Posts Tagged ‘food festival organisers’

Food Festival Funding for 2015

04 Mar

Another helpful person sent the following letter through to me today about food festival funding for this year. Letter is dated 3rd March so there seems to be no urgency for wag food to get this sorted and give our organisers one thing less to stress about. It would have been helpful if wag had sent the application forms out last November and given these poor people some time to sort their applications out. Wag’s lateness with these forms seems to show that they have forgotten that this group of hard-working organisers are helping the wag food department as well as Visit Wales.

I’ve posted the letter below and followed with some interesting criteria, sure you’ll get wag food’s gist from the letter. The paperwork these poor organisers have to understand and then complete is nothing short of mind-blowing. This is red tape taken to the extreme and with no thought at all for those volunteers running food festivals.

3rd March Dear Food Festival Organiser(s)

The application process is now open for this years 2015/16 Food Culture Grant Funding for Food Festivals. Following feedback from the Food Festival organisers Seminar 2014 and review of 2014/15 Food Festivals there have been significant changes to the process and criteria, therefore please ensure that you read the documentation and criteria carefully before submitting an application. Incorrect or in complete applications will be considered in-eligible.  

Applications will be considered within TWO application rounds:

Round 1 – Applications invited from the 27th February – deadline for applications 3pm 18th March 2015.

Round 2 – Applications invited from the 27th April – deadline for applications 3pm 15th May 2015.  

Please find attached the following documents • Streamlined Application Form • Scheme Guidance and Criteria – Annexes I & II   • Procurement Guidance – Annex III.

The following criteria will be used when assessing ALL applications:

1) Does the project demonstrate collaboration and co-operation between Food and Drink and Tourism sector.

2) Is the project part of a wider programme/strategy within the area/region?

3) Does it meet one or more of the objectives to: Improve Visitor Access to and awareness of Welsh Food and Drink • Encourage Welsh hospitality businesses to source more local food and drink • Increase the prevalence of Welsh Food and Drink on menus and retail offering

4) Will the project be sustainable in future years? Is there evidence of longer term self sustainability?

5) Does the project identify clear outputs/objectives? Each application will be considered on its individual merit, and in light of available funding.

Food Culture Grant Scheme – Food Festivals and Events

Criteria – Appendix II

Applications will need to demonstrate that the funding will provide evident advantage to the Welsh food and drink industry. 

Only activities that will clearly add value to the food and drink industry in Wales will be supported.

Funding is not available for activity which adds value to an existing attraction e.g. where a charge is made to enter a premises and the food activity is an added attraction. 

Activity which adds value to an existing market e.g. Farmers Market will not be eligible for support.

New events will not be supported where they compete directly with existing well supported events (i.e. close proximity, conflict in dates)

All Festivals and Events should demonstrate their commitment to longer term financial security and non reliance on Welsh Government funding, to this end it is unlikely that any festival or event will secure funding for more than 3 consecutive years (subject to budget availability). 

Applications will be considered under three tiers of support:

Tier 1 – Funding of up to £5,000 at 50% of eligible costs. 

Regional events with a presence of at least 30 Welsh Food and Drink exhibitors and minimum footfall of 2,500 visitors.

75% of ALL exhibitors must be food and drink exhibitors, of which 70% must be Welsh Food and Drink producers to be eligible for support. Failure to meet this requirement will result in the withdrawal of funding support.

The whole cost of the event must be shown in the application form, however, only the following elements will be eligible for funding:

  • Cookery demonstrations – Promoting local / Welsh produce
  • Marketing / advertising materials
  • Stands / marquee costs


This tier will be operated via a streamlined application process, HOWEVER new events this year will need to provide a business plan* detailing aims, objectives and targets, management arrangements with details of relevant experience and track record, budget forecasts (income and expenditure projections) Support from other public sector agencies, for example: local authorities, details of other funding sources including private sector/commercial sponsorship, risk management, marketing plan, plans for achieving sustainability of the festival in future years, Welsh Language provision and Waste Management plans.

Tier 2 – Funding of up to £10,000 at 50% of eligible costs.

National sectoral promotional events with at least 40 Welsh Food and Drink Exhibitors and 5,000 visitors, providing an opportunity to showcase Wales Food and Drink. e.g. Events focused on a particular Welsh Food and Drink sector i.e. Seafood, Drinks, Dairy sector. 

75% of ALL exhibitors must be food and drink exhibitors, of which 70% must be Welsh Food and Drink producers to be eligible for support. Failure to meet this requirement will result in the withdrawal of funding support.

The whole cost of the event must be shown in the application form, however, only the following elements will be eligible for funding:

  • Demonstrations – Promoting local / Welsh produce
  • Sector specific activity e.g. Workshops to improve product   skills/knowledge


  • Marketing / advertising materials
  • Stands / marquee costs


This tier will be operated via a streamlined application, supported by a business plan* including detailed marketing proposals demonstrating how the activity will raise the profile of the sector on a National stage.    

