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Posts Tagged ‘Cowbridge Food & Drink Festival’

Food Festival Funding

20 Jul

I’ve totally lost count of the number of emails I’ve sent to the press office asking for a list of food festivals that wag have funded for 2016. It has got more and more time consuming over the years to get this information from wag food. But why you might ask, as I obviously do? Well I haven’t a clue, it’s something I struggle to understand. Wag food have an obligation to provide this information as they are spending public money, but they have no obligation at all to be helpful and professional about doing so. Obviously I can only relate my experience, but I can say that it is annoying and disappointing.

Apparently this year the most festivals can ask for – and sometimes get – a maximum of £5k from this budget. But now I understand that festivals can ‘officially’ apply for funding from other wag budgets. Something which in the past wag food has said never happened, as festivals could only go for one source of government funding. Regular readers will recall my trying to find out which festivals got funding from the Major Events Unit, more information which was touch to getand ended up with my having to do a Freedom Of Information question. Festivals can now apply for funding in full of for ‘selected’ areas such as waste management.

The first batch of festivals being funded as of 20th June wag are:

Cowbridge Food & Drink Festival, Cowbridge (29/30 May)

Newcastle Emlyn Food Festival, Newcastle Emlyn (11 June)

Hay Summer Food Festival, Hay-on-Wye (1 July)

Cardigan Bay Seafood Festival, Aberaeron (3 July)

Cardigan River & Food Festival, Cardigan (6 August)

Narberth Food Festival, Narberth (23-25 September)

Llangollen Food Festival, Llangollen (15/16 October)

Hay Winter Food Festival, Hay-on-Wye (26 November)

Christmas Food & Drink Fair, Abergavenny (11 December)

This is the first funding tranche as the official closing date for festival funding is 14th July. Festivals should then know two weeks later, around the 28th if they have been successful or not. As to when I’ll get details of this second tranche, I wouldn’t even hazard a guess.

Each year I say things can’t get worse getting information from wag food, but I’m constantly proved wrong, so thanks wag for a lack of communication, yes even to the press. All I want to know is which festivals wag food are funding, how much they are getting, which festivals have applied and not been successful. I like to know this information and I say early because we often put information on welshcountry.co.uk and welshfoodbites.co.uk. As a company we always also send this food festival information to all our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers, firstly because wag food don’t do so and secondly because our producers are interested to know who gets what, which is fair enough as it’s our money. So I get this list last week of nine festivals that have been funded and four of them have already been and gone!

Food festival funding was a question I got asked about on Monday at the RWAS, but I could only relay the info. I’d got however did suggest producers could ask wag food staff. Of course I was being silly as it seems like me our producers have little idea who wag food staff are.

Wag food must have their reasons for changing the food festival funding again, but they are reasons they are not sharing, purely because they don’t have too, rather than no-one would be interested. But to only get the first list of festivals mid July is not a great deal of use. Yes of course it makes me cross when Welsh Country magazine set out its stall – sorry poor pun – to promote Welsh food and drink. I don’t know which festivals applied and got rejected. I still don’t know how much the likes of Abergavenny, Cardiff and Conwy festivals have been funded this year either. Perhaps wag food think I haven’t a right to know this information, but if they don’t tell me then I’ll have to send through another Freedom Of Information question. But why should this be necessary?

I was further insulted by wag food last week when they didn’t even send me the press release relating to food festival funding, although it was sent to other Welsh media! This is despite their promise that Welsh Country magazine would receive all food and drink press releases. Welsh Country magazine, the pan Wales magazine that has supported/promoted Welsh food and drink for over a decade is left off wag food’s press mailing list, who would believe that?

Do you think I should take this latest insult personally………………….?

 
 

Food Festival – Approval Of First Applications

06 May

I asked the Welsh Press Office again yesterday for the first list of food festival funding and have been told – again- that I’ll get a Press Release when they issue one. But as I keep explaining, it’s the facts and figures I’m interested in, much more than Welsh Assembly spin in a press release.
So follows is the first list I’ve received:
Tier 1
Approved
Caerphilly Food Festival 09 May £5,000
Wrexham Food & Drink Festival 16-17 May £5,000
Welsh Perry & Cider Festival 22-25 May £5,000
Cowbridge Food & Drink Festival 24-25 May £5,000
Hay Summer Food Festival 27 June £1,701
Cardigan River & Food Festival 08 August £4,995
Menai Seafood Festival 29 August £4,634
Narberth Food Festival 25-27 September £5,000
Mumbles Oyster & Seafood 02-04 Oct £5,000
Newport Food Festival 03 October £5,000
Llangollen Food Festival 17-18 Oct £5,000
Hay Winter Food Festival 27 November £1,701
Portmerion Food Festival 5-6 December £5,000
Abergavenny Xmas Food Festival 13 December £5,000
Tier 2
Approved
Cardigan Bay Seafood Festival 05 July £9,335

