so petty to a WELSH publication is despicable. You turning down English titles too?
    Yes I’m angry, not just for Kath, but because once again I’ve been refused a trade stand, but they’ve still got lots of English stands accepted.
    MAYBE this year wag you can check this out for yourself IN PERSON – and not rely of Abergavenny’s paperwork or even their list of tradestands on their website. Or maybe Wavehill can actually earn their money by doing that job for you.
    Who thought 12 months on this food situation would get worse?
    Sorry Kath that this has happened to you must be fed-up with being shot again as the messenger.

  2. Parrot

    September 5, 2014 at 9:09 am

    What a long and interesting comment thanks for leaving that.
    Please don’t expect wag food to work a weekend, that’s not fair!!
    As for Wavehill, I’ve no idea what they are supposed to be doing for wag, but don’t think counting tradestands especially at Abergavenny is a box they have to tick. We know how long it took us to do it last year.
    As for being shot at as a messenger it appears a popular sport at the moment. A professional attitude would be to listen to feedback and see what you can learn from it, but it takes grown-ups with an open mind to accept when they haven’t got things right.
    Once again Abergavenny were wrong accepting so many traders from outside Wales. We are inundated every year with complaints from our Best Of Welsh & Border producers when they are refused a stand. If Abergavenny feel it is wrong for me to support our producer then that’s their choice.
    I’m sorry you didn’t get in – worth an email to on of your AM’s?

  3. BBB

    September 5, 2014 at 12:05 pm

    How utterly pathetic… We can only assume from this that they haven’t met the criteria again and don’t want anyone to count!

    At least they didn’t suggest that you went to Aberystwyth instead, which was the usual response with the stall rejection to Welsh producers!

  4. Parrot

    September 5, 2014 at 12:16 pm

    No not told to go to Aberystwyth which is what producers tell me they are told by Abergaveny to do.
    Pity I’m being penalised for doing wag food’s job for them.
    Pity also I’m being penalised for Abergavenny trying to buck wag food’s criteria.
    What a bad taste joke.
    Anyway it saves Ian and I each having to do a 12 hour day at Abergavenny, but sad we’ll not get to see our Best Of Welsh producers that have been allowed in to Abergavenny this year.
    thanks for leaving a comment it’s so appreciated.

  5. trader Tom

    September 5, 2014 at 1:48 pm

    I’m finding it hard to believe what Abergavenny have done to you.
    You and Ian attending with press tickets is going to hold-up Abergavenny being self-funding, what utter tosh. But as you in theory have cost them £2k in 2013, well in their view anyway, you’ll never be allowed in their again as press.
    There’s no hope is there, and I’m LOL now that wag food will say to Abergavenny this is wrong! Welsh press should be allowed and even encouraged to attend.
    No I thought not.

  6. honey man

    September 8, 2014 at 8:55 am

    What a con, Abergavenny refusing a WELSH journalist a press ticket on the grounds of them trying to be self-sufficient. If only they’d tried that ten years ago and not take £40 – £50k per year to fund their festival.
    This festival has NEVER put Welsh producers first.
    They have run rings round the food department and that department was stupid enough to let them get away with it.
    How many English journalists have been refused press tickets?
    I know Abergavenny always told Welsh producers to go to Aberystwyth but they’ve never told the garlic man from the Isle of Wight or the Cornish fish man, not to mention others.
    Aberystywth food festival is not happening this year as someone in Ceredigion didn’t bother to apply for funding, so we have a version of our farmers market as per normal.
    I’m disgusted with Abergavenny on many levels, not putting Welsh producers first despite being ORDERED to do so by wag and now this is dreadful treatment of Kath, Abergavernny are following wag food as this is bullying – nothing whatsoever to do with being self-funding – pettiness, vindictive.