Tier 3 – Funding of up to £25,000 at 50% of eligible costs.

Welsh Signature Festivals and Events with in excess of 70 Welsh Food and Drink exhibitors and minimum 8,000 visitors. 80% of ALL exhibitors must be food and drink exhibitors, as a minimum events will need to secure 65% Welsh Food and Drink exhibitors.

The whole cost of the event must be shown in the application form, however only activity specifically identified as providing an opportunity to promote Welsh Food and Drink on a National/International stage will be considered eligible, examples of eligible activity could be (but not limited to):

  • Demonstration area specifically promoting Welsh Food and Drink to visitors
  • Workshops to improve skills/knowledge in the preparation and service of Welsh Food and Drink.
  • Marketing / advertising materials specifically promoting Welsh Food and DrinkWe will seek to encourage new and innovative ideas in the promotion of Welsh Food and Drink. 


  • This tier will require a streamlined application, supported by a detailed business plan* outlining how the activity proposed will genuinely provide increased sales and presence for Welsh Food and Drink and how the festival will deliver against the Food and Drink Action Plan.
  • Business Plan requirements as a minimum: aims, objectives and targets, management arrangements with details of relevant experience and track record, budget forecasts (income and expenditure projections) Support from other public sector agencies, for example: local authorities, details of other funding sources including private sector/commercial sponsorship, risk management, marketing plan, plans for achieving sustainability of the festival in future years, Welsh Language provision and Waste Management plans.


I apologise if I’ve posted too much for you to read but I can assure you there’s much more. I’m flabbergasted by all the forms that have to be completed and I thought previous years were bad enough!

My feeling is that the festivals’ committee have had their input. Although I’m guessing is appears that the ‘big three’, Abergavenny, Cardiff and Conwy have been clever in getting the funding level on the 3rd Tier raised to £25k. But can someone please explain why? Giving just these three long standing festivals £75k could have helped seven festivals under the previous funding system. I was told by wag food ten years ago that food festivals must look to be self funding and today we are still being told that, but if that’s really the case, and not just more wag words, why raise the top level to £25k instead of £10k? How can that make sense? Why also is this select ‘big three’ then allowed with this extra cash boost, now only have to run with 65% of Welsh food and drink producers, instead of last year’s 75%? If food and drink is so important to Wales, then why are the big three allowed to take less Welsh food and drink stands? What is also worrying is that if one takes the percentage non-food stands and then add in the percentage Welsh Food stands, the criteria actually means that there need only be 52.5%* or 52% Welsh food stands.

*Depending on the level of food festival funding it seems the more Wag money you get, the less Welsh you have to be, ok only marginally.

I cannot believe that after putting together a food festival committee, bearing in mind I don’t know who is on these committees, but it seem that there is a lot of individual food festival interest being put forward and wag food have accepted their input. This is not only puzzling but in my view doesn’t help food festivals at all. Why not give the food festivals are clue as to when food festival funding is going to stop? As wag food has been saying festivals will have to fund themselves for over ten years, do the organisers actually believe wag food that this at some stage will actually happen? So wag food why don’t you tell food festivals now when their funding is going to stop?





No Update On Food Festivals

03 Feb

Short of something to do – I think not – I asked the Press Office once on 13th January when CLES/Wavehill festival evaluation will be available to me and then when I can expect an official statement as to when the Minister will announce about food festival funding for 2014? I didn’t get a reply, so asked AGAIN on 28th January and today got the following official response:

A Welsh Government spokesperson said:

“There is no consultation on food festivals planned. Our consultation on the draft Action Plan for Food and Drink is ongoing and an independent evaluation of the support we give to food festivals is also underway. We will make an announcement on funding for food festivals once we have considered both these pieces of work.”

Well, as always, this response is pointless and unhelpful. I’m not given a clue as to ‘when’ they will have considered both these pieces of work, and made any decisions. Welsh food and drink are supposed to be important to Wales but that is not the impression this statement gives me. But it was ever thus with our food department.  In theory they know what they are doing, though many of you, like me, will dispute that, so our only option is for us to just wait and wait and wait………………….

The only positive food news so far today is that I’ve been told by a helpful festival organiser that applications for food festivals have now been sent out by wag. Well I guess that’s something, and it’s certainly better late than never, even though these hard-working organisers still haven’t a clue as to whether they’ll get funding or not this year. But that’s not a worry for wag food.


Food Festival Funding 2014

22 Oct

One of my regular questions is when will a decision be made about food festival funding for 2014. The problem is trying to get an answer!!! Although I’m not going to stop asking this question, follows is yesterday’s response:

 A Welsh Government spokesperson said:

“We are not yet in a position to comment on food festival funding in 2014.”

I went back and asked when they’d ‘be in a position to comment’ to be told:

I don’t think that information is available yet.

Well bully for wag. Not only can’t they answer the question they cannot or will not even give me a timeline on it. So as I have little ‘proper paid-for work’ to do here, I guess my only option is that I’ll keep chasing them for a response. Meanwhile I can only say sorry for those organisers whose festivals are hopefully running early next year but I’ve done my best. My suggestion would be that those organisers email or phone your Assembly Members and put pressure on them to get this matter out in the open for once.

