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Posts Tagged ‘Newport Food Festival’

 Another Wag Game Of Smoke & Mirrors

23 Nov

But the reply is my supposed answer to yet another Freedom Of Information question, ATISN 9881, the Evaluation of Food Festivals 2015 – 2016, yet it is another one that raises further questions. Follows is the Welsh Government’s response in full:
Thank you for your request which I received on 23.10.15. You asked for:
1. Which 6 Festivals are being evaluated and why were these 6 selected?
We do not hold any information regarding this point. To clarify, we are not carrying out evaluation of individual festivals. Those festivals visited are for the purpose of visitor surveys. The events selected this year were:
St Fagans – established event;
Narberth – well established event;
Newport – Recently established event;
Abergavenny – Large festival;
Conwy Feast – Large festival;
Beaumaris – New event.
The range of events was chosen for geographical spread.
2. Why has the policy changed in that not all funded festivals are evaluated
There has not been a WG policy in place to evaluate all funded festivals, and thus we do not hold any recorded information in response to your request.
To clarify, the previous EU funded food festivals grant scheme required the monitoring of all grant aided festivals. The EU funding for the scheme came to an end in 2012. In subsequent years a range of supported festivals have been visited for the purpose of conducting visitor surveys as part of the overall Evaluation of Welsh Government support for Food Festivals.

Now isn’t this interesting information from wag? Sorry, stop the sarcasm Kath. I meant confusing. St Fagans according to wag is an ‘established’ event. OK, but according to my records this festival first ran in 2010, without funding and then in 2011, again without funding. They did however obtain funding in 2013 of £7k. So let’s remember that in ‘wag’s world,’ St Fagans is an ‘established’ event. So let’s think about Newport which was selected for evaluation because in ‘wag’s world’ that’s a ‘recently established’ event, but according to Newport’s website their festival was 5 years old in 2015, so they too kicked off in 2010. According to my records Newport were funded £15k+ in 2011 and £8k+ in 2012.

It’s not for the first time that I’m puzzled about wag’s understanding of what’s ‘established’ and what’s ‘recently established’, but as I’m not a civil servant, perhaps I deserved to be puzzled. Wag say they chose the events for geographical spread, but with Beaumaris and Conwy both situated in the north, Narbeth in Pembrokeshire, Newport and St Fagans, both close to Cardiff, Abergavenny in Monmouthshire – is this really a geographical spread? Or has mid Wales just disappeared?

Just for further interest following more digging, in 2013 I understand Wavehill visited St Fagans, Abergavenny, Narbeth,  – can anyone see a pattern here? Then also Mold, Conwy and Hay

My next question, IF wag are correct, why did I see Wavehill at Cardigan food festival in August? Could I have been dreaming? Surely not!
For me it is so frustrating that Wag food constantly try to duck reasonable questions. My sole reason for continuing to ask them, when other more sensible people would have given up long ago, is that to Welsh Country magazine, Welsh food and drink is important. If wag food agrees that Welsh food and drink is important, then just answer the questions I ask, unless you have something you think is worth hiding, which is certainly how this appears.

Wag this is our money you are spending, so justify this spend please………………………………….

P.S.

Just heard from a producer who had a telephone call from Wavehill on Monday asking for views on food festivals this year. Proof if proof were needed for Wavehill, this food company did not trade this year and did not attend any Welsh food festivals. Now the question is, why is wag wasting OUR money paying Wavehill who are obviously not using tradestand lists supplied by festival organises this year? Second question has to be why on earth are Wavehill NOT using this year’s lists?

Now who said give up?

 
 

Welsh Food Festival Calendar

29 Sep

The question is why hasn’t Wales got a calendar for festivals they are ‘willing’ to fund?
I was told, not directly of course, that a Food Festival Committee/s was being formed, but as there is still no festival calendar, you might well wonder if this committee did get of the ground. Well I think it has and my reasoning on this is as follows: If I can take you back to last year when all food festivals were told the maximum amount they could apply for was £10k as wag keep saying that food festivals need to be self-funding. £10k maximum was a bitter pill for some of the big festivals to swallow and I was told, though this has not been officially confirmed either, that Abergavenny festival actually had a meeting with the then Food Minister. I’ve also been told, though yet again, not officially, that Abergavenny Chair one of the Regional Committees.