  7. Horror

    September 8, 2014 at 11:54 am

    Yes, horrified to read this is my best description.
    Bullying and pettiness is running riot through our industry.
    It started with the food dept and is continued by Abergavenny. They never put Welsh producers first, never.
    They’ve got away with this because wag food are ineffective and disorganised. If wag food make rules and issue criteria it is down to them to make sure these are carried out.
    Kath and Ian take it on themselves to make wag food do their job and ensure tax payers monies are used wisely. So for them to be victimised and penalised by Abergavenny is horrific. If wag food had any guts this bullying would never have happened but as wag food are the main culprits of bullying, there’s no solution in that direction.
    Kath I’m so sorry

  8. Parrot

    September 8, 2014 at 12:03 pm

    There’s no need for you to be sorry
    I was warned when we started Welsh Country that if we crossed swords with wag we’d be bullied and would suffer. That was our producer’s experience and some lost grants for doing that. Cross wag at your peril.
    Wag say they want constructive criticism, but that’s not true, otherwise they’d not attack us when all we are trying to do is help and help our producers.
    Abergavenny shouldn’t have been funded for years to take English stands, wag food should have stopped it – it’s not Kath’s fault, it’s Abergavenny’s and wag food. The fault is theirs, as it always is. Shoot the messenger is too pathetic for words and a total disgrace.
    We do need a union to have some direction ourselves.

  9. Beer boy

    September 9, 2014 at 9:55 am

    Why can’t wag listen to us?
    Why do they think bullying in any form is acceptable to us, because it isn’t. They always been on a power trip and any department that cannot accept constructive criticism should be closed down.
    It was wag’s duty to ensure that their criteria was obeyed. They didn’t bother despite paying companies to supposedly evaluate food festivals – which to us lay men is ticking boxes.
    Kath and Ian have complained for years that Abergavenny was not accepting Welsh tradestands. Abergavenny didn’t listen and neither did wag. Wag insisted that they should have 75% Welsh stands. Abergavenny still didn’t take heed and so Kath sent into wag food last year’s list Abergavenny’s exhibitors. Result they were docked £2k and rightly so.
    Kath wasn’t thanked by wag food, but no-one expected them too, and now she’s refused press entry into Abergavenny. Refusing press entry is going to sometime allow Abergavenny to be self-funding. What a joke. What an insult. People have said on here many times that bullying is not on and neither is this unfair attack on Kath.
    Abergavenny were wrong to not support Welsh stands, wag food were wrong not checking on them. Kath’s been right all the way along and done wag food’s job for them again.
    I’m not sure this department is fit for purpose.

  10. JAMMY

    September 9, 2014 at 3:33 pm

    Get a life wag and grow up
    This news is unbelievable
    you are being so childish
    It’s down to Abergavenny for cheating on your criteria don’t dare blame Kath and Ian for doing the work to prove them cheats.
    It’s all your fault not theirs.
    I say again, grow up

  11. rhys scott-howell

    September 10, 2014 at 7:06 pm

    I am a local produce of sausages, scotch eggs and pork pies. There are only two people employed here. We breed our animals to produce these products here and were told that we were too big a company to have a stall. Yet they have traders from all over the UK. We are a welsh company should be given first chance as the welsh assembly gives money to help it off the ground.

  12. Parrot

    September 11, 2014 at 8:21 am

    Over the years I have heard many reasons that Welsh producers have been given for not being allowed a stand.
    To be a told a Welsh company of your size is too big, really takes the biscuit. I had no idea the this festival judged a Welsh trade stand on the size of the company – what utter rubbish.
    If you are rearing stock you need help and employing two people is necessary. So it seems to me that you are now being penalised for employing Welsh people.
    Although I think it will be a waste of time I can give you the email address of Head of Wag Food – whether he’ll be interested in your predicament I couldn’t hazard a guess.
    I’d also email your AMs but know many producers think that is also a waste of time too.
    But if you don’t tell them they will have no idea how producers are treated – or not – at Welsh festivals that are happy to keep taking our money from the Welsh Government.
    You couldn’t run a business like this, that’s for sure.