I am cross and utterly fed-up of going over the same issues with wag food year after year with few improvements being made. I fail to understand why wag cannot accept that the bulk of their work is meaningless, worthless and to top it all – it’s expensive. Is it too difficult for their civil servants, working in their glass offices, to put themselves in the position of a festival organiser, particularly a festival running in April, May or June next year? Why would an organiser gamble as to whether they will get funding or not from wag? Why would an organiser want the additional hassle of not knowing if, or when, wag might fund them and then under what criteria. Gosh, it’s stressful enough for organisers that are council employees and are paid for their efforts, but why would a volunteer choose to put themselves through that, with virtually no support from the wag food department? In my view wag, I don’t think you deserve such good organisers when you cannot treat them with the respect and courtesy they deserve.

I find this practice of chasing wag to find out about food festival funding totally pointless and such a waste of time.


You really could never run a business as wag food run their department.


If only wag food could learn just one lesson that communication is the key…………………………………..


More Food Festival Rumours

15 Oct

In my last story posted yesterday 14/10, I said I hear very little indeed from wag food. Well how true that is, because yesterday I was told by a foodie that Welsh food festival organisers have been requested by wag food to submit to them their list of food producers at their festival, so wag food can presumably check that they have hit the required 75% Welsh food producer criteria.

Well guys you really couldn’t make this up could you? I have been commenting publicly on welshfoodbites for the last three years and have always been very vocal with my views on Welsh food festivals. I’ve spoken to wag food directly, both face-to-face and in writing. I’ve made clear my disgust that last year wag food paid Miller Research to do a 2012 food festival evaluation at a cost of £43k, yet it was only last month that I was able to finally obtain a copy of their ‘words of wisdom’. I’m not sure that Miller gave wag food a copy of their report last year, so I cannot see how wag food decided on this year’s criteria, unless of course they continued to use my opinions from welshfoodbites…………………………

But my worry continues to be that these food festival evaluations are an utter waste of public money and help wag food only by allowing them to tick another box on their list. This year we have two companies doing an evaluation and, as far as I understand it, it will be achieved by them looking at the organisers’ paperwork submitted to wag food, plus them ringing organisers and no doubt ringing some producers too. I doubt very much if these two companies will have attended any of this year’s food festivals, if they have I’ve certainly missed them. So they will have to form their opinion simply working on completed paperwork and talking on the phone to a few folk, but at least wag food can then tick another box!!! I know I’m cynical, but all organisers might not tell it as it is, but rather as they know wag food wishes to hear. So what’s the point of that then? Again with producers, if they wish to attend a festival next year, are they going to complain about anything at all? Of course not, they are not stupid and I don’t give a hoot that these call ‘might’ be in confidence, producers will not believe that any more than they believe wag food are on their side!

CLES were the appointed company, for the food festival evaluation. Wavehill are approved contractors carrying out some of the work in partnership with CLES. The tender value was £27,800+vat.

Now all this puts a couple of questions in my mind. Firstly that wag food asking organisers for this information now seems to give CLES one less job to do. Secondly, playing the cynical journalist, how can wag food be sure what the organisers send them is correct? Thirdly what in theory is asking for how many Welsh stands were in attendance going to mean? Bearing in mind many, many festivals have already been paid their agreed grant funding. If at this late stage in the funding plan it is shown some festivals haven’t made the required 75% can wag food ask for a refund? Then as press releases and signage were other wag food criteria, so how can these be proved? Because from my side not many funded food festivals managed to do that one either.

Of course I’m delighted that wag food and the likes of Miller Research are viewing welshfoodbites on a daily basis, despite this site not being publicly funded like fork2fork at a cost of £43k for one year; it’s flattering that they can take on board what they read. What is disappointing is that cannot then make my suggestions work for the benefit of our producers. Plus there’s no need to thank me, I’m sure my accountant has to be wrong when he reminds me I have a VAT number not a charity number, can that really be true?

This week I had an interesting call from one of our Best Of Welsh & Border producers, telling me that they had again been turned down by Abergavenny. No reason was given to them, despite them being professional Welsh primary producers – if Welsh food festivals are not for the likes of them wag food, what are you funding them for? This company were simply thrown out whilst Abergavenny took numerous stands from Cornwall and the Isle of Wight. Sadly this is not only happening at Abergavenny, as many festivals are guilty of this poor practice. But whilst this practice continues, wag food have just stood pathetically by and watched it happen, whilst our Welsh producers are not only losing vital trade and revenue, they have no form of re-address against being thrown out. So wag food, how can that be fair?

I’ve also heard once again, another rumour saying that wag food will not be funding festivals again next year. Of course I’ve asked wag food and been told no decision has been made and I’m sure I’ll hear about Scottish food festivals before I hear about our Welsh ones. But if wag food don’t fund food festivals next year this department and its Minister will have, let’s say a lot of egg on their faces. However if wag food cannot come up with festival criteria that are workable, then maybe it’s easier that we all admit defeat, wag food have won and we might just as well give up.