So roll onto this year and low and behold the maximum festivals can apply for:
Tier 1 – Funding of up to £5,000 at 50% of eligible costs.
Tier 2 – Funding of up to £10,000 at 50% of eligible costs.
Tier 3 – Funding of up to £25,000 at 50% of eligible costs.

Perhaps it’s only me that’s confused. Maybe festivals are only ‘told’ by wag food that they have to attempt to be self-funding. But then last year Abergavenny did refuse me press tickets on the grounds that: This year we have undertaken a review of all the complimentary tickets we give out to various people and organisations. We have done this as part of our continued efforts to become financially self-sustainable. For this reason we are not able to offer you complimentary press passes this year.

Other press got complimentary tickets so that doesn’t ring true does it?

So mixed messages here, or maybe it’s just me not understanding civil service thinking. Anyway back to a festival calendar and to a topic that I’ve raised before but sadly no-one in power, i.e. wag food, accepts this is a problem. Which is proof, if proof were still needed, that wag food have no conception of the problems producers face. But this issue could easily be solved and without costing wag food any extra cash, just create a workable food festival calendar of festivals that they are funding.

This Saturday there are festivals at Brecon, Neath and Newport and all three funded by wag. Brecon are getting a pathetic £4k, but Neath and Newport don’t fare much better with £5k. I’m guessing all three asked for more, but wag said no. So we’ve three popular festivals, reasonably close to each other, all running the same weekend. My question is the same as it’s always been, why, oh why is this still happening? Micro producers have no choice but to select one festival, although medium – larger producers can often get a second team out. Obviously wag has nothing to do with festivals that aren’t funded, but that’s not the issue here, I’m talking purely funded festivals and I despair why wag can’t exert some control over the festivals that they do fund.

In the past I have challenged wag food about a festival calendar and was told that dates were nothing to do with wag, a comment I find ridiculous. Festivals are for producers, locals and visitors, but first and foremost festivals are for our Welsh food and drink producers, otherwise without their support you cannot hold a food festival. If wag food say to these three festivals they can apply for funding, but will not be offered funding unless dates are changed, that would solve this problem. It’s an obvious that producers need to be able to attend as many festivals as possible, but wag food are prepared to stand back and ignore this issue.  Brecon has been running on the same weekend for decades, so in my view that weekend is theirs and I’m just disappointed that Neath and Newport also decided to set up on the same weekend as Brecon. If these other two festivals were held in the norht there wouldn’t be the same problem, but so close – it is a nuisance. Neath have developed a very successful festival that now runs over 3 days. The Neath team have been clever and do a great job, but that only serves to further annoy the producers who are loyal to Brecon. Newport started after Neath, but again went for the same weekend. Newport is not one I’ve  attended, but can’t anyone else understand how annoyed producers are that some of them are missing out on Neath and Newport due to this clash of dates.

Sorting out a food festival calendar is hardly a tough job, but sadly it’s prove too tought for wag or perhaps they are simpy not interested enough to help producers on this one. I’m very disappointed that the Food Festival Committees have not tackled this problem, but clever them, they’ve at least got wag to pushed the funding up to a maximum of £25k this year for the larger events.

I do though wonder how many years I’ll be ranting on about the lack of a food festival calendar………

 
 

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.

 
 

Wag Festival Calendar – Who’s Responsible?

06 Oct

Simple answer? It seems no-one.

Who should be? In my view wag food.

This weekend wag food funded, Brecon, Newport, Neath which are all virtually within an hour’s drive of each other. This resulted in food producers having to try and cover two of those three festivals or settle for the one which they thought they’d earn more at. I find this stupid. For those of us that are concerned about food producers and festival organisers having the best event possible, planning the food festival calendar is important. But this is of little concern to wag food because I have been raising this issue with them for too many years. Brecon has been running for something like 17 years, so to say it’s a well established festival is absolutely true. The festival held in the market hall also backs up their farmers’ market so it is really getting the message home to the people of Brecon to support local food.