All I can say at this stage is that if anyone knows how to make one of their own systems more complicated, it has to be wag and wag food. Welsh food and drink is supposed to be high on wag’s agenda but if that’s the case why is this system now so comlicated? I’m interested in knowing how much these festivals applied for but as I’ve not been able to get the facts and figures I require, I’ve sent in a Freedom Of Information question. My response is due 20th May and after that the reply will be posted on welshfoodbites. I do though wonder if getting £1,701 in funding is worth all the paperwork and box ticking wag food require, but seemingly it is for some festivals.

 
 

Cowbridge Food & Drink Festival ‘Springs’ Forward With New Date For 2015

20 Feb

Many of you will be disappointed, Ian and I included, to find out that  the Cowbridge Food & Drink festival will not be running this year. Follows is the full press release:

Having celebrated its tenth anniversary last October, the award-winning Cowbridge Food and Drink Festival has grown to become one of the most popular events of its kind in Wales.

Thousands flock to the market town each year to sample the high quality artisan produce available, with only one factor ever putting a dampener on proceedings – and even larger attendance figures – the often inclement October weather.

For this reason – and in order to ensure the future growth of this annual showcase – the organising committee has taken the decision that future festivals will take place in May rather than October as previously.

The next festival is planned for May 2015 and will be hosted annually in the month of May from then on, taking advantage of a spring climate with the aim of attracting even more sponsors and visitors to the event.

Run by a volunteer committee, the Cowbridge Food and Drink Festival costs over £60,000 each year to set up and run, with 2013 incurring a substantial loss – attributed in a large way to the poor weather conditions. Festival expenses typically involve radio, newspaper advertising and PR; marquees, logistics and site management as well as the provision of the free park and ride, additional public toilet facilities, insurance and Festival entertainment all of which have to be paid for out of the proceeds received over the weekend of the Festival.

Speaking about the committee’s decision, John Davies, Festival Chairman said:

“We’ve enjoyed a hugely successful ten years of the Cowbridge Food and Drink Festival but we have come to realise that certain conditions are preventing us growing even further and attracting a wider audience to enjoy this fantastic weekend of food and family fun.

“In moving the date to May, we hope to attract new sponsorship and interest in the festival in 2015 and even more support from the local community and town’s traders who we rely on to work so closely with us.

“We see this change as a very positive thing and a real opportunity to revitalise the festival, drawing even more visitors to Cowbridge and generating higher income and economic growth for the region in the process.”

As many readers of welshfoodbites will know, I’m a huge fan of this festival; the only thing I could blame them for was not always ordering sufficient warm and sunny weather for the end of October! With the weather in mind, I’m sure the change of date is the right move for them; Welsh food and drink is vital to Wales but I just hope that the food festival calendar doesn’t get too busy in May. However it’s not just food producers that will be counting the cost the cost of the loss of this festival this year, there’s no doubt that beautiful market town of Cowbridge will also miss the influx of visitors that this super festival always brings in.

 
 

Cowbridge Food & Drink Festival

28 Oct

Cowbridge festival is not always blessed with the best of weather, but leading up to their weekend they were blighted with news on all media with forthcoming storms and possible hurricanes – not the news they needed at all. Sadly the forecasts were reasonably accurate and I’m sure it must have affected the visitor numbers, although I didn’t get an official count.

However regular readers will know that Cowbridge food festival is one of my favourites and I can assure you there are not many Welsh food festivals in that select group! So why is it a favourite? Well lots of reasons really and the starting point is Polly. If you haven’t met Polly, she is the Cowbridge Events Manager. She runs her own company, pollywilson events and I think she does a great job – so enough said. Polly’s been managing Cowbridge for what seems like forever and if only I could bottle her skills and positive attitude and send it around some other festivals that could do with a much-needed boost. But obviously Polly’s not running this festival solo; she has the backing, direction and support of John Davies, the Chair of Cowbridge Food Festival. John’s such a star. Over the years he’s assembled a brilliant team around him. Between them they give Cowbridge a festival they have every right to be proud of. I’ve never said that it’s an easy job to run a food festival, I’m certainly wouldn’t volunteer to run one, but I must say, with tongue-in-cheek, it tends to look easy when you visit a well run one!!! Or maybe the Cowbridge team have all been brilliantly trained as swans, gliding serenely along whilst paddling like mad underneath!!! But it’s the producers and the visitors that matter and no-one can take away that this festival has got a great deal right.

