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Posts Tagged ‘Best Of Welsh & Borders producers’

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.

www.cardiff.gov.uk/ENG/resident/Parking-roads-and-travel/Travel-advice-for-major-events/Pages/Travel-advice-for-major-events.aspx

?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.

 
 

At Last Wag Has a Full Board

30 Jun

I received this press release this afternoon from wag and have published it in full:

Food & Drink Action Update
A year since Towards Sustainable Growth was launched, the Deputy Minister for Farming and Food, Rebecca Evans today provided an update on progress to deliver the priorities of our action plan for the food and drink industry in Wales.

The update included significant work to redefine the Bwyd a Diod Cymru Identity, which will encompass the diversity of the food industry and champion and celebrate the Welsh language. We have also launched the new Food and Drink Wales website, to improve two way communications with industry, as well as the Food Tourism Action Plan for Wales which will result in much closer working between Food Division, Visit Wales and external partners to create opportunities for food producers and tourism businesses alike.

The Minister said, “The plan has been, and continues to be, about action. It is predicated on partnership between government and industry. We are a pro-business government, working closely with companies to create growth and jobs in every part of Wales and we established an overarching and challenging target of 30% growth in sales by 2020 and we are on course to achieve this target.”

The latest priority sector statistics for farming and food reported £5.8bn turnover which means that we have already achieved 11.5% growth since 2012-13.

To support business growth, Rebecca Evans today announced the development of a Micro-Business Cluster programme to ensure that we dedicate support for the smallest businesses to ensure a sustainable pipeline of new businesses, and the development of a new Impact Business Cluster programme, that aims to target businesses who are looking to grow at a rate of 50% a year. These programmes will have business leaders at their heart, and who will help shape and lead their development.

This follows a recent announcement of investment over £2.5m during the next two years to ensure Wales continues to have a strong presence at a series of key UK and international trade events. This support will continue to enable our companies to enhance their profile, build market share and maximise their sales in both existing and new markets.

In 2014/15, as a result of their participation in the UK and International events programme, Welsh companies secured nearly £6m additional business, with further opportunities identified of over £16m.

The Minister also used the opportunity to announce the new members of the Food and Drink Wales Industry Board, another key commitment.

“I am pleased to announce today that following the receipt of many applications and a rigorous assessment process we have full membership to the Food and Drink Wales Industry Board. They are the voice of the industry, the voice for businesses of all sizes and the voice for the supply chain. It is vital that a shared responsibility is developed between Government and industry and this is where I see the Board playing a major part.”

She thanked the interim Chair, Robin Jones, from Village Bakery, who is now stepping down from the role saying he provided “a dynamic voice” which will help deliver “a new era of opportunity, growth and success.”

The members of the Food and Drink Industry Board Wales are:
• Norma Barry, InsideOut Organisational Solutions,
• Annitta Engel, D.B.G.E Limited,
• Catherine Fookes, Organic Trade Board,
• Justine Sarah Fosh, Improve,
• Buster Grant, Brecon Brewing,
• Alison Lea-Wilson, Halen Môn,
• David Lloyd, ZERO2FIVE Food Industry Centre,
• Katie Palmer, Sustainable Food Cardiff,
• Llior Radford, Llaeth y Llan,
• Andy Richardson, Volac,
• Justin Scale, Capstone Organic,
• Marcus Sherreard, Dawn Meats,
• Huw Thomas, Puffin Produce and
• James Wilson, Welsh Fishermen’s Association

Our Deputy Minister says this food and drink plan is all about action, but I disagree when it has taken since the second round of applications closed on 24th April, for us to be told who the government has appointed to its latest food board. But perhaps that qualifies as civil service action. Over two months to give the green light to five more people – none of whom are running their own businesses and people I think we’d describe as ‘suits’. I have to wonder if tax payers will feel it’s been worth the time and money spent on this action plan. This press release has already been sent around our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers and I’ve already been asked which of the people on this board are not paid by wag or have not been funded over the years by wag. But sure most of you can work that answer out yourself. I apologise to our BOW producers if you get this press release twice today, assuming wag food might have bothered to do that. Never mind wag food, I’m happy to help you do your job for you. Remember, Kath says communication is the key.

We are told that it’s vital that a shared responsibility is developed between Government and industry and this is where our Deputy Minister sees the Board playing a major part. What she hasn’t bothered to explain is how this will happen. We are all aware that the government and in particular the food department, cannot or will not communicate to food and drink producers, so I’m at a lost how this board will achieve ‘a shared responsibility’. Let me know what you think.

