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Posts Tagged ‘food festival organisers’

How Do Traders Know Each Festival’s Tradestand Criteria?

18 Jun


I get asked this question on a regular basis and it is yet another that I haven’t got an answer to. The main festivals causing traders headaches are: Abergavenny, Cardiff and Cowbridge, three of our biggest and busiest festivals. So it’s obvious that these three are going to have far too many applications and so culling will of course be done. But its how this culling is done that sparks the grumbles and the complaints from producers.

Chatting to Cowbridge about this issue, it’s really good to talk and makes so much more sense. Cowbridge were more than happy to clarify how they work, which was really helpful, so I then decided to email Abergavenny and Cardiff and asked them to send me their criteria. I didn’t get a response so sent a reminder and Cardiff was hoping to send it through by the end of last week and apparently Abergavenny are looking at it. When of if either come through they will of course be posted as I’m sure you’ll find them
helpful.

It’s puzzling for traders to understand why they have been bumped off a particular festival. ‘We’ve had too many applications’, might be acceptable if festivals aren’t your main source of trading and therefore income. But if a trader has supported a festival since its early days and the festival has grown thanks to these quality traders, then isn’t it reasonable that the festivals owe these traders some loyalty? Or am I being too old-fashioned? The tales I’m told is that a these festivals grow, a touch of arrogance can sometimes creep in and the old guard of traders are either dumped or in the case of Abergavenny last year moved from a busy, popular area by the Market Hall and moved into the Fish Market. It was highly inappropriate siting for most of these guys, not to
mention totally unfair. Last year I posted fully on Abergavenny, so no need for me to go over this ground yet again, but it’s there for you to check out if you wish.

Loyalty in my opinion, should matter and I don’t agree with organisers telling me that visitors want a change. If visitors are only going there once a year; cannot the chefs, the entertainment, lectures and talks be classed as entertainment and therefore variety? If visitors didn’t like the traders produce, they wouldn’t purchase and if that happened it wouldn’t be in the trader’s interest to attend, would it? I think there are more unhappy visitors when a trader has been moved and they struggle to find them, or even worse, the organiser has not allowed one of their favourites in that year! Maybe I’m making this too simple, but I can’t really see why traders are not told how each event makes their selection. Are festivals there initially for the producers, or as a tourist attraction?

COMMENTS

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.

 
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Cowbridge Food and Drink Festival Gives A Tradestand Update

23 May

After hearing too many of your grumbles about not getting into some food festivals, our team have been chatting to the Welsh Government and a few organisers to see if we can get any clarification. I’m  always upset when any of our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers aren’t allowed in!!! But Polly Wilson from Cowbridge Food and Drink Festival, which this year runs from 27-28th October, was quick to respond and explain how things work there. This is how Cowbridge operates:

“On behalf of the Cowbridge Food and Drink Festival Committee I would like to thank everyone for their expressions of interest in having a stall this year. It is unfortunate that we can’t fit everyone in as there are some amazing producers
out there.
For 2012 we had 120 forms for 80 stalls. We have to keep a few free for now as this leaves us the option of inviting sponsors to exhibit. Otherwise these will be filled from the exceptional waiting list. We are ever grateful to the wonderful John Family who loan us the site (free of charge) that holds the exhibition marquees. We use as much space as humanly possible but there are
still 3 businesses in this area who need to function. Therefore, without significant changes to the festival, we will always be limited to these 80 stalls.

In 2011 we changed our applications process to our current system whereby we set a deadline for interest and then meet as a sub-committee of 7 (including 2 producers) to select a good balance of exhibitors. As soon as the deadline date has passed we close the database until the following January and ask any further people expressing interest, to contact us then. We still receive many calls and emails up until October and adding each one can be time-consuming. This year the form was sent to the database of over 300, plus others requested and those passed on by past exhibitors.

From the expressions we will each have preferred existing exhibitors who we know have a great following with returning clientele. But we feel we need to have 10-15% of new or returning exhibitors to keep the festival fresh. The geographical question always comes up and generally the exhibitors from outside Wales are of exceptional quality and fill a particular niche that we want represented and have no alternative application from closer.