But then wag food allows two more food festival to jump on the bandwagon for that same weekend. Why does wag allow that to happen? This next weekend, apart from a new festival at Caldicote Castle in Monmouthshire, the only festival wag are funding is Anglesey, which certainly isn’t in competition with festivals in Powys and further south. If wag are funding, well, offering a few thousand, they surely can suggest that if the festival wants a contribution from the tax payer, they must select an appropriate date. I’m not sure why for example Newport could not have run on 11th -12th or even 18th -19th October but guess wag food didn’t even bother suggesting a date change, even though they gave them £6,289 which was nearly double what they gave Brecon.  There cannot be a total disregard for value of the taxpayers’ money, and this food budget is our money, yes it comes from Europe, but Europe are only returning part of the vast amount we hand over to them. I’m not alone in wanting to be a fly on the wall when wag food decided how much each food festival gets…..or doesn’t get.

As I say wag food have had years to address this problem but seemingly it is not important to them, as it doesn’t affect their salary. The proposed festival organisers group might take charge of the festival calendar, or might not, but at the end of the day wag food are offering the funding and they’ve the power and the authority to ensure all festivals have a fair crack of the whip and us tax payers get value for money from this ever decreasing budget.

 
 

Food Festival Evaluation Report 2013

23 May

Well at long last, the outsiders, that’s us on the outside of the government circle, have been allowed to have access to the words of wisdom, which were put together by CLES/Wavehill who were awarded the tender by wag food at a cost of £27,800 ex vat.

For me, the important question is why was this evaluation report commissioned? Well it isn’t, as you might think, to help, assist and guide the organisers to provide better festivals for our Welsh food and drink producers. Oh no, that would be too obvious. This report is first and foremost for wag to send through to Europe to show that they’ve obediently ticked all Europe’s boxes and have been really good boys – go to the top of the class wag.

I get cross with some producers I’ve spoken to when they dismiss Europe. Although they now sadly accept that wag waste much money whether it be from the UK or from Europe, they realise they’ve no hope of changing wag food. What they tend to forget is that Europe is only returning part of the money that we, as tax payers, send to Europe. The fact that wag have often failed to make good use of the European grants that come into Wales, is hardly Europe’s fault, but there seems little we can do to ensure that Wales gets value for taxpayers’ money.

I’m not convinced that this report is much help to our hard pressed organisers or producers, or me come to that.

When this tender was awarded, I was told that Wavehill were to be working from paperwork sent into wag and telephone interviews between them and the organisers and producers. But scanning this report it appears that Wavehill attended just 7 of the 32 festivals wag funded in 2013. I don’t understand this. At the 7 festivals they attended they spoke to just 542 people. But why attend just 7 and not all 32 festivals that wag supported? How is that fair? However get to Page 14 out of 44 pages* and I’m informed that Wavehill were ‘asked to visit a sample of festivals’. Next question is why did they choose those seven? One problem seems to be that although the funded festivals kicked off in April, wag didn’t award the tender until June 2013. But why didn’t wag do that sooner? Could it be that wag had forgotten that their funded festivals started in April? Or were they just too busy to organise a tender?

Festivals have been funded from wag core funding, but during 2009 – 2012 wag secured funding through the Supply Chain Efficiency Scheme, (SCES) through the Rural Development Plan. Then in 2013, funding was back with wag core funding with wag placing emphasis, on what they’d been telling me for four years or more, that food festivals should be sustainable. Not sure, officially anyway when the sustainable button was hit but it sure wasn’t during 2009-12. But it’s ironic isn’t it that during the SCES years, when for example, Abergavenny went from £37,360, on 2008/9 to £50,435 in 2009/10 to £52,200 in 2010/11 – sustainable, don’t make me laugh. For the record, Abergavenny also got funding for their Christmas Fair too which went from £3,840 in 2008/9 to £5,093.13 for 09/10 and 10/11. I wonder who can clarify for me why, according to wag’s funding list for 2014, Abergavenny Christmas Fair now gets £7,500? How can that be if wag is serious about food festivals being sustainable? It appears to me that wag’s criteria or threat of being sustainable is not applicable to all their funded festivals? Unless my sums are wrong, it would appear wag prefer some festivals than others.