We are also told that Wales continueo to have a strong presence at a series of key UK and international trade events. Well that’s great news for those companies that get invited to these events and have proved to wag that they have potential to grow. But what about the micro and small business who often have festivals and farmers’ markets as their starting points? Well we’ve no idea what the food festival budget is this year due to wag splitting the funding list into two and I’ve yet to be given the second tranche of funding, which will not be until the end of July. But let’s assume the funding has been chopped again. Let’s also assume that wag will not explain why, after bleating on for years that festivals must be self-funding, that they have now given the green light for some festivals to apply for £25k instead of £10k. Where’s the logic there wag? How’s that self-funding? Or for the big three, Conwy, Cardiff and Abergavenny does your ruling not apply? Now to farmers’ markets, which wag are not responsible for, as that’s down to county councils, but it was ok for wag food to approve a project of £800k, initially – it ended up lots more – to look at farm shops, box schemes and markets. There must be some logic there too, but maybe I’m missing it!

Delighted to read that Deputy Minister has announced the development of a Micro-Business Cluster programme to ensure that wag dedicates support for the smallest businesses to ensure a sustainable pipeline of new businesses, and the development of a new Impact Business Cluster programme, that aims to target businesses who are looking to grow at a rate of 50% a year. These programmes will have business leaders at their heart, and who will help shape and lead their development. Now isn’t that good news? Note that this is for companies who are ‘looking to grow at a rate of 50%’ I guess that applies to quite a few companies, but in this poor economic climate how will wag judge if genuine growth is there? Bear with me as I’ve got it now, wag will have business leaders at their heart, and who will help shape and lead their development. What a pity there are no business leaders named.

My fear, as it seems to be with this government and the food department, is that wag have offered sound bites, but there’s precious little meat on this bone that will achieve a great deal and with Welsh food and drink so important to Wales we do need much more. .

Please do let me know your views and add your comments on welshfoodbites.co.uk.

 
 

New Applications For Welsh Food & Drink Board

02 Jun

I first posted on this Welsh Government proposed new board on 30th March and followed up on 30th April. If interested please check out both those posts, as this will save me repeating myself! The gist is that after asking for applications to join the board in March, when I understand about 40 companies applied and then some were interviewed. Wag then decided that the board composition wasn’t a fair representation and asked for more companies to apply. The closing date was 24th April.
But as we are now into June I’m being asked what’s happening and who’s been appointed. Sorry folks, but I’ve not been sent any news of the further appointments but we are all aware of how important Welsh food and drink is to Wales.

I’ve asked the press office today and if they have any information it will be sent around our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers and then posted on welshfoodbites.

Sorry for this delay, but as you are well aware that my ongoing message to wag and wag food hasn’t got through that communication is the key………………….

 
 

An Invitation To Great Taste Judging In Wales

12 May

A few weeks ago I received an invitation from the Guild Of Fine Food to judge at the Great Taste in Cardiff. The Great Taste Awards are respected world-wide and it is an award that Ian and I always recommend our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers to enter. I’ve always liked their star system. Basically because it was easy to understand and unlike Wales’ True Taste Awards, there isn’t just a first second and third in each category. I’ve never understood how this could be judged. GTA award one, two and three stars to any products that match their high standards. So for example, you could have just two, one star winners – ‘close to perfect’, five, two star winners – ‘faultless’ and seven three star winners – ‘wow you must taste this product’. Anyway I’m getting distracted, but that background is important, so back to my invitation which was to be a judge at these highly regarded top food awards. But I was puzzled asking – why me? But that’s putting it politely as to why on earth I would qualify to be part of the Welsh judging team and judge alongside some dedicated food experts. I never have, and never will, considered myself to be a food expert because quite simply I’m not. I’d always assumed, wrongly now it seems, that the GTA judges would be Michelin chefs and top food hall buyers. So I emailed asking for clarification and was told:

The Guild of Fine Food works really hard to build its judging panel full of chefs, food buyers, restaurateurs, food writers and critics, all of whom bring their own experience, knowledge and palate to provide constructive feedback for the producers. Everyone’s opinion counts around the judging table and judging teams are purposely grouped based on their diverse knowledge and experience, which is why producers value the feedback and shows what a rigorous process it is to awarding those Great Taste stars.

After promoting GTA for so many yeas, I now feel a little disillusioned that the judges aren’t all those with professional palates. So I’ve declined their kind invitation and just hope I’ve made the right decision. Actually, as a foodie journalist I’d think I’d have a much better time and learn much, much more if I could attend the judging but as a fly on the wall. But as it is food being judged, I guess I’d get quickly swatted!!!!!