I’m not sure whether to sum up this post by saying to wag food, too little, too late, or reminding you all once again that sadly, commonsense is certainly not commonly available.



Who Controls The Funded Food Festival Calendar?

07 Oct

My answer – no-one.

Ian and I were at Brecon food festival on Saturday. Other festivals also on last weekend were Newport and Neath, all three of them mid/south based. All three of them were funded by the wag food to the tune of nearly £20k. I got endless complaints from producers, mostly saying the same thing, why three festivals on the same weekend that they could basically all attend reasonably easily. Yet next weekend there is only Anglesey running, which is too far for many of the mid/southern producers to attend. So if these producers only have the staff and resources to attend one festival, how do they make their decision? That’s a tough one isn’t it? Where are they going to make the most money is really what they come down to, isn’t it? Some producers did manage to do two festivals, but it meant either having to bring in temporary help, or run each stand solo.

This is not a new discussion point I’m introducing, Ian and I have been mentioning it for years, but to no avail – no-one bothers to listen. One wag official did tell me there was nothing wag food could do about it, but I totally disagree. I think it should be part of wag food’s job to encourage food festival organisers to talk amongst themselves and plan a sensible working calendar for the benefit of the food producers. It will actually help them too as it should bring a greater selection of artisan food producers to them clamouring for a pitch. If that’s not possible, I think wag food should then say: if you can’t help with this basic issue, then some festivals will not be funded if they clash dates. Money has always been power and the ‘government cashier should surely have a say………………….

The food department, in my view is there to support food producers,  but if I was a producer with a choice of three festivals last weekend and really nothing this coming weekend, I’d be furious and feel as many said on Saturday that this department is letting them down – again. A couple of producers were cross with me, which was unfair, as I’ve said this many, many, many times to the government that this should be done. So far I’ve failed in making wag food see my point of view, but the sad thing is my point of view relates to feedback I get, from producers that wag food in effect are supposed to be supporting.

Another question I was asked on Saturday was how many wag food employees attended their 32 funded food festivals? Many or any? Well if you take out Cardiff and Abergavenny, I’d say not very many at all – if any.

My final moan was that I’ve had no press releases from any of these three festivals; in fact I couldn’t find a list of producers for Brecon on the web. But that’s no longer new news for you is it? But to be fair, I didn’t bother checking the other two festivals as I’d no intention of visiting them as well. So why do wag food bother to issue any criteria to food festival organisers? What’s the point? Is it just another pointless box ticking exercise? Which I have to say wag food are good at, aren’t they? I just can’t understand how wag food think they can accurately analyse that their criteria are followed. The two companies wag food are this year paying to do a food festival evaluation, is from my side, a total waste of our money. Apart from the fact that another box will be ticked.

So it seems not to matter that these unresolved issues continue year after year after year, and our producers are not being supported.

I’ve yet to have any feedback from either Newport or Neath.


Cardiff Country Fair

01 Oct

I had this sent through to me on Monday and after checking out the source, who is a person who was there throughout the event; I thought that some of you, who didn’t attend might find it of interest.

Written by Serious Foodie: A a dedicated and very disappointed Foodie who may well next year go to Italy for the real show………

Did you know there was a Country Fair in Cardiff Castle last weekend?  ‘No?’  Don’t worry too much, you’re not alone. Judging from the overall attendance figures the show was a well-kept secret and amongst those that did attend, many thought they were attending the usual British Cheese Festival.

It seems the event organisers are not very good at multi-tasking as last year’s British Cheese Festival was blighted by poor organisation. The official excuse was, ‘they’ say, caused by the council staff being overwhelmed with the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations and the Olympic Torch staggering through the city.  Why either event should prevent sending out invitations to hopeful vendors, followed by response delays so long, that many decided to take their products and produce elsewhere, but that’s what happened resulting in a much smaller show than previous years.

So what was the excuse this year?   At first it wasn’t clear if there was even going to be a Cheese Festival at all, rumour had it that it clashed with something going on somewhere in Italy, which was true. The Bra Cheese Festival which is far from a new event has been going on for years. 

Then we were informed that as the Italian Festival was a bi-annual event, then the Cardiff British Cheese Festival was now going to be every other year to avoid the clash. Heads up Cardiff, here’s the provisional dates for The Bra Cheese Festival for 2014, 19th – 21st September.

OK, so no Cheese Festival in Cardiff in 2013. The event team or committee, or whatever, wandered around in a dither as to whether or not to do something else and as before, took so long to make a decision, that most of the possible vendors made alternative plans.  So instead of a Cheese Festival we ended up with a sort of village Fete.  

From the footfall I’d guess they managed to keep the whole thing a secret from the public as well. Of course the footfall increased round about lunch time when the local students arrived for their annual lunch of free samples. They apparently have no shame as they stand around discussing the various merits of what’s on offer before wandering off to the beer tent to wash things down, before heading back for round of ‘See how much free food you can neck down.’ 

