What’s Happening This Year With Food Festivals?

12 Feb

The Welsh Government are responsible for food festivals and an interesting Freedom Of Information question NO 8649, on wag’s website revealed that only 4% of the overall food budget is spent on food festivals. We’re told how important food festivals are for Welsh food and drink, but last year only 28 festivals were funded. Should we be grateful that fork2fork have for some years been responsible for farmer’s markets, box schemes and farm to the likely tune of £1.4m? Do we believe these three sectors are secure and growing……………………..?

Follows are figures taken from FOI 8649:

2012/13 – £311,087.01 (actual paid)

2013/14 – £141,863.54 (actual paid)

2014/15 – £184,311 (actual awarded)

Also relevant is that wag food have their own criteria that food festivals must met, including 75% Welsh food stands. Regular readers will know my views on these criteria, which in a nutshell is, don’t issue criteria unless you can guarantee they’ve been followed before you pay out tax payer’s money. For years 75% Welsh stands has been a joke, but in very bad taste when Welsh producers were not accepted for Welsh food festivals that the Welsh tax payers are helping to fund. I’ve spent a great deal of time and effort trying to get through to wag food that they’ve got it wrong, even sending lists from certain food festivals that weren’t obeying wag food’s rules. Eventually wag food were able to reduce the funding that had been offered. But this is a system that never worked and will not, unless wag food make changes. I’ve heard from a few organisers, those on staff and those who volunteer, that there is so much wag food paperwork that they feel swamped. Some would much prefer to run without funding if that was practical for them. But we must not forget that wag food need paperwork because otherwise they can’t tick Europe’s boxes – whether it is all relevant to Europe’s tick boxes, I’m really not sure.

Although we’re only in February, the list of food festivals not running this year continues to grow. Gorseinon was the first blow, followed by Pembrokeshire Fish Week, Cardiff Country Fair, which was not funded and also The Welsh Food Festival at Glanseven, which failed to run in 2104 too. I’m assuming wag food are aware of this news, though I do wonder if they are concerned about this, but as it will not hit their pay packet, maybe not! But do they ask the festivals why they are not running? Do the organisers tell wag food the truth? In the case of Fish Week, it’s certainly no exaggeration to say producers are furious. Questions have been raised in the Senedd and there have been various reports in local Welsh media. Fish Week’s demise this year is left to Pembrokeshire’s Food Officer’s ill-health but although this is upsetting news producers are not accepting that the whole of Fish Week is down simply to the Food Officer. If food is so important to Pembrokeshire and tourism, which is what we are frequently told, then pulling Fish Week is ludicrous and short-sighted. I’m told officially that Fish Week is in the middle of planning a structural change to the festival to move it to a social enterprise model, and a break for one year will give them a great opportunity to move towards this successfully. It will give them more time to plan for the new structure, looking at fresh ideas and at income streams which can assist in the growth and sustainability of the festival,

Is the crunch of the Fish Week cancellation purely down to money? Is Pembrokeshire County Council, PCC, simply waiting to apply for RDP which is unlikely to come on stream until later this year, early next year? PCC say they don’t wish to run a scaled-down festival believing it could be very damaging to the its current profile and detrimental to its future, as well as disappointing to its attendees. Damaging to its profile, detrimental to its future, disappointing to attendees what really does that mean? These are meaningless words, which in fairness are expected from a Cabinet Member or a politician, but are rarely understood by me, or the Welsh public. Why do PCC have to run a scaled down festival this year? Is that just because one staff member will be away for some time? If the Food Officer had found another job, would the cancellation still have happened?

I’m sure it goes without saying that I’ve no clue as to when wag food will announce the funding for this year’s food festivals. To be honest after chasing in the past for this information I’ve not even bothered this year.  But I also dread to think which criteria wag food will create this year. Will they have learnt anything from past years? That’s a lot to ask isn’t it? So we’ll have to wait and see, which is what my foodie readers will to do too. They really must stop contacting me and blaming me for being slow publishing the food festival list!! What a cheek some of them have! When I’ve been sent it, presuming I will be, I’ll publish it on welshfoodbites for sure.

My other concern is the food festival groups which supposedly have been set up, but I’ve heard little about it. I’m not sure this will be an improvement, but IF they can sort out the food festival calendar, that will be a something.

Let’s hope that no more festivals announce they are not running and those that do are given the help and support they need by wag food, but best play safe and don’t hold my breath………………….