So how did our visit to the 10th Cowbridge Food & Drink award winning festival go? Well Ian and I always visit on the Sunday as Saturday is always busy, busy, plus I obviously get better feedback after a day’s trading. The opportunity to talk to producers that are, by and large smiling, although tired and sometimes rather damp, is really worthwhile. I did talk to a few producers who weren’t on a par with their last year’s figures, but on the whole, a reasonably positive picture in that weather and this climate.  Overall Wag’s funded festival programme has not been that good this year, with very few festivals managing to buck the ongoing economic recession, so to talk to some happy food producers did help to make my damp day. Another bonus at Cowbridge is that Polly accepts quite a few of our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers, but that just shows what a quality festival this is, selling the best of Welsh food!!!!!

What always impresses me at Cowbridge is how John, Polly and the team have continued each year to encourage the whole town to get involved, not only back the festival, but to push their own businesses too. I’m disappointed when other festivals can’t get their towns supporting their festivals because I do feel it is important. I’m certainly not saying it is easy, it’s something Polly and I have discussed on a regular basis and  it’s been hard work for the Cowbridge team, they have found it tough, but no-one can disagree that this makes the whole festival work much better and gives it a real buzzy, party atmosphere. Some of Cowbridge shops were even advertising festival specials. I did hear of a wag funded festival who wouldn’t allow one of the shops on his own High Street take a food stand, even though it meant his shop still stayed open! I wouldn’t have believed it if the shop owner hadn’t told me himself but you couldn’t make it up could you?

I’m sure I commented last year that Polly is one of the few organisers who does listen to the traders; she takes their comments on board and makes improvements, if at all possible. The traders respect Polly and that is fairly unusual. Yet despite Polly’s skills, even she can’t increase the festival site size! Over the years John and the team have tried their best to gain additional space where they can and re-jig the layout to utilize the space they have available, but it’s inevitable that some traders are turned away. Of course that’s annoying, but as traders talk amongst themselves of a ‘fabulous festival at Cowbridge’ then the more traders apply each year and the disappointment continues. I’m sure some of you are from time to time a bit sloppy filling in your application forms, but you cannot expect Polly or any other organiser for that matter, to remember the little quirks about your particular business. Put as much detail on your form as possible and stop expecting organisers to be mind readers, or the equivalent of Memory Women!

After all these years asking, I’m now not sure that wag food can devise one universal application form that all food festival organisers will accept, even if it’s only for a year. I used to be hopeful that could happen, but with the lack of interest from wag to date, maybe that’s something else I’ve got wrong! It would cut down on producers’ paperwork, as they would fill in one form each year and email it through as an attachment, with an opportunity to make changes during the year if necessary. Instead we have a time-consuming system which wastes our producers’ time and effort and doesn’t help organisers that much either.

It’s the dialogue that Polly has worked hard to establish not just with the traders but also from my side too. I get everything I need for Polly. I know what’s happening; I know who’s exhibiting, so there are no grumbles from me. The finishing touch was on Tuesday when I received in the post two wristbands – without having to ask!!!!!! Efficient, yes, helpful, yes, but more so I actually feel that this event wants to see Ian and I in Cowbridge – so how brilliant is that?

Cowbridge is a beautiful, town full of character, without a multi-storey car park and I say thank goodness for that. So it stands to reason that parking will always be an issue. It goes without saying that every trader wishes to park a maximum of 20 paces away from their stand, but that is just not how it works in the real world. The Cowbridge team has worked hard to try and grab any space they can get their hands on for their two day festival, but as the festival continues to grow in popularity, its bond to be a victim of its own success. A great solution has been using the young people from ATC Squadron 293; they always do a great job each year, helping traders move their stock to and from their vans, litter picking and sorting out any little hiccups that occur. These young people are always polite and a credit, not only to the ATC, but to their parents too. To help combat the parking issue Cowbridge runs an efficient Park & Ride, which is a huge help and the other bonus was clear signage on my way in. Another plus was all the Marshalls/Stewards I came into contact were polite and helpful; so it’s no wonder I find Cowbridge festival a pleasure to attend.

The cookery demos were moved much closer to the main action, which was sensible and worked well. There were locals chefs down for duty and again this is something I like and want to see more of at other festivals. Not sure though if the chefs were using food from the producers, but if not, maybe this can be sorted for next year. .