  13. ReallyWild Julia

    September 12, 2014 at 5:29 pm

    Fascinating reading… I shall miss bumping into Kath & Ian at Abergavenny this year. Although the Really Wild Festival didn’t happen last year, I just want to let you all know that we had signed up 100% Welsh Food & Drink Producers!! It’s not that difficult when there is so much fantastic produce here.
    News coming soon about RWF in 2015…………..Hurraaaaaay!

  14. ReallyWild Julia

    September 12, 2014 at 5:31 pm

    Of course I meant ‘this year’… obviously getting too excited!

  15. Parrot

    September 15, 2014 at 8:28 am

    We’ll miss catching up with you Julia it was always good to have a chat when you weren’t dashing about in your role as organiser of RWF
    I have never thought it was a problem attracting Welsh producers – we surely have plenty of them and all excellent quality. A lack of Welsh producers has never been the problem at Abergavenny, the problem was Abergavenny kept refusing Welsh producers. I not sure when they ever had 60% of Welsh stands let alone 75% Welsh stands. Abergavenny have as I understand it got away with it and wag food are to balem along with those being paid to do evaluations. I and I tend to hear about those Welsh producers that were turned down, which is understandable – who else do they moan at? Abergavenny or wag food? Of course not both avenues have always been pointless.
    I shall say for the final time that it is not Ian’s or my job to check out Welsh stands and although we hardly expected wag food to thanks us, or even acknowledge the work we had done – to be refused a press ticket is petty to be polite.
    Perhaps ‘someone’ should check how many English press tickets were given out!
    RWF always had as I saw it 90-95% of Welsh stands, but that is what I’d expect of you and your great team. RWF always puts Welsh producers first and the benefit to the area is brilliant.
    Can’t wait for the news for next year. Just hope I’ll be allowed in………
    take care and thanks for your comments

  16. Parrot

    September 15, 2014 at 8:29 am

    Take on board your excitement – that is what welshfoodbites can do!!!
    hope we catch up soon

  17. BOW producer

    September 17, 2014 at 11:08 am

    It should be illegal for Abergavenny to refuse press tickets to a Welsh journalist
    It should also be illegal for Abergavenny to refuse Welsh food producers stands too.
    To me it’s a version of theft, but it’s wag foods duty to make sure festivals match their criteria. If they are not concerned with their criteria why do wag issue them? Abergavenny has got away with ignoring criteria for years and years and wag have done nothing – that’s so typical as long as they tick boxes for Europe. But for Welsh producers this is not good enough. Not a well run department, not effective and that’s why the producers don’t back wag food because wag food don’t support the producers. This would only be a joke if it was funny but this is our livelihoods.

    Abergavenny has been pushing Welsh producers they will not accept to Aberystwyth, but this year that doesn’t come under wag food’s festival list – it just happens to be running that weekend as their farmers’ market.
    I wondered how many English stands Abergavenny have referred to Aberystwyth? None?

    If wag food were doing their job and not wasting tax payers money, Abergavenny would not be allowed to take in English stands and refuse Welsh traders.
    Instead of shooting Kath as the messenger, wag food should be backing her, but that is not bullies do.

    Tell us wag, who is going to count and define where Abergavenny’s stands come from this year now Kath is not allowed in as press?
    I’m furious not to get in there again this year. Wag food from where I am you are gutless allowing this to happen year after year.

  18. Best Of Welsh producer

    September 17, 2014 at 11:31 am

    Hadn’t realised that Wales didn’t have a free press.
    The nerve to stop our Welsh food journalist from having press tickets is unbelievable. Kath and Ian have been attending for years, I’ve seen them there on the Sunday. Kath’s being blamed for highlighting the fact that last year, as they’ve always done, Abergavenny stopped Welsh producers attending and didn’t hit the 75% of Welsh stands.
    So why does Kath get the blame for doing wag foods job?
    Why is Kath responsible for Abergavenny ignoring wag foods criteria as they have done for years?
    Why does Abergavenny not put Welsh producers first?
    Please don’t take funding from wag food, wag itself and all the other pots of government money you take from, then you can do whatever you like. But as you’ve been getting away with ‘doing what you like’ for ever, as has been said elsewhere, you’ve got too big for your boots.
    This is a disgrace.
    We do need a union can’t see how we can change things otherwise.
    The blame goes to wag food but as always they’ll do nothing.
    Abergavenny has always been arrogant much like wag food. But perhaps wag food are scared of them.

