Archive for October, 2015

Evaluation of Food Festivals 2015 – 2016

23 Oct

I’d heard nothing about food festivals being evaluated this year and at the food festivals I had attended, I’d only seen some ‘people with clipboards’ on two occasions. As I’d not been approached by a clipboard carrier I thought it best to send a Freedom Of Information question, (Number 9805) through for an update. Questions are shown below:

1. When was the 2015/16 Monitoring & Evaluation of Food Festivals Support by the Welsh Government put out to tender?
2. Which companies submitted tender applications?
3. When was the tender awarded?
4. What is the completion date for this tender?
5. What is the tender value?
6. When will the review be published and available to the press and public?
7. Was the tender issued to companies on the Welsh Government Research and Evaluation Framework programme?
8. Apart from ticking boxes for Europe, what brief has been given to the successful company?

The Welsh Government response arrived this morning and is as follows:

1. The tender was issued on the 19/6/2015
2. 4 companies submitted tenders: Promar, Strategic Marketing, Miller Research and Wavehill.
3. The tender was awarded on the 15/7/15
4. The completion date for this tender is 25/3/2016
5. The tender value is £35k inclusive of VAT
6. It isn’t possible to give an accurate date when this evaluation will be published, however we would anticipate that the report would be translated and approved by the Minister by late Spring 2016 for publication.
7. The tender was issued to companies on the Welsh Government Food Division Framework Lot 5 – Research and Evaluation.
8. The successful contractor will be expected to:

• Complete a detailed review of applications and supporting documentation, identify trends and provide statistical analysis.
• Complete a survey (mixed media) of all Food Festivals supported and a sample of those Welsh Food and Drink producers attending
• Develop simple reporting forms to record site visits. Brief individual written reports will be expected of those 6 Festivals visited including a sample visitor survey at each.
• Activity will be expected to culminate in a report assessing performance against the criteria set for Food and Drink Festivals.

FD requires a clear measurement of the Grant support provided against the criteria set and the application form submitted. In addition to this measurement FD would like the following evaluated:

• Sustainable Strategies – would the Festival continue without FD support?
•Is the event considered to be an exemplar to the Promotion of Welsh Produce to visitors in and outside Wales?
• How does the event meet with the aims and objectives of the Food Tourism Action Plan 2015 – 2020?
• Involvement of Food Tourism Providers – are they Championing Local Producers?
• Number of Food & Drink Producers and who these producers are, numbers of Welsh Producers.
• Evidence of any Social, Health or Educational benefit associated with the Festival.

The final report will need to measure the impact of the Grant Support as a whole and the effects should the Grant Support cease. The evaluation will need to focus on the Support provided by Welsh Government and recommendations for the future in line with the Action Plan for the Food and Drink Industry in Wales.

Well I found the answers rather surprising and also think this tender has been awarded even later than ever, mid July and that only 6 festivals are being evaluated. Initially most festivals were evaluated and then if I remember correctly, when Wavehill were first awarded this evaluation tender in 2013-14, wag food told them to attend ‘a sample of festivals’. So which festivals are selected and who does the selection, wag food or Wavehill? As I wasn’t aware only 6 festivals were being evaluated, but why should wag food tell me that? I couldn’t ask which ones they were, so I’d to ask another question. But you’ll not be surprised to learn that my asking which 6 festivals were being evaluated and why was the policy changed meaning that only 6 festivals were being evaluated, is now being treated as a further FOI. So only another 20 days to wait for a response!

Something else that I find worrying is that despite the number of festivals I’ve attended this year, not one single producer has ever mentioned to me anything about Wavehill being in attendance or that they’ve been spoken to by Wavehill either. I’m concerned that for me at least, wag food doesn’t seem to focus first and foremost on food and drink producers when evaluating food festivals. As always happens, this seems as messy as ever, but I think the thing we must hold onto is that this food festival evaluation means that wag food has ticked another box for Europe, should it need to do so. Now I’ve to wait until ‘late spring next year’ to see if I am sent  – well I doubt that will happen – or I have to start searching wag’s wonderful website for this evaluation report……….

Interestingly on Twitter, Wales Rural Network stated: Lots of Supply Chain Efficiency project evaluation reports available here, on looking, not many evaluations were available, so asked, are there documents for evaluation of all projects? If so where? To be told: All reports that have been submitted ar (sic) published in the document library section, More will be added when received.
One of the reports listed was a Food Festivals Evaluation Report from June 2011, so we are all being well informed, 5 years later it seems. As I’ve said before and doubtless will say again, you could not run a business like this!!