Great Taste have accepted my decision, but hope Igll do it next year just not sure how anything will change from my side by next year. Anyway GTA have said they’ll send me their winners through, I guess with the hope that I’ll cover it for them. But as regular readers will know, if GTA are not advertising and supporting us, then that will not happen. I’ve still not a VAT number not a charity number!
So good luck to all our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers, showing off the best of Welsh food and drink,  who are entering and don’t forget to let me know your experience and how you got on…………….

 
 

Still No News On Festival Funding

21 Apr

Please, please, please stop asking me for the list of food festivals that wag are funding this year. By now I would have thought you’d have realised that when I know, you’ll know! When that news is received I’ll inform our Best of Welsh & Borders producers and follow that with a post on welshfoodbites. So, like me you’ve no option but to be patient and wait for wag…………………

Your constant questions, plus news on my grapevine saying that the 1st tranche of festivals were being informed last Friday or by Monday 20th April. So I contacted the press office on Friday for an update.
Today I’ve now been told that they: ‘are currently in the process of completing the appraisal of the first tranche of applications. The list of supported Food Festivals will be published on our website after all applicants have been informed of the outcome’.

I went back to the press office asking various food festival related questions and have been told: ‘that Welsh Country and other media outlets will be sent the press release after all the applicants have been informed’.

It’s clear to many that Welsh Country has a huge interest in Welsh food and drink, I’m just not sure that other Welsh media can match us on that one! But I am sure ‘other Welsh media’ will not be interested in the questions I’m asking! So I shall have to submit a Freedom Of Information question and wait 20 days for a response, with luck.

In previous years I have been sent this information without any hassle from wag food, but now no longer for a reson only wag food know. It’s a huge pity wag and I can’t work together, without wag having to make everything such hard work. For goodness sake, I’m hardly asking questions of a sensitive nature……………….

 
 

Flavours of Herefordshire Festival – Cancelled for 2015

18 Feb

I just had news of the cancellation of the Herefordshire Festival and as some of our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers do attend this one, here’s part of their press release:

Locally grown food and products are at the heart of Herefordshire and its rural economy. With over 6 other food festivals now organised in the County, the lack of sponsorship money and spiraling costs, Visit Herefordshire Board of Directors have taken the difficult decision to cancel the 2015 Festival as they seek to evaluate the activities undertaken by Visit Herefordshire, the county’s official tourism organisation.

One of the most anticipated events in the County’s calendar the Flavours of Herefordshire Festival, held over the August Bank Holiday weekend, has grown extensively over the 9 years since it’s inception in 2006, supported at that time with European funding.  Chairman Alan Curless said “Now with the purse string so much tighter the Board felt it was important not to dilute the other valuable work carried out by Visit Herefordshire”.  The Festival has grown from attracting 4,000 visitors over 2 days 9 years ago to over 38,000 visitors in 2014.

Chairman Alan Curless said “To organise and promote an event of this magnitude requires a serious amount of resource – both financial and physical.  In light of the current economic climate and the re evaluation of work undertaken by Visit Herefordshire, the Board has decided to cancel this year’s event, however as part of this evaluation process, Visit Herefordshire will assess the future viability of the Festival”.

I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking that once you have established a food festival, and this one was impressive. That it is now cancelled for this year, I can only construe as folly, especially as ‘locally grown food and products are at the heart of the Herefordshire economy’. But dear readers, it’s hardly the first time we’ve heard how important Welsh food and drink is to the Welsh local economy and then being told of festival cancellations  – here we go again. Apart from the disappointment of visitors and locals alike, it’s another blow to producer’s pockets and is devastating for them. As far as I’m aware there are not enough new festivals being established and in all fairness, it does take time to build a successful festival.

 
 

When Is A Stakeholder Not A Stakeholder?

30 Sep

When her name is Kath is the easy answer, but what I’m actually getting at is a stakeholder in the recent consultation on wag’s Food & Drink Action Plan. Wag inform me that with my: active involvement as a stakeholder in the recent consultation on our new Food and Drink Action Plan, we have reviewed our communications with you to ensure we are offering the most appropriate level of service. It is nevertheless important that we can continue to provide you with an integrated service in responding to your communications.  Accordingly, if you require information from us in the future, or you wish to contribute comments as to how we might improve our services, please could I ask you to write directly to our public mailbox.