Cowbridge had little option this year but to run without wag funding, not Cowbridge’s fault at all, it’s all down to lack of organisation, late confirmation of budgets, but whatever the reason it is simply not acceptable wag. Cowbridge were given at the best two and a half weeks notice not only to fill in oodles of wag paperwork, but were this year asked for CV’s for their team. No, you haven’t misread it, I did say CV’s. Now you are going to ask why CV’s are required and my answer is they are not. But it is apparently in case wag’s P.A.s are asked for them. What utter rubbish.wag food of course will then say this is public money and we have to be careful and responsible. Well that’s their theory which simply doesn’t stand up because wag food waste as much public money, in my view, as many other government departments. Someone at wag food needs a whacking dose of common sense before Welsh food festival organisers all decide on mass to resign. Again in my view, wag food doesn’t deserve to have such hard-working volunteers, because they are simply not appreciated. So a serious reality check is needed here wag. Firstly the bulk of your funded food festivals are run, by-and-large by volunteers, many retired or semi-retired. But CV’s has to go to the top of my very long list of wag’s stupid, pointless requests. No-one in wag food has thought this through from the organisers’ point of view, which continues to be one of the main problems of the wag food department.

So far this year, Ian and I have attended seventeen festivals and have failed to see a wag food person at any of them. But surely if official visitors wish to attend can’t wag pick up the phone and talk to the organiser directly? Because wag sent out their applications so late,  Cowbridge were out-of-pocket by £10k – which is a big hole to fill, and more so when it was not their fault. I wonder if wag raised any concern as to why Cowbridge hadn’t applied for funding this year. If  I’d have been wag, I certainly would, but then I am talking about civil servants that get paid each month, not the self-employed and certainly not volunteers. However I find it sad, because as wag, I’d want to take some of the credit for this fabulous festival. It showed off Welsh artisan food producers, the bulk of them Welsh food producers, to great advantage, it added a great deal to the town, with locals and visitors enjoying themselves.

Now there’s a funny twist to this thread, because ironically, for this festival who through no fault of their own were not funded this year, guess who visited on the Saturday? Minister of Natural Resources and that includes food, Alun Davies as well as Jane Hutt, Minister of Finance. They spent a good hour there and were given a tour around by John and hopefully in that time both Ministers could understand the problems that both their departments put on these volunteers who are supporting not only our food festivals but also their communities by attracting more people into their areas. Please don’t hold your breath on this one but let’s just hope seeds were sown and they grow. Now any festival would be reveling in two Ministers visiting in a day but that wasn’t enough for Cowbridge, oh no. On Sunday, someone else who was their in a private capacity with his family, was first Minister Carwen Jones. I didn’t realize Mr. Jones had such good taste, but as we all met up at the SamosaCo stand, in the food-to-go marquee, for their amazing chicken curry, I shall have to retract that, I cannot fault his taste on the curry front!!!

Next year Polly is going to have the same problem with even more producers desperate to get a pitch there. From her side, in some ways, it’s a lovely position so be in, providing she accepts that she can’t please all the producers, all of the time!! So if I can offer a snippet of advice to producers, fill the forms in fully, sell your company well, be adaptable about maybe not bringing your whole range, and then keep your fingers crossed. If you fail to get in maybe Polly can give you feedback ……

Congratulations Cowbridge to all involved for once again putting on a fabulous festival; your hard work has certainly paid off, despite the dreadful weather. Your success is totally deserved.

 
 

Cowbridge Food & Drink Festival

19 Jul

This year Cowbridge runs over the 26th & 27th October and this is one of my favourite food festivals. Cowbridge usually apply for funding from wag, but this year decided not to bother. Thankfully they have some good sponsors, including the support again this year from Waitrose who built a new store in Cowbridge and opened it last year.

So with no wag money in their piggy-bank, Cowbridge obviously don’t have to adhere to any of wags’ criteria, but then welshfoodbiters, you’ll also be aware that not many wag funded festivals have so far this year bothered to take heed of these criteria. So I was delighted this morning to receive from Polly Wilson, Cowbridge’s brilliant PR person, the full list of exhibitors – amazing – as the good news is I didn’t have to ask for it and the even better news is that lots of our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers have been excepted. So that’s a win, win for me!

So you’ve impressed me again Cowbridge team and I shall look forward to seeing you in October. Hope you’ve ordered the fine weather now!!! For more information visit: cowbridgefoodanddrink.org 

 

 

 

 
 

Congratulations To Cowbridge Food & Drink Festival

29 Oct

What a delightful change for Ian and I to visit a 2-day food festival, arrive on the second day and see and talk to happy traders. Yes dear reader, you did read that correctly, happy traders! Plus we had lots of Best of Welsh & Border producers there.