As a casual observer at these events it seems that the point that it’s supposed to be ‘Try Before You Buy’ and not a free lunch, is lost on many who come to these shows. The fact that for many of the stall holders and vendors who forked out the guts of £500 to be there and that this is how they make their living is largely lost or probably just ignored by the great unwashed hoards.

Was it a good event? Hardly. Very disappointing from what was on offer with, I’m sure, a lot of very disappointed people from both sides. There were lots of negative comments about increased costs and abysmal attendance.

As far as the highly successful Cheese Festivals of the past, I can’t help feeling that the Cardiff event team shot themselves in the foot for the second year in a row. Nor can I believe that all the cheese producers went to Italy and that there wasn’t enough left to come to Cardiff and put on a decent show. 

As I point out above, the Slow Food Festival may be Bi-annual, but the same venue in Italy is planning a Cheese Festival next year and the dates look as if a clash is once more inevitable. It does make you wonder what next year’s excuses will be for a poor event in Cardiff and how long we have to wait to hear them!    

Rumour has it the event organisers are thinking of another Country Fair for 2015. Good Luck with that kids but I do wonder if you will find enough gullible vendors to come!    

Thanks so much for sending this through as I cannot possibly attend more festivals than I do. So that is much appreciated. We are all entitled to our views and I understand perfectly when you’ve paid our your hard-earned cash you do expect a fair return. We’ve all got mortgages and kids to pay for!

How disappointing to get a festival report back from someone who spent the entire show there – unlike me who is definitely a day visitor!!! I’ve have always got positive feedback from the Cheese Festival, with some of our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers saying it’s one of their best festivals of the year. So I’m concerned that what appears to have been a poorly attended event will put visitors off next year. Cheese is on of the many food products that we excel at in Wales and any opportunity to get behind it with a big promotional push must be taken and done well.

The comment about samples is always an ongoing one, but one that I think is made much worse when people have to pay to come in. Some people then take the attitude that if I’ve HAD to pay £3, £4, £5, £8 or £13 or whatever the entrance fee is to come into this event, I shall make sure that I eat at least that amount to break even. If you talk to any producer that has samples out, or like I do, simply watch people as they ‘browse’ the sampling stands and then listen to parents encouraging their children to ‘grab a handful’ – then you’ll realise that far too many people have no intention at all of purchasing at all. They don’t give a hoot that these samples cost the producers money and cut their profits. However, if your competitors are sampling, then producers have to be resigned to often taking a hit on sampling and hope for bumper sales.

Stands prices, so I’m told were a whacking £420 for the two days, which is really a lot of money. I wish organisers could realise that the stand price is only the start of a producer’s outgoings for each festival. I’ve been concerned for years about stand costs generally and always about the stand costs at the Royal Welsh and Winter Fair and £210 a day is getting on a par with them, but in view is excessive if you’re  not getting the massive numbers of people through the gate. I think I’m right in saying that the Cheese festival stand price last year was about £300, which is a huge difference. I still think some organisers  find it hard to understand what producers actually need from festivals. Of course you can sum it up with the obvious, make a decent return whilst they are there, but I do appreciate that if you’re  cocooned in the security blanket of getting your regular salary at the end of each  month, it must be hard for them to ‘get’ the life of the self-employed ……………………


Food Festival Funding

05 Apr

After waiting for the wag festival funding list to arrive as promised on w/c 1st April, which means it may be the 5th.

Not hearing from wag food, I emailed this afternoon to be told they are awaiting ministerial approval. No further detail given. I’ve gone back again asking when will I have this information and now been told basically they don’t know when the minister will approve although it is marked ‘urgent’

Apparently the best idea is for food festival organisers is to contact wag food direct, sorry but there’s absolutely no point in any more people pestering me for information. I don’t have it!!!!!!

I’ve said that once we receive the list we’ll send if around our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers and that will happen – promise. Now there is nothing else I can do. Please don’t shoot the messenger, I’m only relaying what I’m told from wag food. I’m sure they meant it when they told me this will be out w/c 1st April, but I should have known better shouldn’t I?

I’m only sorry for organisers who find waiting for news of wag funding so stressful. I really do wonder why so many of you take on this so often thankless role.