We feel that this process has allowed us to have a much better variety of produce and this year we have over 60 primary producers exhibiting. We know that visitors like to see tasters having paid to get in and nearly 60 this year
will be offering samples. These are bits of information that we ask on the form which are useful statistics for our funders but do not generally sway our decision. We also ask for awards won as this can be indicative quality and also can prove press-worthy later in the process. This is also useful regarding True Taste winners as we have started highlighting these with True Taste logos as it was felt in the past that we did not show enough presence of the logo. As we run the week of the awards, we don’t know the updated list until we are on site!

We have always been reluctant to have strict criteria drawn up as this will limit our ability to respond to feedback and our individual judgements. If each festival had the same criteria then festivals would become very “samey” which
is not what we want.

Prior to this process starting, we opened applications and kept accepting until we were full, only turning down exhibitors when it was felt there was too much of a certain product. This meant for example, that we might accept a pancake stall from Shrewsbury and later get a great application from Barry and not be able to accommodate them.

We ask for full details of produce they want to sell so that we can make sure we don’t have too many preserves perhaps. I am going to a food festival shortly and note from the website that of 40 stalls, 8 have listed a preserve element in their wares. It also means that if a form states brownies, cupcakes and flapjacks we might offer them a stall rather than allocate 3 separate stalls.

After two years of using this process we feel that it offers a much better and fairer platform for exhibitors but we recognise that there will always be those disappointed for no fault of their own. We are always open to feedback from exhibitors or visitors regarding this process or any other matter and if it is felt there is a better way, we will look into it.

These are difficult times for producers everywhere and we have held our exhibitor charges at £160 for a normal stall for several years now which we feel is competitive. We do not want to put the price up to get fewer applications but think that this price is a contributory factor in our popularity because it is so cost effective. Our ticket price will also stay the same this year as the simplified system of £4/day worked very well last year.

We know that Cowbridge Food and Drink Festival is in a very privileged position of being able to chose from great producers and still have a very strong reserve list but this ultimately does cause disappointment. We would welcome any feedback on how we could improve this process and invite producers to apply next year even if they have not been successful this year. Ultimately, if we are to continue in this difficult climate we need to do all we can to support as many producers as we possibly can.

Now I know that some of our ‘Best of Welsh & Border producers have not got in again at Cowbridge, plus a couple of them I think have been bumped out this year. I understand your massive disappointment at missing out on such a brilliant and financially rewarding festival, nothing hits home harder than not being able to get accepted. But let’s be realistic, it’s a fantastic festival, one of my favourites, I must confess, but as it’s such a good money earner, Cowbridge like many others will continue to be heavily oversubscribed. On the site in town, Cowbridge haven’t room to expand and add more stands and so we must all accept that fact.

I’d love to see stands in the High Street and the High Street closed off but I’m sure locals would hang me for saying that. My challenge to you guys that missed out is to read carefully Polly’s criteria and see how you can prove to her next year that your stand is one she cannot do without!!!!
Get your application in early and give much more thought about the produce you want to take, the awards you have won, have you got some different lines to your competitors? Literally sell yourself to Polly and her team, say why Cowbridge will be better with you there!!!!!

I was impressed that at least at Cowbridge do have producers on the selection committee. That’s good, but maybe even better might be to include a true professional trader that is doing festivals week in week out. They will really understand festival problems, they’ll know the good traders and they’ll spot what I’m now calling ‘Pin Money Traders’ which I think is often
covering the influx of some cup cake and jam makers. I’d also like to see my suggested professsional  trader, named to all tradestands so they can be used as a sort of ‘trader rep’ for the festival. Any tradestand problems can be directed through them and then taken further if needed. If they’ve been on the committee, then I’m sure there will be fewer issues cropping up initially and it would perhaps take some of the hassle away from people like Polly during the event. I’m not sure if this idea has been tried at food festivals –  sorry if it has and failed, but it’s a method I seen used to great effect on the equestrian circuit with the competitiors.

Another idea, which I accept some festivals will not like, is they send out to traders a tradestand map with your forms and you say which area you’d prefer to go in, or maybe say you don’t care as long as you can go! Where you are sited is a huge problem, especially at the larger festivals and often you don’t know until weeks before where you have been put, if you are told at all! Again at larger festivals different prices, would premium prices work for busy areas, or would it be easier to have slightly cheaper stands on the outskirts?

