It’s been a few years since I visited this festival so I was curious as to what it was like now. It started off well as I’d had a press release and there were some signs leading into Brecon and park & ride service too. Sadly I’d struggled and failed, to find on the internet a list of producers that were attending, which is very annoying when it was such a busy foodie weekend and I’d to decide where to go. I’d have thought this was a basic job that should be done, but apparently not!
Once parked up Ian and I headed for our favourite coffee shop in the town and were surprised to learn that the local shops hadn’t had flyers or posters and didn’t know the festival was happening. I’m sure in past years flyers and posters were taken around the town and it certainly made a difference in this coffee shop, because the owner would have brought more staff in and upped the food order from her suppliers. Instead at mid afternoon the owner had no option but to turn people away that still wanted hot food. If Brecon comes under the banner of a local community festival, then flyers and posters should surely have been plastered all over the town.
I ddin’t see anyone from Miller Research, but Ian told me later that they were in attendance, but it’s quite amazing that I missed them yet again, especially considering how long I was in the Market Hall. Anyway I hope my post on Brecon helps them with their survey for wag.
After spending quite a few years covering food festivals, I’m still struggling with how funded food festivals are run. On Saturday there were three food festivals running: Newport, which was funded £8,105.97 for a two day festival, a reduction from the £15,171 it received last year, Neath which was awarded £9,999, the same as last year for its two day festival and Brecon which received £4,480 down from £6,300, for a one day festival. Aberystwyth farmers’ market was also running on the Saturday too! My first query is why these three festivals clash on dates? I’ve said many times before, I certainly haven’t a problem with two festivals running at opposite ends of the country, but three festivals and a farmers’ market was nothing short over-kill even for a dedicated foodie like me!! One producer I spoke too had three stands running out of the four mentioned, but this had really caused the company some headaches to service them and they simply hadn’t got the resources to cover all four. But if the food festival budget is primarily to assist food producers, then it surely can’t be impossible for wag to insist that festivals in the same area will not be funded if they clash on dates. Fingers crossed that in 2013 we’ll have a sensible, practical and workable food festival calendar. You couldn’t run a business in this manner and I believe the food department has a responsibility that funding is well spent and as taxpayers we get value for our money.
Sorry for digressing again, let’s get back to Brecon. The Market Hall, which is indoors for those of you that haven’t been there, is a very good venue for a food festival or a farmers’ market and it’s good to see this beautiful old building being used for its original purpose. Although there were a few producers complaining about where they were sited – twas ever thus – I was pleased to see so many of our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers there. Those that had a few minutes to chat, gave me the view that it had been a busy festival and they had taken some decent money. The Market Hall was full of activity when I got there and I was pleased to see people who were not, what I’d class as local to Brecon, which again proves my point that foodie people will make the effort and travel to well-run festival, even though fuel is still horrendously priced. Another bonus point was that there was no entrance charge, which surely helped draw people in. The organisers had arrnaged for the BBC’s Weatherman Derek Brockway, weathergirl Sue Charles and TV nature presenter Iolo Williams to attend and compete in celebrity cook offs.
Another annoyance and I hasten to add, not just from me, was that the very good male singer was simply too loud. The poor traders sited close to the stage had to shout to get themselves heard – which is hardly ideal when you are trying to sell to customers. The organisers had arranged plenty of musical entertainment during the day and it really was needed, as the Hall is a large, tall space and some atmosphere was very much needed, just adjust the volume. Check with the traders closest to the entertainment that the volume is pitched correctly because the festival is after all, firstly for them to sell…………………..
With so much going on that day, Brecon had done well to attract some excellent producers there. But I did find one ‘producer’ who was selling jam and chutney that had no weights, or list of ingredients shown on the jars, or even a product name apart from writing in pen on the lid. I did not hear any comments about Trading Standards and /or environmental health having been around, but festival organisers do have a responsibility, as do wag, as they are funding, to help improve the quality of producers that are in attendance. Again one has to ask what Miller are doing on their rounds as this is not the first festival that this has happened. Some producers didn’t even have a banner on their stands and certainly no business cards or leaflets. There was of course some seating at the cookery demo area, but unfortunately there wasn’t sufficient space for chairs and tables for visitors to buy and eat at the festival, thankfully it didn’t stop some people from buying and eating on the run! The organisers had also done a good job in running a craft market in the street which did help create a buzzy atmosphere in that part of town.
So generally great feedback from Brecon.