Now what does that mean? Well according to wag, they say they’re offering me the most appropriate level of service in regards to questions I require answers to. That’s wag’s theory anyway, the practice is something totally different. Wag has ‘told’ me that I’ve to use a public mailbox. I’m now public as wag has now decided that I’m no longer a journalist in their world anyway. I’m told this method will help ensure that my queries can be dealt with promptly and be routed swiftly to the most appropriate part of Welsh Government.

So having been ‘told’ what to do, i.e. no discussion, because that would mean having a conversation with me, I responded to their letter the following day, which was the 4th June. Assuming now that you’re all sitting down, because I don’t wish to shock you too much, because as at 30th September, some four months later,  I still await a reply. It might be sensible if I double-check my dictionary as to what promptly and routed swiftly mean, or perhaps there is a special civil directory that might help me understand much more clearly what I’m supposed to do now to get food questions answered. Or should I have got the message now that wag food don’t wish to answer my questions. Hopefully that clarifies the situation a little as to why I’m still struggling to make any progress at all with wag food.

Sorry for digressing, but important I clear that up –  so now back to my main topic. My active involvement as a stakeholder, and one of wag food’s most frequent and regular correspondents on food and related matters,  apparently means nothing as today I’ve received and email from one of our most supportive Best Of Welsh & Borders producers, BOW,  concerning the Food and Drink Wales Industry Board Membership. Please don’t ask me why I haven’t received it directly, but it’s clear my being labelled by wag food as an active stakeholder is just wag words – meaningless words.

I’m told that wag food: certainly does want to hear from producers, consumers and others connected with the food sector. We encourage feedback and welcome constructive opinion so that we can improve our services to benefit Welsh businesses and consumers alike. This has indeed been a key focus of our recent extensive consultation on the proposed Strategic Food and Drink Action Plan. As one of our most frequent and regular correspondents on food and related matters I hope you will appreciate this.

Well that’s certainly not my experience. Wag food wants to hear feedback, but as to welcoming constructive opinion, I find that a joke. Or perhaps it is more accurate to say wag food don’t want, or welcome my constructive feedback. That’s more like the truth, otherwise why am I constantly blocked and fobbed off by them?

Today, we’ll help wag food out again and send the job vacancy details around to all our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers, just in case as stakeholders, they too have been ignored. I’m not sure how many, if any, might be tempted to apply. I wonder how many have enough, or any free time for these unremunerated posts.  Members will be expected to be available to work a minimum of one day per 2  months as the Board will meet at least 6 times a year initially and you’ll be expected to be available to meet on bi-monthly basis or as necessary to suit the needs of the Board (with the likelihood of some related additional work of up to two days a year – this could include an end of year Conference for example or task and finish group activity). So those with plenty of spare time, or working for a Quango, do apply and let me know how you get on.

Obviously I’ve no clue as to who will be sitting on the interview panel, if brown noses are essential, if it’s jobs-for-the-boys, but I’m sure we’ll be able to work that out when we find out who is selected.

I still hope that eventually our Welsh food and drink producers get a better deal from wag food than they are getting so far.

Finally my thanks to the BOW producer who took the time to email al this information and keep me in the loop on this, I do appreciate it and also to another BOW producer ringing in this afternoon, checking that wag food had sent us this news! Thank goodness for our BOW food grapevine.       

 

 

 
 

Surveys – Who Believes The Figures?

29 Sep

Journalists are allowed to be cynical, that’s how we are trained and surveys always bring cynicism to the fore. Over recent years we had companies reviewing Welsh food festivals, the reason for this is to tick boxes for Europe so further funding can be gained. I struggle to believe the numbers that are put out and how much supposedly food producers are taking at each festival. If the figures were accurate or very near the truth, I wouldn’t have as many food producers telling me that they are still worried about the future of their businesses and that their expansion plans were being put on the back burner. Recently one AM was on social media saying food festivals in north Wales brought in £16m to the economy. Of course £16m million into north Wales, can only be good news, but what I’m curious about is how is that figure is arrived at? How accurate is it?

Last year we had Wavehill doing a food festival review and I was told it was being completed by telephone and from food festival organiser’s paperwork. Wag food asked me to do a telephone interview with Wavehill:  As you have considerable experience in this area but I declined, for two main reasons. Firstly there was no payment and secondly that I had no idea how my input would be used or no control over it. I’m afraid that didn’t go down too well with wag food but then I was inadvertently copied in an email that went around wag food hierarchy saying:  if KR refuses to be interviewed without a consultation fee, and subsequently slates the final review, these can be referred to. 