Of the 32 festivals awarded funding; only 30 went ahead. But with continued tightening of some wag budgets, organisers were asked what would happen with they had no wag funding. 35% felt that they’d either cancel their event or scale it down which is a worrying thought.

As in 2012, wag again issued various criteria, max £10k, food must be the core, Welsh food and drink forming at least 75% of total exhibitors and no less than 25 Welsh food and drink producers to be eligible for support and only specific elements eligible for wag funding. I feel there is some greyness of criteria here as in 2014, this has been clarified by saying that food should be the core and that food should 80% of all stands of which 75% of the food stands should be Welsh. Exhibitor lists were taken all food festivals and the report identified an estimated 971 different ‘organisations’ represented at the 30 festivals. No idea what ‘organisations’ means, I thought we were talking about food producers, but perhaps not!

The seven festivals attended by Wavehill were St Fagan’s, Abergavenny, Mold, Narbeth, Newport, Conwy, and Hay Winter festival. Wavehill reported customers spent £20.00 per head, which I find hard to believe. Over the years I’ve spent a lot of time, at a lot of festivals and you only need to check the number of bags people are carrying, let alone the cost of the contents to wonder if these ‘average spend’ figures mean anything at all. In my experience, being approached by anyone with a clipboard or iPad is daunting, with many simply wanting to escape ASAP and offer answers they think are required to make their  experience less painful. Whilst we are talking financials, I must say that I do not accept, for similar reasons, the figures producers are supposed to take at each event. This is private, personal information and in nine years I’ve only spoken to one food producer who fills in their evaluation form honestly. Yes just the one. Are the interviewers going to reveal their salary or the salaries of those civil servants working in wag food? Of course they are not. So not impressed at all with the figures, but I’m sure the Minister Alun Davies will relish them and he’ll be able to churn them out at us for the next twelve months.

One point the report did make was the lateness of wag sending out the application forms and the pressure it put the festivals under. Well done for doing that Wavehill and as wag have paid you to feedback to them, maybe, just maybe wag food will take notice, although everyone is aware we’ve been saying that for years. I did note that the report stated that some festivals had newly established businesses of a small scale, and assumed that their presence at the festival assumed a desire for growth. Well not necessarily so, unless you asked if these people were full-time producers, or doing festivals at weekends for cash, and helping the growing black economy. Then on Page 41 I’m told there’s a desire within the Welsh Government for festivals securing funding to promote opportunities for new business to test trade – well this is worthy but it’s difficult for organisers to ascertain from application forms if the trader is professional or as we call them pin-money producers working weekends for cash.    

Trawling through the report, Wavehill had picked up about the north Wales organisers organising a food festival organisers’ conference, but no mention of the fact that up to 2012 wag had done this themselves. But guess that would come under biting the hand that was feeding you wouldn’t it? It was also commented about clash of local festival dates, but this is hardly news, when it’s something we’ve again been saying for years. Why for instance did wag approve funding for Brecon, Neath and Newport all run on the same day in 2013? Brecon has been long established but wag then decide they can fund another two festivals on the same day. What’s wrong in saying if you want funding you must change your date to avoid hampering Brecon? Is it because Brecon is not one of wag’s favoured festivals? It has not been common practice for organisers to work together and help each other, even when they are in the same area, but wag aren’t helping putting local festivals against one another. How is that helping Welsh food, Welsh food producers or festival organisers? Festival co-operation should be focused on because surely some savings could be made in say for example hiring tentage etc.

I was not aware until recently that organisers had to send list of exhibitors for the festival to the wag 14 days prior to their event. But if that’s the case, why isn’t that list of exhibitors then put up on their websites? That isn’t a problem with all festivals but it is with far too many. But who notices or in fact who cares? Well I do, because if any of our Best Of Welsh & Border producers are attending I want them to get as much publicity as possible. Plus if I’m attending, I too want to know who is going to be there. But this has been happening for years and wag have not sorted it out.