Narbeth Food Festival

26 Sep

I wasn’t going to put up any more food festival posts, but many producers have said they enjoy reading them, so I’ll do my best to post a few more. Of course my other reason to resist doing festivals posts is that I’m not keen on assisting Miller, who a being paid £42,301 to attend 32 wag supported festivals. This time their role is to report back after assessing each food festival’s performance against the criteria set up for all food and drink festivals and to ensure that they are all complaint to the grant support offered by wag. A couple of producers asked me if Miller were there, but although I spent five hours at Narbeth festival, I still didn’t spot Miller anywhere. Ian did see them though and Miller seemed surprised at what they judged that I’d posted two favourable reports on Aberystwyth and Abergavenny. Well I don’t agree with that at all.  I judge festivals firstly as a journalist interested in food and then I listen and take feedback from many of our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers that have paid their hard-earned money to attend each festival – they make the best judges on whether a festival is good or bad. My posts are honest, they’re there to help organisers both with what I felt was good and what I also feel could be improved. These are of course my views and my opinions and I do appreciate those organisers that are working on a voluntary basis. The way I look at food festivals is the same now as it was when welshfoodbites was set up over two years ago. In that couple of years I’m pleased to report that some food festivals have improved but sadly others haven’t. But hey guys if you are looking out for Miller at any festivals, take care because they are still not badged up as Miller.  Now back to Narbeth. I didn’t get any press releases about this festival.  The AA had set up good signage going in and once again Narbeth ran a Park & Ride set up, which was much needed as Narbeth does not have plenty of parking available. It was £3.50 to enter which is something I will never agree with. £7.00 for two adults to go in could have been better spent on two pasties from the Little Welsh Deli, two coffees from Preseli Coffee Company or two ice-creams from Cowpots and with the latter two lots of change too! As last year I did speak to an elderly couple who hadn’t realised you’d to pay to enter and they refused and went home instead. They had no wish to sit and listen to the live music, good and varied that it was or to sit and watch a cookery demo of listen to a food talk – they just wanted to buy some local food. So that was sad to hear. I also felt that there were too many food-to-go stands I think there were about eight of them outside and another three inside the marquee. I feel that is over-kill bearing in mind these guys are there to earn money – it’s as simple as that.

One highlight which I’m delighted to report on is Pembrokeshire Product Direct. I’ve been harsh about this project, but with   justification. This much needed project has been badly run, no-one, from wag to Pembrokeshire Council appears to have monitored it or had alarm bells ringing years ago, despite £500k going in the pot. Whoever is responsible for this project should have the guts to stand up and be counted rather than trying to sweep it under the carpet. I was appalled at PPD’s stand at Milford Haven, at Fish Week, but it had improved at Really Wild festival. But on Saturday I couldn’t believe the transformation and more importantly how busy it was. The stand was full of the produce they had for sale, there must have been 4-5 staff manning it and not just standing there, but engaging with anyone that came near them. Literature was being given out and a raffle for a £50 hamper was a good additional draw, especially if all those leads are followed up, which I’m sure they will be. I was so impressed to see this stand buzzing and I hope that sales and contacts for both days were outstanding.

There has been a very small group of producers that have been determined that this project is worth it, and they must have literally worked their socks off, bearing in mind they all have their own businesses to run. I congratulate you for your massive efforts at getting to Narbeth and putting on such a fantastic stand. You all realise you still have much work to do, I just hope that the remainder of the producers listed on PPD have the guts and drive to get behind you and not just sit back and watch as you deserve and need their support and commitment too. It’s not fair if just a small sector tries to carry this project. With your hard work you looked to be getting the support of local people, but sad after all these years so many still hadn’t heard of PPD. Good luck guys!

I was pleased with some of the cookery demos, and at least they did have a saying who was working and what times. This was helpful and I did stay for a while and listen to M/s Hansen with Angela Gray. Another plus was that a leaflet was given out showing the recipe that was being cooked on it and also included the method. I have forgotten how long I have been asking chefs to do this, but maybe my ‘water on the stone technique’ is paying off!!! Well partly anyway, because what I did learn was that M/s Hansen had come up from London to be at Narbeth. She wasn’t Welsh either, but there we are. My other moan was the dish she cooked was crab although there was no Welsh fishmonger in attendance. My plea is still that all chefs would use the producers that have paid for stands at each festival and stop cooking fish unless there’s a fishmonger there. Please let’s support our producers, because isn’t that after all why we have a food festival budget?  I’m still of the opinion that using local chefs can also be very beneficial to local hotels and restaurants that are finding life tough and would highlight some of the super chefs that we have literally on our doorstep.

I’d heard beforehand of traders who’d been refused a stand even though they really couldn’t have been more local – all Pembrokeshire based, which is very annoying for them but we did have a stand from Devon there doing fish cakes I think. If there’s some logic there I think I’ve missed it. However on the outskirts of the festival there was I’ve termed the ‘Fringe’ which is for craft traders and food traders that couldn’t get into Narbeth themselves. This is a great idea and worked well the quality of stands was good and in my view often better than those in Queens Hall. It was a shame that the ‘Fringe’ couldn’t take over the Queens Hall because it would surely have worked better.


Cardiff International Food and Drink Festival

21 Jun

The team at Cardiff have kindly taken the time to send through to me their festival application criteria which I hope you will find helpful. It is shown in full below.
Cardiff International Food And Drink Festival has always strived to present an eclectic mix of quality produce showcasing the best from Wales along side great food and drink from elsewhere. We have always been proud of our links to our twin cities of Nantes, Stuttgart and Horderland and welcomed their involvement in the event from it’s inception in 1999.