  19. BOW

    September 18, 2014 at 9:01 am

    You could not make this up.
    The fault lies with wag food.
    Wag food create their festival criteria. They are the ones that should see their rules are obeyed.
    Rules have never applied to Abergavenny. They have always done what they want whilst being very well funded by us tax payers. Abergavenny thought they were above wag food until Kath and Ian did a lot of the work last year counting stands. They proved Abergavenny were wrong and taking money when they hadn’t got 75% Welsh stands there – again.
    Why did Kath and Ian do that job for wag food? Because they understand and support Welsh producers that get refused entry to Abergavenny.
    It is not down to Kath and Ian’s to do that job for wag food. Wag should have done it themselves years ago. But Kath and Ian’s support for producers is amazing.
    What a shame we can’t get that from wag food.
    Wag couldn’t even thank them for their efforts. But wag can pay company after company to evaluate food festivals, which in layman’s terms is wag ticking yet more boxes but not the ones that matter. As long as Europe’s boxes are ticked, money will still come in for the Welsh Government to waste.
    Now Kath is not allowed a press ticket because Abergavenny are supposed to be trying to make it as self funding. Two press tickets will make the difference I’m sure it will not it is a petty and childish action that typifies Abergavenny.
    How many press people have been refused press tickets? How many English press tickets have been refused?
    Kath and Ian are now being bullied by Abergavenny as well as wag food, who are the masters of bullying. Wag food sit back and do nothing and that’s par for the course for these feeble food civil servants.
    I am disgusted with Abergavenny and wag food.
    Can you sink any lower, I think not.

  20. food producer

    September 19, 2014 at 2:57 pm

    This site is always an eye-opener
    despite being in the industry I’ve little idea of what’s going on and without emails to best of welsh and this site I’d know nothing apart from chatting to other producers at markets and festivals. But it always reverts back to here and the magazine.
    This latest story is mind boggling. Abergavenny have for years go away with not having many Welsh stands but always take wag’s festival money.
    It is wag’s duty to make sure that festivals obey their criteria and they have neglected that duty. So Abergavenny got more bossy and refusing Welsh producers.
    Why it was Kath’s job to take them to task makes no sense but you can’t trust wag as has been proved.
    Now she is not allowed press tickets, what a first class farce.
    The fault lies with wag food and that’s the end of it. Ineffective and inefficient.

  21. Foodie

    September 22, 2014 at 11:49 am

    No matter how stupid you were you simply couldn’t make this up.
    Abergavenny are petty behaving in this manner but they have always bullied and not supported Welsh producers first which is how they should always have behaved.
    As for wag food sitting in their glass office tower and ignoring all this is disgusting. Making sure our money is spent wisely and fairly is their job. They are guilty of ignoring Abergavenny and letting them do what they wish whilst they took massive amounts of money from the tax payer. They ignored wag’s criteria and wag were going to do nothing about it, why? Is that not theft?
    We deserve a better food department than we have and the fact that wag have done nothing about this is just unbelievable. Heads should roll there.
    I am with other posters and say we should have a union and stop this pathetic department that has no scruples at all.
    Poor Kath for doing all that work, getting no thanks and then being blackballed by a food festival that’s always been too big for its boots.