Another part that made me chuckle is that organisers have to send in a post event report and the first on their list is footfall. That question cannot apply to all festivals as some still don’t or can’t charge and entrance fee. Hay and Brecon are held in towns and no way can anyone can say how many attended. Get to Page 33 and this is then mentioned about town festivals – so a little confusing. It’s only the producers who can say a festival is viable for them or not. Plenty of people through does not guarantee they’ll be spending their money. However if organisers have got the people there, it’s down to the producers to sell to them!

What I found totalling annoying was some festival organisers had given quotes, but the quotes were not credited or organisers named.  So I cannot see the point in doing that because unless you happen to visit many Welsh food festivals and know for instance that children’s day on a Friday relates to Narbeth it’s pointless doing that or including it in this report. It’s just not interesting reading for me. If you’re getting quotes, name the people or don’t bother.

I’m unaware if all or any of wag’s 30 funded food festivals had an individual report sent to them, stating how it was felt their festival could progress. But in my view this is what it is all about. What’s the point if this has not happened? Oops sorry of course, I’ve forgotten, wag food needs to tick boxes more than helped festivals improve………………………

Please do read this report yourself and let me know how you feel about it.

* This report would not be so long and off-putting for us busy people to trawl through if so much information was not repeated and repeated and repeated ……………….

 
 

Food Festival Funding 2014

16 May

Funded food festival list from wag.

20th April Broneirion Food Fair, Llandinam

£1,889

26th April Gorseinon-Swansea Food Festival

£7,500

10th May Caerphilly Food Festival

£8,264

17-18th May Wrexham Food Festival Guild Hall

£8,000

23-26th May Welsh Perry & Cider Festival

£6,271

14th June Gwyl Fwyd Castell Newydd Emlyn Centre

£3,938

28th June Hay Summer Food Festival

£2,117

11-13th July Cardiff International Food & Drink Festival

£10,000

13th July Cardigan Bay Seafood Festival

£9,560

26th July Lampeter Food Festival Lampeter

£6,653

2-3rd August Big Welsh Bite Rhondda

£8,079

16th August Cardigan River & Food Festival

£6,617

6-7th Sept Newtown Food & Drink Festival

£4,900

6-7th Sept St Fagans Food Festival

£9,300

20-21st Sept Abergavenny Food Festival

£10,000

20-21st Sept Mold Food Festival

£9,000

26-27th Sept Feastival Bridgend

£5,500

28-28th Sept Narberth Food Festival Narberth

£8,730

3-4th Oct Neath Food & Drink Festival

£9,952

4th Oct Brecon Beacons Food Festival

£3,265

4th Oct Newport Food Festival

£6,289

11-12th Oct The Anglesey Oyster & Welsh Produce Festival

£2,941

18-19th Oct Llangollen Food Festival

£5,000

23-27th Oct Mumbles Oyster Festival

£5,000

25-26th Oct Gwledd Conwy Feast

£10,000

29th Nov Hay Winter Food Festival

£1,746

5th – 7th Dec Gwyl Fwyd a Chrefft Portmeirion

£6,300

14th Dec Abergavenny Christmas Food & Drink Fair

£7,500

Wag this year have only funded 28 festivals and as you’ll have already read on a previous post, funding has been cut – again. But never mind the Minister, Alun Davies,  is still saying or spinning, he’s for Welsh food and drink – well that’s good to hear but I’ve yet to believe it.

I’m not sure how much paperwork is entailed when a festival has been finished for the organiser and the committee, but as this is for wag food to tick more European boxes then it will be a fair amount, that’s for sure. But if I’d only been offered £1,899 or £1,746 I’d be so tempted to look for funding and support from elsewhere, bearing in mind wag food insists on recycling, and everything  bi-lingual, which of course doubles print costs. and so it goes on. Food festival organisers are stuck between a rock and a hard place, but what in my mind is most hurtful is that there’s really no genuine support for them, bearing in mind that many of these super people are volunteers.