Not sure if I agree totally that food festivals could in the future be in danger of being samey. I can’t be sure of course how many people are regular food festival junkies like Ian and I are, but think that’s unlikely. Many traders haven’t got the time, staff and money to travel from one end of Wales to the other and although I accept there will be some, just not a huge amount. So for me that’s not a problem, especially as our selection of produce is so good that visitors enjoy the tasting opportunities and being able to chat to the people that our producing such fantastic food.  You really cannot get that experience in the supermarket, no matter where you shop.

So with lots of things to talk and ponder about, I’ll leave that with you……………………………..

 
 

Welsh Food Festivals Create Confusion With Trade Stand Rejections

23 May

This has always been a regular complaint reported to me from traders all over Wales. I think the bulk of the complaints have been levelled at Abergavenny, which is understandable as it is such a popular and busy event. You can read last year’s post about Abergavenny and I think that was the festival when far too many traders were very unhappy – and that was from those that got accepted. At the moment, as I say, complaints are for those that once again haven’t got in. I’d
heard various reasons why not but have nothing official in writing that I can post for you. So I decided to query with the Welsh Government Press Office to see if any additional criteria had been sent to festival organisers. All our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers had sent out to them on 30th January, I think, the Food Festival Funding Criteria. But just in case it’s of interest I’ve added it again after the press statement from the Press Office.

Criteria for Food Festival funding is as laid out in the annex (sent previously). NO additional criteria has been issued by the Welsh Government. In addition – the Welsh Government plays no role in the selection of individual food and drink producers to attend festivals which are supported by a Food Festival Grant. This is a matter for the festival organiser – as long as they strictly comply with the criteria set down as a condition of any grant awarded.

Food Festival Funding Criteria

 All events supported will have food activity as the core. The whole cost of the event must be shown in the application form to include added value elements e.g. music, street theatre, cookery demonstrations etc

Small Festivals with less than 3,000 footfall must have no less than 25 food producers exhibiting to be eligible for support. Food and Drink producers must also form at least 80% of the total exhibitors.

Large Festivals with over 3,000 footfall must have no less than 35 food producers exhibiting to be eligible for support. Food and Drink producers must also form at least 80% of the total exhibitors.

(The number of other exhibitors e.g. Craft, Community will be taken into account when assessing an application).

 unding 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.

 (Where the charge makes a direct contribution to the funding of the festival then these may be considered for support.)

 Activity which adds value to an existing market (e.g Farmers Market) will no longer be eligible for support.

 All applications will be required to submit a business plan as part of the application process.  As a minimum, your plan must cover the following matters:

 Aims, objectives and targets

    • Governance and management arrangements with details of relevant experience and track record
    • Budget forecast  (income and expenditure projections)
    • Support from other public sector agencies, for example: local authorities and national governing bodies of sport
    • Details of other funding sources including private sector/commercial sponsorship
    • Risk Management
    • Marketing Plans
    • Legacy Plans
    • Welsh Language provision
    • Sustainable event management
    • Waste Management     

 Existing Festivals over £10k will be required to submit a full set of your most recent Audited Accounts.

 Existing Festivals under £10k will be required to submit a cash flow statement with opening and closing balances taken from your most recent set of accounts.

 New Festivals which have never previously applied for funding, will be measured on their application form and business plan alone with your financial proposals.

Should applications exceed available funding, criteria listed below will be considered when deciding who to award funding to:

 Target visitor numbers and actual visitor numbers achieved in previous years.

  • Number of producers above the lower limit of 25 or 35.
  • Size of financial contributions from other (non-W.G.) partners and direct contributions from festival resources
  • Geographical location
  • Historical performance (if applicable)
  • Local Economic benefit
  • Delivery
  • Infrastructure
  • Sustainable Strategies
  • Innovation
  • Food Culture
  • Benefit to Local Community

So there you have it officially from the Welsh Government, providing food festival organisers stick to wag’s criteria they can ‘make-up’ their own selection procedure for tradestands. So the ball is back in the organiser’s court, which in my view is fair enough. However what I’d like to see is organisers letting traders know very early on what they are looking for, so then, so that maybe,
you can perhaps give a bit more time and thought to filling in your application forms.

If any of you have any explanation in writing that you wish me to take up on your behalf – please send it through. Or if you just want me to have it for my information only – just send it through. You have my assurance that you will never be named as a company unless you wish me to do that.