The event’s popularity has grown and grown and we now have some 800 producers on our database. Each January we mailout all producers with details of all food and drink events taking place that year. This currently comprises of The RHS Show in April, Cardiff International Food and Drink Festival in July and The Great British Cheese Festival in September. Each event has a deadline for return and applications are dated they come in. Applications returned after the deadlines are not considered
until all other applications have been assessed.

All of our events are regularly oversubscribed with certain areas such as the Food Piazza at the Cardiff International Food and Drink Festival oversubscribed by over 200%.  We ensure that Welsh producers make up the majority of exhibitors at all our events and for the Cardiff International Food and Drink Festival Welsh producers make up over 75% of exhibitors. We try to ensure that there are 10-15% of new exhibitors each year in the different areas of the site to keep them feeling fresh but this
can sometimes be achieved by exhibitors who have chosen to move from one part of the site from another. We have always welcomed applications from exhibitors from outside of Wales and believe that including producers from beyond Wales adds to the vibrancy of the event. We look to achieve a balance across product categories but like many festivals are inundated with applications for preserves and baked goods and so producers in these categories are more likely to be disappointed. In short, in selecting exhibitors for our events we focus on quality produce, aim to showcase new and innovative exhibitors and look to achieve the broadest range of produce for our visitors.

One final but very important criteria is that each exhibitor must be able to demonstrate that they are ‘Broadly Compliant’ with food hygiene legislation. In response to the Pennington Inquiry on the South Wales E.Coli outbreak in 2005, Cardiff Council has introduced a ‘Broadly Compliant’ policy across all of the authority’s business activities. This means that any third party providing goods for consumption by the public be they wedding caterers, suppliers to school or exhibitors at our events must achieve a rating of 3* or above under the scheme operated by the FSA. An additional food safety questionnaire is included with our application forms with the instruction that it is mandatory that this is filled in and returned. Our Environmental Health Officers have been working with counterparts across the UK on behalf on producers in counties who do not currently operate this system to establish compliance via alternative reports but some producers have been excluded from the selection process this year if they have not been able to produce satisfactory documentation.

We welcome the input of producers and try to accommodate requests regarding positions, neighbours, access etc wherever possible. When our internal funding was significantly reduced we consulted with them via event feedback forms as to whether we should increase stand fees significantly or introduce an entry price for the event. The response was overwhelmingly in favour of increased fees and so The Cardiff International Food and Drink Festival remains free of charge to the public thus increasing attendance and spend.

Follows are my views, a version of which has been sent back to Cardiff.

Knowing how organisers select stands should be helpful, even if I don’t always agree with the criteria.

Although I can appreciate how from Cardiff’s side supporting your twin cities of Nantes, Stuttgart and Horderland, but does it really do anything for Welsh producers, apart from preventing some of them getting a stand at Cardiff International? Do festivals in Nantes, Stuttgart and Horderland give preference for Cardiff based food producers? You’re turning away Welsh producers because you are over subscribed, but allowing in traders from these three areas……..

Just to give you some background. I’ve asked Abergavenny, Cowbridge and Cardiff, as you all have a fair chunk of WG festival funding, about their selection criteria. This is because our Best Of Welsh & Border producers in Welsh Country magazine, certainly let me know if they’ve been bumped out of an event and it is important producers recognize why organisers have made these selection decisions.
I’m sure you’ll understand, especially with these three popular events, that getting stands there is vital for our producers. It has a dramatic effect on their businesses if they get thrown out of three of the busiest and lucrative food events in Wales, even losing one stand is a financial nightmare for them. These are tough trading times for our producers, and it can be easy for some organisers to forget that traders don’t have the luxury of a guaranteed monthly salary going in the bank – festivals and markets are often their livelihood, which explains why I’m following this through for them.

I’m puzzled that quite a few events appear so concerned about having a ‘%’ of new stalls, ‘for variety’, when they are all oversubscribed. This  must mean that you are forced to ditch some Welsh traders that have been supporting you for years. Do visitors make a point of asking why their particular favourites are no longer there? I’m totally unconvinced that variety is an issue with visitors and I was certainly asked why certain stall weren’t at Abergavenny last year. It does though serve me right going around with a press badge on!!! I also disagree with English stands adding variety, are we really so low on producers that our Welsh producers are not varied enough? It will not pacify Welsh producers that have been thrown out and English stands allowed in, when this is funded by the Welsh Government.

This is from feedback I’m getting from our BOW producers and we do have over 100 of them with us in Welsh Country magazine. Of course I’m loyal and supportive of them, because I want them to stay trading and our food industry to grow.

Final thought, is the same application form used for RHS Show, Cardiff International Food and Drink Festival, and The Great British Cheese Festival? If not is there any chance this can be changed? My thinking on this is it means traders can just fill in the form once, copy or scan it and save themselves some time. Ideally I’d like all festivals to use the same basic form so that this can make life a touch easier for traders, but that might not be easy to achieve!!