I expected, as in previous years, that I’d be sent from wag food a full list of food festivals, including the dates, the amount offered and also the amount asked for. Well, as you are aware wag food cannot communicate to me by email or telephone, but this year it has taken many, many emails to get as much information as is posted above. The missing link is how much festivals asked for and if any festivals applied and were turned down. But to get that info I’ve had to do yet another Freedom Of Information question and to wait for 20 days for a response. Now who said things were improving in wag food under the new regime? Oh yes, I remember, it was a member of the wag food team…………………………….what a surprise ………………………………………

 

 
 

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.

 
 

Brecon Beacons Food Festival

08 Oct

It’s been a few years since I visited this festival so I was curious as to what it was like now. It started off well as I’d had a press release and there were some signs leading into Brecon and park & ride service too.  Sadly I’d struggled and failed, to find on the internet a list of producers that were attending, which is very annoying when it was such a busy foodie weekend and I’d to decide where to go. I’d have thought this was a basic job that should be done, but apparently not!

Once parked up Ian and I headed for our favourite coffee shop in the town and were surprised to learn that the local shops hadn’t had flyers or posters and didn’t know the festival was happening. I’m sure in past years flyers and posters were taken around the town and it certainly made a difference in this coffee shop, because the owner would have brought more staff in and upped the  food order from her suppliers. Instead at mid afternoon the owner had no option but to turn people away that still wanted hot food. If Brecon comes under the banner of a local community festival, then flyers and posters should surely have been plastered all over the town.

I ddin’t see anyone from Miller Research, but Ian told me later that they were in attendance, but it’s quite amazing that I missed them yet again, especially considering how long I was in the Market Hall. Anyway I hope my post on Brecon helps them with their survey for wag.

After spending quite a few years covering food festivals, I’m still struggling with how funded food festivals are run. On Saturday there were three food festivals running: Newport, which was funded £8,105.97 for a two day festival, a reduction from the £15,171 it received last year, Neath which was awarded £9,999, the same as last year for its two day festival and Brecon which received £4,480 down from £6,300, for a one day festival. Aberystwyth farmers’ market was also running on the Saturday too! My first query is why these three festivals clash on dates? I’ve said many times before, I certainly haven’t a problem with two festivals running at opposite ends of the country, but three festivals and a farmers’ market was nothing short over-kill even for a dedicated foodie like me!! One producer I spoke too had three stands running out of the four mentioned, but this had really caused the company some headaches to service them and they simply hadn’t got the resources to cover all four. But if the food festival budget is primarily to assist food producers, then it surely can’t be impossible for wag to insist that festivals in the same area will not be funded if they clash on dates. Fingers crossed that in 2013 we’ll have a sensible, practical and workable food festival calendar. You couldn’t run a business in this manner and I believe the food department has a responsibility that funding is well spent and as taxpayers we get value for our money.

Sorry for digressing again, let’s get back to Brecon. The Market Hall, which is indoors for those of you that haven’t been there, is a very good venue for a food festival or a farmers’ market and it’s good to see this beautiful old building being used for its original purpose. Although there were a few producers complaining about where they were sited  – twas ever thus – I was pleased to see so many of our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers there. Those that had a few minutes to chat, gave me the view that it had been a busy festival and they had taken some decent money. The Market Hall was full of activity when I got there and I was pleased to see people who were not, what I’d class as local to Brecon, which again proves my point that foodie people will make the effort and travel to well-run festival, even though fuel is still horrendously priced. Another bonus point was that there was no entrance charge, which surely helped draw people in. The organisers had arrnaged for the BBC’s Weatherman Derek Brockway, weathergirl Sue Charles and TV nature presenter Iolo Williams to attend and compete in celebrity cook offs.

Another annoyance and I hasten to add, not just from me, was that the very good male singer was simply too loud. The poor traders sited close to the stage had to shout to get themselves heard – which is hardly ideal when you are trying to sell to customers. The organisers had arranged plenty of musical entertainment during the day and it really was needed, as the Hall is a large, tall space and some atmosphere was very much needed, just adjust the volume. Check with the traders closest to the entertainment that the volume is pitched correctly because the festival is after all, firstly for them to sell…………………..