In my ‘ideal’ world, I’d never get a complaint about any food festival –  ever again, but I will not hold my breath! The recession is not helping and of course. Better than most maybe our team at Welsh Country magazine know how tough life is out there for you. But somehow let’s find a way to improve what we can. Some food festivals are happy to talk to us and are often receptive to our feedback, which of course by and large comes from you anyway.

This is some progress, albeit rather small. Sadly not many understand how difficult life is in the food business here in Wales………………..

 
 

Penclawdd Local Produce Market

21 May

Ryan, from Little Welsh Deli told me about this local produce market and was so enthusiastic about it that on Saturday I drove over to see just what was going on. It was well worth the drive down to Swansea because I actually found quite a few signs that pointed my in the direction of the Community Centre. Other food festival organisers please note! But it’s annoying that this market, like many others across Wales doesn’t always have the Highways Department singing from their hymn sheet. This is sad especially when the organisers put out and take down their signs at the beginning and end of each market. It’s a huge pity that Highways and councils can’t work more closely and assist these volunteers rather than making their life more difficult. They are providing a great service not only for the traders but to the community too.

There was a craft fair running to which I always think is a great idea and another great idea is that ladies from various charities were serving tea, coffee and biscuits. It’s a super way for local charities to raise funds. All traders got a free drink as they were setting up and the lovely ladies were very efficient looking after the traders during the morning and clearing up the central table
were shoppers could have a rest and a chat before heading off.

Andrew Spowart is the organiser and it was good to catch up with him and congratulate him face-to-face for a job well done. There were only 13 food stands, but Andrew is very strict and rightly so that the stands must be different. You will not find five stands selling jams here! Little Welsh Deli of course were there, the stand run efficiently as always by clever cook and business lady Claire. If you’ve not yet tried their pasties – boy are you missing out! Hubby Ryan was busy too, but over at the Smallholder Show at Builth. We saw other familiar faces but also quite a lot that were new to us which was really interesting, not all had business cards or company signs on their stands, but in fairness some were new traders and I’m sure they’ll soon learn a few tricks of the food trade.

Another familiar face was Mike Pett, the organiser from Bridgend Farmers’ Market, Mike runs Pant Derwen Apiary, selling fantastic Welsh honey as well as many other bee products.

What is encouraging though is the way the Gower/Swansea area markets try to work together, helping and learning from each other, what I find terribly disappointing is that Fork2Fork with £800k of European funding has not been the lifeline that markets, farm shops and box schemes really needed.

Andrew impressed me in how much he cared that the footfall on Saturday was not as busy as he and of course the traders wanted, but the modest stand prices reflect that. Andrew also does regular leaflet drops around the estates and caravan parks and places posters  locally too, so I’m sure things will improve. The bonus was that most people that did attend, did make purchases. I think it’s just important that we all try and get the message across that food from markets and festivals isn’t often as expensive as the supermarkets and certainly beats the supermarkets on quality and you knowfor certain where your local produce comes from. This is another message that Fork2Fork seemed to have failed to get across to the Welsh public.

Penclawdd Local Produce Market takes place on 3rd Saturday of each month 9.30 – 12.30.

Bridgend Farmers’ Market takes place on the fourth Saturday of the month 10.00 – 1.00.

 
 

Gorseinon Food Festival

30 Apr

This was a good festival last year, so after getting the programme through, I drove across on Saturday to see what 2012 would bring. AA signage was good going into Gorseinon and I was pleased to see that they had again got a shuttle bus service in operation which was much needed and worked very well. But with lots of magazines in the boot I thought I’d  see if I could get parked in
the traders car park – cheeky I know! Well a polite volunteer explained that the heavy rain had turned the trade park into a squelchy mess and she was concerned if I actually got on, would I get off? Fair point, but she directed me to the back entrance where another friendly male volunteer found us a dry spot to park up. So after a fair drive, and feeeling rather chilly, it was another good start to this event. What difference pleasant helpful volunteers make.

First job was to search out my contact Karen. It was lovely to catch up and be able to put a face to a person I’d only spoken to on the phone and by email. Karen, as always, had plenty of information and news to offer and she also introduced me to the Mayor. The weather was cold, windy but it didn’t stop people arriving and a busy marquee was just what the traders needed.  There was a bit of a change around this year with the stands all being incorporated into the main marquee, instead of those selling
hot food being positioned outside. With the weather as it was I think this worked well but at times the marquee did get rather smoky. Anywya there was certainly no hope of sitting outside in the sunshine. I’m sure if the traders wdisagree with me it will come through on their feedback forms and the organisers can get more feedback on whether that was a success or not.