Wow, wow, wow Cowbridge, what is your secret……….?

Well to be fair there isn’t one, but the reason why the Cowbridge team have a winner of an event, year after year, is that they listen. Cowbridge listen to traders, to the retailers in the town, to the town council, to their helpers and volunteers, to their sponsors and maybe in part, also listen to us too. In my view, listening is their secret. Usually when ‘anyone’ suggests to organisers that something could be improved, instead of getting the usual scenario from them, which could be strongly defending their corner because there is nothing wrong, it can’t be changed or the ultimate, which if a trader complains, means they’ll not get invited back, so what is the point of traders saying anything? Cowbridge Events Manager is Polly Wilson of pollywilson events, she’s the face of Cowbridge, the contact for both traders and press, but thanks and congratulations must also go to John Davies the Chair of Cowbridge Food Festival and the rest of the great team that he has put together.

Anyway back to Polly, who I must say that the traders have a great deal of respect for, and I still insist it’s because she does listen to them. Of course she can’t please everyone, who could? But if your requests are listed on your application form, and if your form is accurately filled in, with you not expecting Polly to remember all the products you produce, then maybe possible problems can be nipped in the bud  before they start. Festival forms are a pain in the butt for both sides, but over the following months, I want to pick Polly’s brains and see if we can devise a form that will help Polly do her job and will make life easier for traders too. If we can achieve that, then maybe we can persuade wag to have just one form for ALL funded festivals, but maybe I’m dreaming on that one, we’ll see.  Yet after praising Polly and the team, even they couldn’t stop the rain on Sunday afternoon! But the pleasure from visiting Cowbridge festival does come from Polly understanding the traders and the traders appearing to understand the job she works so hard to get right.

I’m sure you can now guess another reason the traders so happy? Yes of course, Saturday was brilliant on the takings front. One trader said: this festival is the best and busiest I have done this year and such a change to see people handing me £20 notes and not struggling to find a fiver in change. Many commented: Saturday was so busy; Sunday is now a much needed bonus. A trader, who has travelling down to London that night for a show this week, had no choice but to use some of the London stock they had, as they too had been so busy. This was music to my ears.

Parking has always been a problem in Cowbridge, that’s the nature of this beautiful town, but improvements had been made, although human nature decrees, that traders will want to be as close as possible to the food marquee. However something else that impressed me was the young people from the ATC that were so helpful to traders in helping them move their stock back to their vans. Gosh they were so polite, despite the hideous rain that came in without my permission I might add! The cookery demos were moved much closer to the main action, which was sensible and worked well. There were locals chefs down for duty and again this is something I like and want to see more of at other festivals. Not sure though if they were using food from the producers, I’ll check with Polly about that one. I would have liked to have seen a notice in that area saying who was cooking and when though. The Park & Ride was another big help, as were the AA signs on my way in. Marshalling worked well and everyone was so polite and helpful – yes even to press too!

Another surprise after Ian and I had had our coffee fix in Cowbridge just after 9.30, the cafe was very busy and doing a good trade in breakfasts, was to see a local butcher open on the High Street and other shops planning to open from 11-3.00. Thank goodness that shop retailers were taking advantage of the massive number of visitors to the town and showing them what Cowbridge has to offer.

There was the craft area in it’s normal spot, some had done ok some not well at all. I must have a moan at some of these traders who not only didn’t have business cards and singnage on their stands but did look totally fed up. I know it was cold and it is always worse if you aren’t selling, I do know that after having done tradestands for more years than I wish to divulge here, but a grumpy looking trader doesn’t encourage me to have a look at what they have got on offer.  Ian has quick to spot our First Minster Carwyn Jones in the craft area, and of course couldn’t resist the opportunity to give him a copy of Welsh Country to take home with him. Polly you didn’t say you had friends in such high places!

I didn’t see Miller Research but maybe they visited on Saturday. To me that is a daft day to go as Saturday is always the busiest day so you cannot talk to traders and get their view – that is if they want any traders view of an event.

So compliments to all involved in Cowbridge, wag should hold you up as the example to follow. I know that wag funded Cowbridge to the tune of £9,900 and this is one of the few occasions that wag food and our producers got real value for money.

Poor Polly is though going to have many, many more producers wanting stands next year when word spreads to those who haven’t attended before or worst still couldn’t get in this year and missed such a wonderful event………………………………..