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  1. cup cake

    February 12, 2015 at 3:35 pm

    Just made my self a coffee and thought I’d play catch up on here. Goodness me it’s always sad news when festivals aren’t running. I am not sure wag will be at all bothered though.
    Fish week smells really fishy!!! I’m sorry Kate’s not well but they employ lots of people there. Has Kate not trained anyone else in her team? Or is this the council trying to be clever and Kate is the scapegoat – that’s not fair if that’s the case I’ve often crossed swords with her but this is fishy.
    Bless you for keeping this going it’s such a valuable news site and the only food one I look at.
    coffee finished and oven timer pinging…………………..

  2. BOW

    February 12, 2015 at 4:53 pm

    Your being silly and asking the obvious.
    This is one of wag’s many babies, so I think it is obvious Kath to expect more chaos.
    I struggle to understand that this lot don’t back organisers, but if they don’t back you, that’s the way of civil servants.
    Producers need to know what’s going ahead this year and your readers, some of them real foodies, like to plan those that they can get to. Sure you’re right not to expect anything early from them, but feel sorry for any running early.
    We lost Peter James’ festival, which was always good in April and sure that was because of wag’s late funding promises and excessive paperwork.
    You’ve given so much guidance on food festivals from a practical side, but wag are much too clever to listen and learn from you, hence the same chaos every year. When do you see wag at a festival?
    I’m grateful they’re civil servants and not running companies

  3. beer boy

    February 13, 2015 at 10:10 am

    Don’t see why Kate should be scapegoated on this cancellation it is pathetic that PCC are blaming her. They are only interested in what money they can get in.
    Forget what fish week is supposed to bring into the area it obviously doesn’t matter this year and forget the producers they don’t need to earn any money. There’s no reason that stands up that stops this running as it has for years.
    PCC you are in my book a disgrace and Kate does not deserve this.
    This report is spot on as they always are on here. We get to hear the truth.
    Kath can’t you help?

  4. Parrot

    February 13, 2015 at 10:28 am

    I’m really not sure what else you expect me to do.
    I’ve posted on welshfoodbites
    I’ve sent the news around our BOW producers.
    I sent the news through to an AM with an interest in food.
    If you are expecting PCC or wag food to be concerned I really do think you are expecting way too much. I do agree that Kate looks the scape goat here.
    Tongue in cheek here but how about asking fork2fork to help considering they are being paid by SCES…….

  5. Mr T

    February 13, 2015 at 12:22 pm

    We are living in cuckoo land if we expect wag food to get their act together and let organisers know if they are being funded and what strings are attached and to tell producers what festivals are running and when. Producers rely on Kath’s team to do that, again she does wag food’s job for them and in between bullying her they are content to let her do it for free.
    We are know wag food are not supporting us, it doesn’t matter an iota to them what festivals they fund and by how much, it will not alter their take-home pay. Wag food say we are alright Jack. It’s sad to say but those are my thoughts. Producers need to plan their year, and no Kath we cannot rely on fba to back markets, that’s another joke in bad taste. Markets are still struggling and have been for years, fba have made no improvement at all to those I attend, but fba are doing well out of sces – laughing all the way to their bank, bully for them.

  6. BOW

    February 13, 2015 at 3:19 pm

    Think we can sure, as has been said before, wag will not give a toss that so many food festivals are not running this year. Why would it bother them? Again as has been said before. I’m just another voice agreeing. But as a producer, no-one in wag food cares about my thoughts. They probably don’t know I exist.
    So many of us are saying the same thing in our comments. You Kath, have been banging on about this for what seems like ever, but it looks like wag food, safe in their glass tower, are playing deaf or just not caring enough to listen. So much for people power we cannot change their behaviour and attitude. I just wish we had a union to pin wag food in a corner for good.

  7. trader

    February 16, 2015 at 3:47 pm

    We expect too much of wag food.
    We’re expecting them to sort out criteria that will be useful and expecting them to get a list of festivals this month. We are dreaming because that department isn’t capable of acting responsibly and with our interest at the fore.
    We’ll be dreaming on much longer hoping this lot will wake up

  8. bow boyyo

    February 17, 2015 at 11:51 am

    Food in one breath is very important to Wales, but that’s not reflected in the measly amount allocated to food festivals which the government are responsible for. And I wont even talk about markets which are by-and-large not doing well. But well done Fork 2 Fork I’d see that as a lot of money for not getting much progress.

    Festivals have had endless posts over the years and so many comments, but as always we’re talking to wag food’s deaf side, although I think they seem deaf on both sides.