The demo kitchen area was situated just inside the entrance, instead of as last year down at the end of the marquee. But for me
that didn’t work as well.  The organisers had done the area well and I was really pleased to see a large board that clearly showed who was cooking and when – other festival please note!

But with quite a lot going on around the entrance, ladies selling raffle tickets and the superb giant jubilee cake which was sold in aid of the Gorseinon Foodbank and the Cystic Fibrosis Unit at Singleton Hospital, which was a great idea to support two very good causes. So with all that going on I still think the demo area would have worked better down at the bottom of the marquee. It would have dragged people all the way through the marquee and helped the tradestands that had been sited down in that area, which seemed to be a fair bit quieter than those at the entrance. Not sure why this was changed, whether it was electric costs or just trying something different, but with such a popular feature, I’m sure you could have got more chairs in as it was always full when I tried to get a seat.

So from my point of view, Gorseinon was a great success. We did have a lot of Best Of Welsh & Borders producers there and of course many did find time to talk as I was there for five hours……….I did hear from a few traders, who hadn’t done that well, but again they were mostly down at the end of the marquee. If people were walking down that far, the chances were that they’d already bought their cheese, beer, jams etc. Ok it was ever thus, but we do have to remember that wag stipulate that even a small festival, with under 3,000 footfall must have no less than 25 food producers exhibiting to get funding. Larger ones with over 3,000 footfall must have no less than 35 producers exhibiting to be eligible for funding support. Food and drink producers must also form at least 80% of the total exhibitors.  So with the wag’s restrictions, organisers also have problems too, many simply cannot run unless they get funding so bascially organsiers do have to do as they are told! I’m still convinced that if traders have ‘demands,’ than a polite request will often suffice. But if you can’t agree then the choice is yours not to attend isn’t it? I wish we could solve these regualrs grubles that come up each year and just wish someone would tell me how to do it.

Gorseinon got people into the event,  so they did their job well and my congratulations once again for a good event. But once the
people are in, it’s down to producers to sample and sell and I must also say that quite a few were sampling and getting out from behind their stands and talking to people. That was good to see and works as long as you don’t obstruct your neighbours!!!

Well done everyone at Gorseinon ………

 
 

‘A Sense Of Place’ For Welsh Food………

17 Apr

Just to keep you updated, follows is an extract from press release received from Wag on 30th January about their support for food festivals.

Alun Davies, Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Food and Fisheries said, “Each year food festivals in Wales contribute millions of pounds to the economy and are a key element in promoting Wales’ burgeoning food culture and giving visitors a sense of place’. Large or small, they have their own distinct character, but with one common thread – to bring to the public’s attention the fantastic array of food and drink produced in Wales.”

The press release ended by saying:
Any financial support provided by FMDD will be limited to that which is necessary to achieve the overall objective of providing capacity building opportunities for food & drink producers from Wales as well as contributing to a broadened & strengthened rural economy”.

Well this got me thinking, or fuming, because basically I’m not sure what this press release means. Initially I would think building opportunities for food and drink producers from Wales is spot on, until I get complaints from producers saying that some festival organisers, give priority to producers from outside Wales.  But its not just a priority in allowing them tradestand space, but often they get the best sites too! So how does that work? Especially considering that this isn’t just happening at the larger, or let’s say Wag’s ‘Big Three’, Abergavenny, Conwy and Cardiff that allow all comers in from the UK, but those that I’d class as only small to medium size events. When I have raised these issues with Wag, I’ve been told that as this funding is from European money, all
tradestands must be accepted.

But if you’re a visitor to Wales and go along to one of our food festivals, where do you expect the food to have come from, the Isle of Wight, Scotland, Oxfordshire, Yorkshire? Of course not. ‘A sense of place’ for our visitors has to mean local food, food sourced here in Wales from our superb artisan producers. Isn’t that what you’d expect too?

So why then does Wag’s press release appear to say that they are backing our food producers all the way? That
is certainly not what I hear day after day so eiother Wag is wrong or our producers are. After talking contstantly to our Best If Welsh & Borders producers, I certainly know which I believe.

