Archive for October, 2014

Wag Festival Calendar – Who’s Responsible?

06 Oct

Simple answer? It seems no-one.

Who should be? In my view wag food.

This weekend wag food funded, Brecon, Newport, Neath which are all virtually within an hour’s drive of each other. This resulted in food producers having to try and cover two of those three festivals or settle for the one which they thought they’d earn more at. I find this stupid. For those of us that are concerned about food producers and festival organisers having the best event possible, planning the food festival calendar is important. But this is of little concern to wag food because I have been raising this issue with them for too many years. Brecon has been running for something like 17 years, so to say it’s a well established festival is absolutely true. The festival held in the market hall also backs up their farmers’ market so it is really getting the message home to the people of Brecon to support local food.

But then wag food allows two more food festival to jump on the bandwagon for that same weekend. Why does wag allow that to happen? This next weekend, apart from a new festival at Caldicote Castle in Monmouthshire, the only festival wag are funding is Anglesey, which certainly isn’t in competition with festivals in Powys and further south. If wag are funding, well, offering a few thousand, they surely can suggest that if the festival wants a contribution from the tax payer, they must select an appropriate date. I’m not sure why for example Newport could not have run on 11th -12th or even 18th -19th October but guess wag food didn’t even bother suggesting a date change, even though they gave them £6,289 which was nearly double what they gave Brecon.  There cannot be a total disregard for value of the taxpayers’ money, and this food budget is our money, yes it comes from Europe, but Europe are only returning part of the vast amount we hand over to them. I’m not alone in wanting to be a fly on the wall when wag food decided how much each food festival gets…..or doesn’t get.

As I say wag food have had years to address this problem but seemingly it is not important to them, as it doesn’t affect their salary. The proposed festival organisers group might take charge of the festival calendar, or might not, but at the end of the day wag food are offering the funding and they’ve the power and the authority to ensure all festivals have a fair crack of the whip and us tax payers get value for money from this ever decreasing budget.


Promoting Welsh Food – Who’s Responsible?

02 Oct

Now the reason I’m raising this question yet again, is because of an interesting comment left by one of our Best Of Welsh & Border producers under the post headed – Nato Summit, Newport. I’ve huge respect for John Savage-Onstwedder of Caws Teifi cheese, he’s an artisan producer, his products are brilliant. John always talks sense and his comment really got me thinking or fuming………..

What he highlighted was the amount of money that has been spent over the years on Wales The True Taste and Welsh  food festivals. John says it is inexplicable that those responsible for promoting Welsh produce; both food and drink, still get it so badly wrong. As an example he cites that whenever there is Welsh produce on the menu, it should be explicitly named. For instance if Caws Cenarth or Caws Teifi Cheese is part of the menu, that cheese should be named. The same applies to all other products, if it’s Welsh, state it clearly. He continues that other culprits are too many of our top hotels and restaurants who are still not stocking top quality Welsh produce. In his view chefs at the various food festivals pay lip service to Welsh produce, but often its just ‘talk’ and they do not as yet ‘walk-the-walk’!

The chef comment was sad, although I’m aware that some top Welsh chefs are huge supporters of Welsh food, we still haven’t nearly enough that are banging the Welsh food and drink drum. They are the idea way to help get the message across that Wales does provide top quality food and drink.

I’ve been ranting about this to wag food for years, but my rantings make little impression on them unfortunately. But  let’s think this through and ask the question, whose fault is it that years down the track, Wales still has this problem? I’m in no mood to absolve the Welsh Government of their role, but know full well that wag will pass this ongoing problem onto their wag food department. I’d partly agree with this, but only if the Welsh Government’s food policy is to ensure that government offices, hospitals, schools, colleges, universities and nurseries, care homes etc. also support and promote Welsh food. I sure I’m right in saying that this will rarely happen as slashed budgets mean purchasing will reflect price, not quality and certainly not Welsh produce. There’s certainly not and easy answer to that one, price above promoting Welsh produce is not one we’ll win.

So moving on, I’d like to throw the gauntlet down to wag food and Visit Wales. The responsibility to promote Welsh food does lie with wag food but as food festivals are now seen more as ‘tourist attractions’ Visit Wales have a huge part to play to ensure that Welsh food is always available in all Welsh accommodation, restaurants, bistros, cafes etc. They have had years and years to get this right, but it is still, in John’s view and mine too, nowhere near good enough. Now I am going back some time, but there used to be trade events held at the beginning of each year, getting local food producers together and inviting local business and tourism operators to get discuss and work with each other. I am aware that Pembrokeshire still hold one and that seems to work, but I’m not aware of any others. Mind you if trade events were being held, I’d hope that wag food would tell me, but then again sure my hopes are too high, as that involves communication and that’s never been one of wag food’s strengths!

In November, Welsh Country magazine will have been publishing for ten years. In that time we’ve expanded our food pages to a minimum of 10 pages and in a magazine size of 68 pages, that is more than a fair crack of the whip for Welsh food and drink. We constantly encourage our eateries to use our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers, BOW listing, and we certainly encourage our readers to use that listing too and to visit food festivals and markets. But is wag food doing enough to support our Welsh producers, be they our Best of Welsh producers or not? Your answers on a postcard, an email or a comment left with this post. Please remember you have no need to use your name or your company name – you can be Mickey Mouse, Daffy Duck, James Bond of Dr Who for all I care, but your comments are useful feedback.