My subsequent complaint did eventually get an apology saying that the civil servants’ email: do not reflect the views of Welsh government and the Food division and we are sorry if they have caused any offence. Offended, I certainly was, it is my choice but don’t reflect the views of wag and wag food? That can’t be true. I’ve not met, or spoken to this civil servant, so where do these views come from if not from wag food? I’m not obliged to do more work for wag food without a fee, I’m sure this civil servant doesn’t work for wag food for free, so why should I? I have little knowledge of Wavehill and would have had no control at all of their report, so how could I feel comfortable doing that?

I’ve recently noticed a festival using their part of the Wavehill report and quoting percentages, saying that over half their visitors weren’t local, plus the percentage that came from outside Wales and a spend figure from non-local visitors. But how can these figure be arrived at and be accurate? If the survey talked to every person attending, which is impossible, people still don’t tell the truth, it’s human nature isn’t it? But the reality is that this seems to be a sample of people that are ‘talked’ to and figures are then extrapolated.

I’m no longer reviewing festivals on welshfoodbites, as I’ve no wish to assist whichever company is doing wag foods’ evaluation. I’m also not naming, and certainly not knocking this festival, because they continue to do a good job year after year. How do I know they are doing a good job? Well that’s an easy question to answer, because I’ve been attending this festival for the last nine years. At each festival I attend, I actually talk to our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers, BOW, that attend and because they trust me, they tell me their views, what works well and what needs improving, if anything. Our BOW producers tell it to me as it is; they know it will not go any further unless they need my help with anything. But there’s nothing better than attending a festival where we have plenty of BOW producers in attendance and they are happy!!!

Some time ago I had a press release from a food festival saying they had 10,000 people through, which sounds good unless you are aware this festival is free to attend so there’s no way to do a visitor count and also impossible in my view that the town concerned could park 3,000 cars, let alone 5,000 cars. So apologies for my cynicism remaining intact.

I’d be really interested in your views on surveys and reports. Of course we must always bear in mind that box-ticking exercises are obligatory for wag to get further funding from Europe, wag cannot avoid that, but our Welsh food and drink producers and festival organisers need help and support that goes beyond box-ticking!

 
 

Carwyn Reshuffles His Cabinet

16 Sep

Carwyn Jones recently announced his latest cabinet reshuffle. Not sure if you’ve heard about it or if it might interest you. But the only reason that I’m posting this is that I’ve actually been taken to task by email and by phone for not giving the news of the new Minister for Natural Resources Carl Sargeant AM and the Deputy Minister for Farming and Food Rebecca Evans AM. Edwina Hart AM remains as Minister for Economy, Science and Transport.

Whether these AMs will actually ‘listen’ to those involved in Welsh food and drink at all levels, of course remains to be seen, my suggestion is as always though, don’t hold your breath.

I’m rather puzzled why I should be ticked off for not posting this news, but I have my reasons for not doing so. The first is lack of time and that fact that I’m not paid to be a spokesperson or post for the Welsh Government – bearing in mind wag haven’t bothered to send me a press release about this. But as wag have now decreed I’m no longer considered by them to be a journalist I don’t expect anything from them. I’m now told if I wish to know anything I should go onto their website. As if! Secondly this is my food blog. It’s not classed as an official part of Welsh Country magazine, although I’m happy to have a regular banner advert in each issue!!! But when Ian is selling to potential Best of Welsh & Borders, (BOW) producers, he doesn’t sell welshfoodbites as not part of the package. Of course it’s mentioned – often by the potential BOW producer – as welshfoodbites still remains a huge talking point. Thirdly and something that I have to consider constantly, is that welshfoodbites is not, and has never has been funded, unlike many other Welsh food websites, and no doubt still are. That’s despite the fact that our website stats are excellent, but government paymasters/funders seemingly don’t take this into consideration, for some reason not classing web stats as relevant which is what I was told when fork2fork got further funding and an extension.  Welshfoodbites is proof, if proof were still needed, that there is a need in the Welsh food world for a website that informs and keeps producers in the food loop. Something wag food continue to fail to do. I also believe having the opportunity to be able to leave opinions on welshfoodbites, knowing that any personal details will be kept confidential, is important . After the constant battering I’ve been getting and I can understand that very few producers are happy to raise their heads above the parapet, so confidentiality is something I was determined I could promise to my welshfoodbites following.

There was one amusing fact though with those that have taken me to task, although they are all regular visitors, none of them ever leave a comment……………………………………………..

 

 
 

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.