 
 

Food Festival Listing Update

29 Mar

Another post as no press release from the Wag as yet as regards the food festival listing that was
promised w/c 19th March. The latest news into our office, although not from wag, is from an organiser who has been told they’ll receive news of funding by the middle of next week. So will this be better than an Easter egg from wag or not?

I’m sorry for those that are still contacting us by phone and email to get this listing, but as I’ve said before, when I get it, all our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers will have it emailed to them and of course I’ll publish it in full, here on welshfoodbites and of course on welshcountry.co.uk.

 
 

Delay In Sending Out Festival Application Forms

06 Feb

A festival organiser rang in this morning, moaning to me that their food festival funding application forms were only received at the end of January, with the closing date for applications of February.  

Now the main moan was because these application forms were supposed to have been sent out last November and no-one knows why there has been a delay. My quick quip of ‘wag food’ – well, that didn’t even raise a chuckle. So I followed on by offering some wag names and contact numbers that I have, which might be able to clarify the delay.  But that wasn’t a good idea because, ‘I daren’t complain and bite the hand that is giving out the grants’.

I so fed-up of hearing this from people. I’d hardly call this a complaint, but a question. But apparently not much point in asking wag questions.

So it appears that I’m here to allow this organiser to let off steam – and to get on welshfoodbites – as long as I don’t mention the festival!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

In part, I can understand this organiser, as I can understand the producers who don’t wish to jeopardise a grant by complaining to wag either. But nothing will change in this industry if wag ‘in their wisdom’ think everything they do is acceptable. I’ve been told by wag that there is a complaints procedure for anyone who is unhappy, but let’s go no further on that one shall we, as I’m still unhappy with how things are run in food.  

I explained to this organiser that wag had kindly told me last week that the application forms went out at the end of January with a closing date of 17th February. In the past wag have never let me know when these forms have gone out so I’ve no idea on the normal timescale of this. Bearing in mind the festival organisers meeting in Machynlleth was held November, did an organiser ask then when the forms would be sent out? If not, why not? But if so, what’s wrong with ringing and asking about the cause of the delay?

I haven’t further information on this as most of my news/views are from organisers or producers, rather than wag.

I think we are in a sad situation as producers and organisers seem rather fearful of wag food – which is far from ideal to build an industry and certainly not in these difficult trading times.

But what really concerns me, is that I have a full list of wag supported festivals as soon as possible as both my Best Of Welsh & Borders producers and my readers want this information – now rather than later.

So as soon as we have it we’ll publish it on our websites: welshcountry and welshfoodbites.

 
 

What Does 2012 Hold for the Welsh Food Industry?

05 Jan

As we wait to hear, without holding our breath of course, to see what funding will be available for food festivals, and as to which of them will be favoured and which will fall by the wayside, I’m afraid my concern about our food industry has not disappeared. The more producers I talk to, the gloomier much of their feedback is. But whilst we still struggle to make Wag Food listen, I have a little ‘news’ to impart. I’ve been told that Wag has been asking some producers if they are interested in a wagProcessors & Producers Group being set up by Wag. Now where did they get this idea from – welshfoodbites perhaps? I’m not sure if this only applies to larger companies who are on Wags ‘favoured list’ and or those companies who have been lucky enough to receive a True Taste Award, or in many ways, even better, a grant from Wag. I’m sure it will be a selective list of companies, and if this is the case it will not be a fair representation of the Welsh food, but that is how Wag appears to work. It this does happen then maybe I will not be the only one who is dismayed to hear one of Wag’s latest plans……….

I have been asking and asking Wag to communicate with food producers and of course selfishly with the media press too – but this message has obviously been ignored, or maybe just because it was one of my ideas – it’s been dumped in their bin, which would be rather childish, wouldn’t it?

But let me take just a little comfort from the fact that some producers did get invited to the ‘surprise’ food festivals organisers meeting in November. But wasn’t it rude and unfair of Wag to then not give those that took precious time away from their businesses, not to give them the opportunity of airing their views. Just what was the point of that Wag, paying lip service to me?

I feel so sorry for the producers that these Civil Servants who should be a huge help to them, and never more so than in these difficult trading times, fail to understand what producer’s need and this is because those Civil Servants cannot be bothered to communicate with them. I suggested to one senior Food Civil Servant that it was their job as the food department, not only to talk to food producers of ALL sizes of businesses, but also to listen to their requirements. Not all of them want to go the supermarket route or believe the True Taste is their  way to go either, so we can only hope that in 2012, Wag Food will  understand this message and act upon it.