Riverside Market Versus Rugby World Cup

05 Oct

Latest score is Cardiff Riverside Market Zero & RWC 74,000 Points

I’ve have had some Best Of Welsh & Borders producers bending my ear about Cardiff’s Riverside Market, a long-standing, vibrant market that’s held each Sunday morning, obviously by the riverside. The reason for their contact is that due to the Rugby World Cup, the Riverside Market has been told by Cardiff Council they’ve to cancel their market for the 11th & 18th October.
I’d no idea why this was happening but emailed Cardiff Council on 30th September asking for details. Fairly quickly, I got the following reply:
A council spokesperson said: “The Riverside Market is held on Fitzhammon Embankment, less than 50 yards from The Millennium Stadium where on October 11 and 18, around 74,000 fans will attend the Rugby World Cup matches. There will be many thousands of others coming to the city centre to soak up the atmosphere. Fitzhammon Embankment will be the main route for buses into the city centre on these match days. The road will also be used as a Media Load Zone and Press Parking facility, as part of an agreement with the Council and tournament organisers. Public safety is of paramount importance but we would not be able to guarantee this on that section of the highway with the market there. The Council has apologised to the market organisers and is prepared to refund the cost of their permit to trade for these days as well as offering the opportunity to hold the market on two Saturdays following the conclusion of the tournament.”

Some years back I did visit this great market and although I’m not too familiar with Cardiff, I’m unsure why this area is so vital for the RWC. So, feeling like piggy-in-the-middle, I decided I had to go back to Cardiff on 1st October with more questions as follows:
The Riverside Market runs on Fitzhammon Embankment and is less than 50 yards from The Millennium Stadium, but it does have the river in between. Obviously public safety is important, but no-one in the Council seems concerned or aware that these loyal Riverside traders are doing markets to earn a living and provide employment for others. Welsh food & drink is supposed to be important to the Welsh Government, it’s supposedly one of their focuses with the Welsh economy, but obviously rugby and the kudos it brings is much more important.
What puzzles me – being, as always on the outside – the Rugby World Cup hasn’t come as a last minute surprise to Cardiff Council, so why didn’t the Council talk to the traders last year and say: We understand you’d love to have the opportunity to sell to around the 74,000 fans we are expecting in Cardiff, but safety must come first. We find that we have no alternative but to use the Fitzhammon Embankment for the main bus route into the city centre and also use it as a Media Load Zone and Press Parking facility, as there’s nowhere else suitable nearby.

Cardiff’s solution could then have been to move the Riverside market on those two Sundays to (XYZ site), which is still near the action. (Sorry I don’t know Cardiff that well to be more specific as to where the market could go, but surely there would be somewhere with Rugby footfall that’s not classified a Rugby Zone? If that compromise could have been agreed, then over months, the traders could have told their regulars where they were going to be on those 2 Sundays.

Why was that not presented to traders as a possible solution?

The Council are ‘prepared to refund the cost of their permit to trade for these days’ well of course that’s what the Council should do, what choice do they have as it’s the Council that’s banning the market. The Council is only doing what is required – no market – no permit needed. Instead the Council is forcing a market closure for two Sundays. An apology from the council is meaningless, easy words that mean nothing when this is your income at stake and all because of the RWC.
When did the Council first discuss this with the market traders?

As for offering the opportunity to hold the market on two Saturdays, it’s obvious that the Council does not understand that most traders are already committed to other markets on Saturdays. Do they know this? Well obviously not because not many Council people have to work weekends as traders are obliged to do.

However should the traders decide two Saturday markets are worthwhile, what is the council going to do to do to promote, advertise and market these two days?

Cardiff Council have what market traders would deem the luxury of a monthly salary and that makes it even more unfair for Cardiff Council to not take the time to arrange early discussions with the market and the traders to come up with a workable alternative.

I’m puzzled why this issue has now been raised when there are ways and means for a sensible solution to have been arranged. As far as the traders are concerned they are being told that Cardiff is more focused on the Rugby World Cup and all the prestige that offers, whilst stabbing Welsh traders in the back.
I also told them that this would be posted on welshfoodbites in due course.

I didn’t get a reply on 1st October, so it was down to me to send a reminder through on 2nd October. Later that day I go a phone call from Cardiff, which was a surprise, but not to answer the questions I’d raised, but to give me ‘some’ background. Well that was kind of her, but not what I wanted at all. I was told the Riverside traders were informed of this closure 3 weeks ago. I was also told that another market at St Mary’s St. was also being closed, but as I haven’t got advertisers standing that market, I’m not too interested. Each time I asked her to answer my questions, she told me again and again, I’d had her statement. I didn’t need to be told that time and time again, because if I hadn’t got her statement I would not have had questions I wanted her to answer, ‘but you have our statement’!!!!!