With so much going on that day, Brecon had done well to attract some excellent producers there. But I did find one ‘producer’ who was selling jam  and chutney that had no weights, or list of ingredients shown on the jars, or even a product name apart from writing in pen on the lid. I did not hear any comments about Trading Standards and /or environmental health having been around, but festival organisers do have a responsibility, as do wag, as they are funding, to help improve the quality of producers that are in attendance. Again one has to ask what Miller are doing on their rounds as this is not the first festival that this has happened. Some producers didn’t even have a banner on their stands and certainly no business cards or leaflets. There was of course some seating at the cookery demo area, but unfortunately there wasn’t sufficient space for chairs and tables for visitors to buy and eat at the festival, thankfully it didn’t stop some people from buying and eating on the run! The organisers had also done a good job in running a craft market in the street which did help create a buzzy atmosphere in that part of town.

So generally great feedback from Brecon.

 
 

FOI 5995 – Welsh Food Festival Funding – At Last

17 May

Was it worth waiting for? I’ll await your views!!!!

It’s taken a lot of time and a great deal of effort to get this list and I had to resort to asking for it under Freedom Of Information Act, so I hope that you appreciate the effort involved!!!! I’m not sure that you’ll agree with Wag’s and Visit Wales’ decisions, but sure you will let me know by posting your comments or email me with your views.

My initial concern was that two events that run in early March Saundersfoot and a Swansea festival and will run again 2013 but still count as in this year’s budget have not been shown. So I’m asking if this is an error or if these events are running again next year. My other surprise is that Fish Week now appears in this budget taking out a whacking £31, 671. I thought that this event was funded under RDP for 2007-13 and last year received grant funding of £55,636, plus £30,711 from Pembrokeshire County Council, in 2010 grant funding was £77,157. I have also asked why Fish Week is now being taken from the festival budget.

In case you wish to know, 52 food festivals applied for the Food Festival Grant Funding Support for 2012/13  and to save you totting up, I’ll tell you that only 33 festivals were lucky enough to get funding, with some as always, appearing luckier than others. I’m interested to know if any of the food festivals got the amount of money they applied for. I’d also like to know how those in power wokred out the amounts they were going to offer each festival, but even I can’t be bothered to pursue that one!!!

I do wonder about the wisdom, or lack of wisdom, in that Newport and Neath have each been given £8k – £9k but they are  running on the same weekend, as it Brecon, though Brecon will obviously draw from Powys for producers. But do we really have enough quality producers to put on three good festivals?  Time will tell, but I do hope these three festivals, maybe more than most put some serious energy into their promotion and marketing. Traders you have been warned, please ask before you pay, because unhappy Best Of Welsh & Border producers I do not need!

Wag’s ‘Big 3’: Abergavenny, Cardiff and Conwy have all had budget reductions from last year, but 10/11 was the final year on a 3 year plan, funded under the Total Supply Chain Efficiency Funding. These all had huge increases from 08/09 – 10/11, for example Conwy went from £25k, to £43k to £41k and now this year gets £33,683.61. What continues to puzzle me is that wag has been sounding off for years that festivals must try to get to be self-funding and these three have the best chance for sponsorship, but they are still well funded as wag has now decreed that they have been awarded ‘international’ status which is an easy way of wag saying: “don’t worry we’ll keep funding you guys”…………………………..
Any further updates will of course be posted.