I appreciate organisers have a tough job, but so do producers. Obviously you can’t please everybody, and I do understand that, but I’m horrified to be told by ‘professional’ Welsh producers that they have been rejected this year after supporting our top events for years.

On 21/6 I got a speedy response back saying basically that they doubt you and I will ever reach a point of agreement, but Im thanked for my comments!!!! Well so much for ‘welcoming the input of traders’ it appears that this is only words from Cardiff. Cardiff are have their criteria right, in their view anyway, and traders can only hope they’ll still get in.

I’m so sorry for those of our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers who have either been thrown out or have had to move from their regular favourite spot to get a stand. I know that few of you have the confidence to argue your case for fear of repurcussions in the future. Without a doubt I have wasted my time once again and achieved no changes for you.  My feedback from you is that you think that getting a stand at festivals is akin to winning the lottery and I cannot disagree. But the frustrations still remain.



Any Hope For Transparency In Welsh Government Food?

19 Jun

Relatedpost 15/6: Wag Food – More like a Game of Smoke & Mirrors

Is there any hope that wag’s food department will operate in a transparent manner? Regular readers will know of the effort I’ve put in to get answers from wag food on many issues raised with us by producers over the years. At one stage the Press Office refused to answer my questions, leaving the Freedom Of Information Act as my only recourse, but then with varying degrees of success. There’s now been a change of heart by the Press Office and they are now, in theory, willing to answer my questions, but annoyingly not all of them! Guess I’m just not asking the ‘right’ questions! My latest questions related to the food festival organiser’s conference held last November for which wag paid Miller Research £8,712.00 to organise. I only wanted to know which 40 producers wag invited, how many producers actually attended, how wag decided which producers to ask and what the outcome of the conference was. But I’m told that wag have no further comment to add to their statement, shown again below:

A Welsh Government spokesperson said:
“The Welsh Government organised this conference to enable us to understand some of the issues facing producers and food festival organisers and help us to jointly review – and agree – future funding criteria. Representatives from both funded and non funded festivals attended, and around 40 producers were invited. Miller Research secured the tender to lead on the event. Given that this is the first time we have held such a conference, it is wrong to suggest that the Welsh Government has “always run it.” Clearly, it is important that we listen and talk to the people involved in this important part of our economy. Comments made by the attendees were reflected in the changes to the funding criteria for 2012/13 and helped to improve our understanding of some of the issues faced by the food sector.”

I blogged this conference issue on 14th November and not surprisingly I did get some varying feedback from producers who did get invited, starting with those cross that they didn’t get an opportunity to speak. Because my feedback was varied I wanted the official view but to no avail. So although I must thank wag for at last putting into action what I have been telling them for years – wag must communicate with producers,and it must be a 2-way communication – this didn’t seem to be work at this conference. I’d like to take wag’s word that the comments made on the day reflected the changes to the funding criteria for 2012/13, but I’m a journalist and if they refuse to supply me that information, even if it’s not for publication, I’m not sure I can.

Wag’s criteria this year state that small festivals have to have at least 25 stands, with 80% to be food. So in effect, festival organisers will be forced to accept any stand that applies, even if it means they have 4 beer producers, 6 cheese makers or 6 preserve producers to ensure they meet wag’s target. But if that ticks one of wag’s boxes and the festival gets their funding, well that’s ok. Well ok, unless you are one of those producers that have so much competition in the food tent, with so few punters to sell to, that the event is not profitable and then as so often happens, it’s far from ok. I cannot believe for a moment that this point
was raised and agreed at that conference without even one trader pointing out the fact that too many producers selling the same product, cannot ensure they all have a profitable day!

I do wonder why wag fund food festivals, if it’s not first and foremost for the producers. It simply has to be, which is why I will not be convinced that this conference was worthwhile if I cannot get the information I ask for. Goodness knows what the big secret is about it. But in case any of you are not aware, in past years the festival organisers have been invited to wag conferences to tell them budgets have been cut again and what boxes they will be obliged to tick. It’s quite easy for you to check what I’m saying – just ask a food festival organiser. My only reason to tackle these many and varied food issues is because they have been brought to my attention by either some of our Best of Welsh & Border producers or producers that I have been talking to. My loyalty is to our Best Of Welsh & Border producers, to the chefs and the restaurants, eateries and hotels etc. that are also working with us. My objective as should be wag’s is to give these guys all the help they can, especially in these tough trading times.

I’ve no idea what game wag food are playing, but it’s not constructive, certainly not helpful, unquestionably not transparent, nor in the best interests of our producers. Which is wag food’s reason for being, surely……………….


You have nothing to fear by leaving your comments. I enjoy reading your comments and sharing your thoughts, even if you disagree with me – that’s allowed! You can rest assured your details will only be known to me and that’s where they’ll stay – you have my word. You don’t have to put your name either, a pen name or nickname will suffice, we do have a large number of traders – but that’s fine, it’s the content that matters, what you’re happy with, what you are cross about, what in your view needs changing, etc.