 
 

Food Festival Consultation Workshop

14 Nov

After visiting over 20, mostly funded food festivals this year, and then taken the time and trouble to blog them, I must confess to be feeling very disenchanted about the food festival scene inWales.

Wherever Ian and I go, whenever we are talking to the food industry, we are constantly being asked about festivals and their future – as if anyone in power would tell me! But this is generally from producers who are also rather disillusioned about what Wag might have planned for 2012.  For many years Ian and I have been asking and advising Wag to talk to producers and more importantly to listen to what they have to say, sadlly I thought this had fallen on deaf ears.  

But dear readers, it looks like we are making some progress after all – hurrah, hurrah!!! I’m grateful for the organisers who have told me about a Food Festivals Consultation Workshop that is being held on 16th November. Of course it’s Wag’s agenda, and of course Wag haven’t told us about it, and of course Ian and I aren’t invited, BUT the important issue is that it’s happening.  

I have to accept that Wag are hardly likely to admit that Welsh Country magazine and welshfoodbites can offer any help to the food industry. Maybe it’s just too difficult for them to accept that we can be of use to them and after working so hard for Welsh food over the last seven years, that’s disappointing, to say the least, but we do apprecaite it takes strong, confident people to say ‘we got it wrong.’ Our food producers however know what’s happening and our concern is for them. It’s our objective to build a better Welsh food industry, but why Wag can’t see that and work with us, is down to them. That we have to plough through the Welsh politics and Welsh Civil Service twaddle to make progress, is par for the course and will no doubt continue.

Anyway this Workshop is the good news and something that has been badly needed and is years overdue. Now we must hope that the organisers will give full and frank feedback, along with their comments, without worrying that if they ‘say the wrong thing, i.e. something Wag doesn’t wish to hear, their future funding could be in jeopardy. This is one of Wag’s main problems. I’d like to know if some of our professional food festival producers have been invited, because what is so important is that this industry is their livelihood and they too have a right to be consulted. I am well aware that some comments come back that producers shouldn’t rely on festivals, but I don’t agree with that, not every producer can plan or wants to go the supermarket way.         

What has been interesting is the response to welshfoodbites, where of course, food festivals have been a very hot topic. I have been forthright in my views of what I have seen at the food festivals I have attended. Yes ok these are my thoughts, but as a passionate Welsh foodie why am I not coming away from these events delighted to have made the effort to attend them? Well quite frankly, far too many have still got the basics wrong. I’ll not bore regular readers, yet again, by spouting my ‘could-do-better’ lists. Suffice it to say if organisers cannot get the town behind them and get basic signage out early, they shouldn’t be running and certainly not be funded.   

I didn’t attend many festivals in the north this year, which is purely down to lack of time. But of those I did attend, the ones that stood out for me that were funded were: Cowbridge and Really Wild and for non-funded ones: Big Cheese and St Fagans. But four out of twenty is not a good ratio at all from a foodie.

I have been vocal in the amount of money that Abergavenny,Cardiff and Conwy take from the festival budget and I know that Wag have this year elevated the ‘Big Three’ to international status, citing their value for tourism. But if tourism is so vital in relation to food, how much does Visit Wales put into the food festival budget? This also links into another question being asked, who are food festivals for: producers/tourism/economic development/other? But surely if food festivals are not there for food producers, why did Wag work to a criteria that this year food festivals had to have food as the core activity? Hitting some festivals hard including The Smallholder. If food producers aren’t that important to food festivals then why do organisers generally want their stands fees in so early, or maybe, being really silly, why do food producers have to pay to go to festivals at all? Another question is self-funding, which Wag have told me for years food festivals should aim to be, yet appears to contradict that statement when it raises the big three to international status and maintains their funding levels. Aren’t these three in particular capable of getting sponsorship? Because it they can’t there’s is no hope for some of the smaller ones. Let’s also be sensible here too, one size does not fit all and that applies to food festivals too – the needs for a small festival from Wag will surely be different say to Cardiff wont it?  

For once I can congratulate Wag for listening and putting on this event. I do query who will actually be attending, but at least they are making a start. Hopefully it will prove a successful meeting and maybe pave the way forward for a more profitable stable future for food producers. I’m sure I will get feedback after the meeting, maybe not of course from Wag, but that is realistically not expected.