Name of Date Amount of
Festival Funding
Gorseinon Food   Festival 28-Apr £8,460.00
Riverside Food   Festival 20-May £2,249.00
Caerphilly Food Festival 26-May £9,753.00
Welsh Perry   & Cider Festival 1 – 4 June £5,260.00
Llyn Land & Seafood Festival 2 – 3 June £8,230.00
Gwyl Fwyd Castell Newydd Emlyn 16-Jun £7,133.80
The Pembrokeshire Fish Week Festival 23 June – 1 July £31,671.00
Hay Food Festival 30-Jun £2,601.00
Llandysul Food Festival 30-Jun £5,644.00
Margam
Festival – Margam Market Day
01-Jul £9,889.20
Cardiff International Food & Drink 6 – 8 July £25,608.85
Cardigan Bay Seafood Festival, Aberaeron 08-Jul £9,500.00
Eating Green /Cider Palooza Festival 12 – 14 July £5,000.00
Really Wild Food & Countryside Festival 27 – 28 July £11,963.77
Lampeter Food Festival 28-Jul £6,150.00
Carmarthen Food Festival 01-Aug £6,500.00
Cardigan River & Food Festival 11 – 12 August £10,400.00
Welsh Food Festival 1 – 2 September £6,225.00
Aberystwyth Food & Drink Festival 15-Sep £7,418.61
Abergavenny Food Festival 15–16 September £46,800.00
Narberth Food Festival 21–23 September £8,161.40
Mold Food and Drink Festival 22- 23 September £8,025.00
Feastival  (Bridgend) 28- 29 September £9,900.00
Newport Food Festival 5 – 6 October £8,105.97
Neath Food and Drink Festival 5 – 6 October £9,999.00
Brecon Beacons Food Festival 06-Oct £4,480.00
Anglesey Oyster Festival 13 – 14 October £3,098.00
Mumbles Oyster Fair 19 – 21 October £9,500.00
Llangollen Food Festival 20 – 21 October £4,000.00
Gwledd Conwy Feast 25 – 28 October £33,683.61
Cowbridge Food and Drink Festival 27 – 28 October £9,900.00
Hay Winter Food Festival 24-Nov £1,771.00
Abergavenny Christmas Food & Drink 11-Dec £2,200.00

 

Wag’s list has now gone up on welshcountry.co.uk and of course it has been sent around our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers, so at least some of the rumours which have been frantically doing the rounds, will now be quashed.

 
 

Has Newport Found A Loophole To Get Festival Funding?

21 Jun

This year Newport are running a food festival for what I understand is the first time and are receiving financial support of £15,171k  from Wag. As Newport have asked for more than £10k, that means they’ve had to supply Wag with a business plan for the event, but with the Council’s financial department to hand, this is not proved a deterrent to Newport as it has to other festivals. Newport takes place on 28/29th October, partly clashing with Cowbridge, with Newport having the advantage of free entry on both days apart from having some ticketed activity.     

I’ve been onto Newport Food Festival website today, which is actually Newport City Council website.  Then I got rather confused as to whether this festival is a stand alone event or not. It appears to be running through the tail end of Newport Festival which is launched on 24th July. Our office has rung Newport Council and been told it’s part of the Newport Festival, but under Wag’s 2011 criteria, ‘food activity must be the core’. Well as we;ve been  told it’s part of the Newport Festival, how can food be the core activity?  Another interesting fact to throw into this mix is that the Newport Food Festival website url is owned by Miller Research. Regular readers will be aware that Miller Research from Abergavenny were asked by Wag to do an analysis of all the food festivals they funded last year……………..   

Regular readers will also know how angry I am that Smallholder was thrust into turmoil when Wag refused to fund them this year. Bearing in mind that the Smallholder was originally run by Wag themselves. No funding caused huge problems for everyone, plus gave no alternative but to have increased tradestand prices, just because Wag stuck to their criteria – well in this instance they did. The Royal Welsh and the Winter Fair will not have this problem as both these events are conveniently funded by Wag out of a different Wag budget!!

I have never had so many calls and emails about matters festival related as I have this year. Plus I have no idea at all why Wag needs to make life in the food sector more complicated that it is. When Wag have their usual Food Festival Organisers meeting in February, why couldn’t all these issues have been sorted out there and then? Why am I now in a situation where I’m being asked questions that I have no answers for? If I give people what should be the ‘easy’ solution of ringing Wag and talking to Jon Parker, who I think is still responsible for food festivals, for some reason that never appears to be a favourable option, I wonder why…………………………….

If you have any more news or insights into this situation, then please help me out and let me know. I just don’t understand how this can have happened.