I explained once more that I wanted my questions answered and in writing so there could be no disagreement of the ‘he said she said variety’. But I was getting nowhere, though she did say she’d come back to me. In fairness she did saying: As discussed when I called to give you background information for your story, high profile events in the city centre often mean there are changes to the way the city operates. There are a number of restrictions that have been applied to the whole of the City Centre.
The market was offered the opportunity to trade on the street but would not have been able to park their vehicles there due to the road being used as the main bus route and the arrangements with Rugby World Cup.

For publishing purposes, our original statement remains unchanged.

Apparently Riverside market was held on a previous rugby match day, 20th September. Although parking on the road, behind their stands was restricted, after a little discussion the ‘compromise’ market went ahead and traded well. So I’m not sure whether the blame for the ban lies with Cardiff Council or was it the market organisers that are preventing these markets going ahead? But whoever carries this can, my point is that the market traders are obviously losing out and is the Welsh Government. Wag should have bent over backwards to ensure that Riverside market was used as a promotional tool to ensure Cardiff locals and all the 74,000 visitors coming to the matches had the opportunity to buy Welsh food and drink. Not a rugby term but that’s an own goal isn’t it? These 74,000 people are missing out and I’m certainlyy not alone in thinking this situation is a disgrace. Those of you reading all this post will see that a few weeks back the Riverside market was able to run and ok some producers had to unload their vans and then park them elsewhere, but the point is they could still trade! Mission accomplished.

All the information I’ve gathered has been sent through to two Assembly Members in case they are able to help, that maybe unlikely at what is now the 11th hour. But in the meantime, one of our advertisers sent through the following they’d received on 17th September:

Regards this Sunday and Wales V Uruguay World Cup Game 2.30 pm kick off.
I have had it recently confirmed from the Council via Connect2Cardiff who consulted ‘Highways’ matters, also in turn via Council City Centre Management Team Manager who stated, quote: ‘Yes all is ok for you to proceed with the Sunday markets throughout the RWC period’.

Below is a link to official road closures for City Centre, 12.30 pm for entry.

?20th Sept ?Wales v Uruguay ?KO 2.30pm ?Full Road Closure 12.30pm-17.30pm

I have asked that this message is passed down to any marshalls that may be in our area. However, this is the City Centre with so many variables and outside visitors on match day – we have to expect the potentially unexpected. The greatest risk is reduced parking so we may have to get vehicles off road where possible (as has happened before) at worst, parking away near Nos Da/Despenser Garden but within closure area. What we have on our side is our early arrival on site. Any potential to van/car share is helpful if not practical.

So yes we are permitted to proceed, but if you are unhappy with the variables described I totally understand you may want to pull out. If you proceed then you’ll need to be flexible, the reward of course is the additional footfall.

So that was encouraging news for traders, but short-lived as on 29th September this latest email left them furious:

CANCELLED – Riverside Market October 11 & 18 – CANCELLED

We’ve been negotiating with the Council and other partners involved, but the outcome is we cannot operate a market on match dates of October 11 & 18.

The reasons provided are that Rugby World Cup has priority on the Embankment during RWC matches inc associated parking. It is the main route in for buses, it also being used as a Media Load Zone and Press Parking facility. It is an Airport Pick Up and Drop Off and will be much busier than it has been for the games to date.

We have of course presented all the arguments to proceed and the effect it can have on all involved. However this is the reality and we have to accept the outcome given the scale of the event. We all need to look at the bigger picture and the long term security of using this central location, the RWC is a once in a generation event. For the long term future of the market and all involved, it is wise that we accept this and not get involved in public negativity.

So as not to dampen this weekend’s market at Riverside Oct 4, we will announce this to customers at the market through signage, via yourselves, newsletter and social media. We’ll continue the reminders until we re-open Riverside on Oct 25 with the booking schedule as it stands.

Well I don’t agree with keeping quiet as I expect council officials and anyone funded by wag to act and behave in a professional manner at all times and I don’t believe Cardiff officials and otheres have done  that. It would actually make it somewhat tolerable if council officials and the like could understand that markets are how traders make their money. To be told 74,000 people are attending on these two match days and they now can’t trade is just rubbing salt into a very open wound.

I wish I could do more to help our advertisers at Riverside Market and of course the other traders that are yet to come with us, but I’m at a loss who else to talk to and so very disappointed that Cardiff Council will not answer in writing the questions I raised.

Open and fair government is still a pipe dream for me………………….and as a member of the public I do feel negative about this attitude. Micro and small business need support and are just not getting it.