    The organisers are left in limbo not knowing the criteria they should obey, if they’ll be funded, and us producers don’t have any idea which festivals are running, unless they attended a particular event the year before.
    How can we plan our year like that? Don’t worry wag food I don’t expect you to answer, you’d have to care to do that.

    This isn’t satisfactory but as many have said, the wag food lot are not able to listen to what is said even from those of us working in the industry. As for taking heed of this site, we haven’t a hope, they have the sense to understand what we want.

    I, like quite a few traders, want a union so we can make official what we want and wag food cannot ignore us is very much the norm now.

  9. BOW

    February 19, 2015 at 11:01 am

    I know you’ve suggested to wag food that they tell food festivals what they are funded for the next three years and what they can get paid. It’s been done before but why can’t wag food take on board that this is a big, big help for those poor organisers and help us producers too.

    I understood RDP money had come in, but wag is happy to do nothing with it and have many departments and Quangos sit on their hands until the new money is dished out. As Kath trips out on a regular basis, you could never run a business like this government TRIES to run Wales.

    The disturbing part is that this site has been running for years explaining the food problems out there, whilst wag food sit in their glass tower, pushing paper around, dishing out money to the wrong people and seem oblivious to the chaos they create. For some reason they are unable to listen and learn from those in touch with the real life of Welsh food and drink producers.
    I despair of them but have no clue how we can change anything.

  10. BOW

    February 20, 2015 at 2:45 pm

    Kath you’ve worked long and hard on getting wag to improve from their side the management of food festivals.
    I am impressed with your work.
    I’m sure what you have said over the years, some of it has sunk into the heads of wag food. It’s obvious to all of us outside the un civil service that you’ve got no credit from wag food, instead this arrogant lot of public servants have bullied and bullied you.
    They are too big for their boots to admit they’ve got anything wrong in the first place and that’s why you are their target.
    It takes big people to admit they’re in the wrong so you haven’t a chance that will happen. Public servants don’t know the word sorry.

  11. foodie

    February 20, 2015 at 3:08 pm

    You’d expect a food dept. to grasp the importance to producers of food festivals. Food and drink is supposed to be so important to Wales but this dept doesn’t verify that. Food is supposed to encourage visitors but the tourist board isn’t doing much to help there.
    Yet we’ve no idea when our food festivals are happening unless we went last year and have got an email about this year’s one.
    You Kath must be pulling your hair trying to talk sense to wag food.

  12. Parrot

    February 20, 2015 at 3:17 pm

    Thanks for leaving a comment, but please don’t expect too much from wag food.
    I don’t think you’ll get funded festivals dates until May unless a miracle happens.
    I’m not pulling my hair out, no worry on that score. But I might suffer from shock if they change their attitude.
    I’m not allowed to talk to wag food!

  13. foodie

    February 24, 2015 at 4:53 pm

    If wag food would have listened to you years ago we wouldn’t be in this same mess now.
    You can tell this late decision about what they are funded doesn’t affect their pay packet.
    This is too pathetic for words.
    They can’t listen to you or anyone come to that
    They can’t react in a positive way to ideas.
    They are in my book a waste of space.

  14. Jay

    February 25, 2015 at 4:54 pm

    You’ve done another sterling job on this problem but as we are all convinced wag food are not working for us but against us and you in particular.
    Their treatment of you is in my opinion appalling. They should not be allowed to behave in that manner you are trying to help them and us but they are unable to see or read and learn for this super site.
    You’ll never get through to a group of highly paid civil servants who I see as clueless
    wish there were 30 of you fighting our corner as not sure how you keep this up when you’re knocking your head against thiis thick wag food wall.

  15. Foodie 2

    March 2, 2015 at 10:36 am

    I fail to see what else you could have done to get this message through to wag food that festivals need a shake up and we and organisers need to know early on when festivals are being held.
    You been going on about this for years and years.
    Why organisers bother to take on a food festival is a mystery to me but we need them. The pressure they are under to get a festival sorted is huge but wag food care not a toss.
    You must be so annoyed with wag food ignoring what you are saying to help food festivals.

  16. Parrot

    March 2, 2015 at 10:42 am

    I’m past being annoyed by wag food, but anyway annoyed wouldn’t quite cover it! I’ve only got food and drink producers chasing me and of course some of our readers who want to know what is happening.
    But I’d be more than annoyed if I was an organiser or a producer trying to rely on festivals for a proportion of their income.