  22. Parrot

    September 22, 2014 at 12:03 pm

    Thanks for leaving a comment and being supportive.
    If I was looking for thanks it certainly wouldn’t be from wag food…….
    I was just disappointed that wag food couldn’t acknowledge the amount of work Ian and I had done and the time it had taken. But it’s a different attitude when you are lucky enough to have the taxpayer paying your salary – time and effort must mean very little for them.
    I’ve been moaning about Abergavenny to wag food for the last 8-9 years, because our producers are turned away on a regular basis.
    Wag food have not been interested. What a surprise. Silly me thinking they’d be interested in supporting our Welsh producers!
    Then wag food decide 75% Welsh stands, but don’t put in a fault-proof system to ensure that happens. Why not?
    So I do it for Abergavenny in 2013 and am proved right. My ‘reward’ for that work is no advert from Abergavenny this year and then no press tickets so they can at some stage be self-funding. Strange I’ve been told that a local newspaper got press tickets – so no saving there!
    It’s petty and it’s unfair, but please don’t expect wag food to play the big man and tell me I’m right. That’s not how wag food work.

  23. trader

    September 23, 2014 at 9:27 am

    This piece clearly shows what a pathetic food industry we are working in.
    A food department which cannot see through the criteria it insists on. Why issue criteria if you have no intention, or no check-ups in place to make sure they are carried through? Isn’t that a waste of time? It makes wag look ineffective and Abergavenny and other festivals have taken advantage of this for years.
    Why Kath continues to be bullied for doing over and way above her job is beyond my understanding.
    No company could be run in this manner.
    This is a farce but one that will continue because there’s no-one with the power to change and improve anything. Kath puts constructive criticism forward and has done so for years, but instead of anyone listening, she gets attacked and bullied all the time. It takes big people to admit they have got things wrong and you rarely find big people in the civil service.

  24. Matt

    September 23, 2014 at 9:49 am

    First time to Abergavenny Food Festival this year, and I won’t be returning. I left with the distinct feeling I had just been charged £10 to go shopping.

  25. Parrot

    September 23, 2014 at 10:14 am

    I hear this so often from people not wanting to pay for food festival entry. £10. is a lot of money – £20 for a couple then does reduce your spending in the festival. Plus many talks are then charged.
    I’ve never been a fan of charging to enter a food festival and did get in the middle of a confrontation at one festival when two elderly people wanted to enter but would not pay £3 because they just wanted to shop. They didn’t like cookery dems, not music fans and no face painting for them either – this couple refused and said they’d go to the supermarket instead but preferred to support local producers.
    With reduced funding, most festivals are charging entry fees, and they must cover their costs. Sponsorship is not easy to find but a tenner entry fee is far too much.
    I’m sorry you were disappointed with Abergavenny. Vote with your feet as I’m sure their charge will not come down.

  26. local

    September 23, 2014 at 10:27 am

    I went to Abergavenny on Saturday and I will not be attending again. It’s now too expensive. Two of us went and spending £20 did make us think carefully about what we would buy. £3 – £4 pounds would have left us with some spending money to buy some of the lovely produce on show. OTT is what I’d call being charged £10 each.
    I also wanted to see more Welsh stands. Some that I expected to see there weren’t. My friend and I visit quite a few food festival so do know a lot of Welsh producers, but we’ll not do Abergavenny again. But we’ll be attending Brecon who always put on a great festival and there’s no charge. I understand that costs have to be covered but the Welsh public should not be ripped off, it’s not fair, it really isn’t.

  27. Matt

    September 23, 2014 at 12:05 pm

    Hi Parrot,
    I don’t have a massive issue with paying a fee, but felt £10 was too much, and as you say, £20 for a couple could have bought a large amount of produce. I’d driven all the way from Calne too. So it gets to be an expensive day. Presumably the stall holders are charged a pretty penny too.

  28. Parrot

    September 23, 2014 at 1:25 pm

    Just copied this off their website which gives this year’s prices as follows: include stall and table only and cover both days. Market Hall: £450.00, Lower Brewery Yard (includes night market trading): £400, other open air enclosed market areas: £300.00, street stalls £250.00 (no electricity available), the Priory Souk (new and tiny businesses only): £150.00. Producer catering pitches are an additional £150 in any area. Electricity is an additional cost and paid in advance: £50 for the first 16amps, £30 per subsequent 16amps. On the day: £75 for the first 16amps, £50 per subsequent 16amps.
    So not a cheap venue for producers either!