Posts Tagged ‘Steve Shearman’

Update On Spring Festival

04 Dec

an approached trade stand sector of RWAS in June asking if they could confirm a rumour  that Steve Shearman was not running the Farmers’ Market at the Spring Festival in 2015. Ian also said, if the rumour was confirmed, that we might possibly be interested in running the food section. Ian got a prompt response saying RWAS had not heard from Steve but would be in touch when they did hear from him.

Six months later and we’d had no news. On 1st December we attended the Winter Fair and there were even more rumours at next year’s Spring Festival.  Ian emailed RWAS again on 2nd December, also asking why his email string failed. The response he received is shown as follows:

The Society decided on the 18th November that the Food Hall should henceforth be the focal point for food exhibitors at the Spring Festival and that it should be managed in-house. It is expected that it will become a food court for small artisan producers from Wales and the Border Counties embracing food stands, mobile catering outlets and a seating area for visitors, but the criteria and precise details are yet to be determined.

It seems no further explanation was needed as to why Ian’s email string failed. We’ve now been told that the RWAS have made their decision. As regards stand prices etc. I’m afraid food producers will just have to wait and see if they can afford to attend, should they be allocated a stand!

I can understand why this post on Spring Festival has created interest as Steve Shearman is well though of throughout the Welsh food and drink industry.


Welsh Food At The Smallholder Show

21 May

The only way I can start this post is to query, yet again, why this event has not got funding from wag again this year. In my research, I’ve established that this event has never been funded from the Food Festival budget, but from ‘Promoting Welsh Food’ – Budget Expenditure Line. From last year under the latest festival criteria rules, festivals have to have food as the core activity. Some years ago Steve Shearman, was asked by wag to run this event for them, but last year was then told that there would be no funding for the Smallholder. Further investigation uncovered how Smallholder had been funded. I asked how much had
been in the ‘Promoting Welsh Food’ – Budget Expenditure Line for 2008/9, 2009/10, 2010/11, who received funding from this budget over these three years and finally how this funding was allocated. I was told that my questions were so time consuming, it would cost wag over £600 to determine if they hold this information, to retrieve and extract it, so wag decided not to process my

Well that wasn’t useful, bearing in mind this is funding from a wag budget and I’m simply asking how it was spent. Can you really expect me to believe that wag are so sloppy that they don’t keep financial records of how they spend our money? Of course the RWS Show and the Winter Fair food halls are funded by wag and these two events obviously don’t have food as their core activity, but seemingly those two exceptions are allowed because wag are allowed to make their own rules
and keep the secret if they so wish.

In 2010, food hall hire for RWS was £65,403.32 and for the Winter Fair was £19,975.00. Event Build and Management Costs were £131,968.22 and £56,078.64 respectively. So these are not cheap events to put on but wag in its wisdom have decided to pull the plug again this year for Smallholder and in effect give out food producers another slap in the face. In the RWS especially you see large, large companies that are purely there for PR and can easily afford stands that are not subsidised by wag, whilst genuine micro and small producers simply cannot afford to take a stand at the RWS. But sadly wag appears not to care about this
quirk either.

Now I’ve reminded you of my background work, let me return to my visit there yesterday. Hardworking organiser Steve Shearman had no choice last year to substantially raise his stand prices and this has a huge knock on effect down the line, some traders couldn’t cope with the increase and didn’t attend, others had to take this hit and accept their overheads had rocketed. Thankfully all traders were aware that the tradestand price increase was down to an unsupportive wag, not to Steve.

I had many complaints from producers about the number of festivals they’d not been accepted for and the main culprits were: Abergavenny, Cardiff and Cowbridge. I know that these three are popular festivals and organisers know that they are in the fortunate position that they can pick and choose who they accept. But I do wish that applications gave producers full details and not say when they are rejected maybe they should have sent samples in because we don’t know you. I can tell you now that being a True Taste winner didn’t help this particular company! What I would also like some organisers to think about whilst they are in the position of playing God, that some of these companies rely on festivals and markets for their livelihood, not many of them have the back up of also being in super markets, they are simply too small to take this route. My final comment is that when producers have been loyal, supporting your event since it first started surely should count from something instead of being thrown out like last weeks rubbish.

There was a good mix of stands in the food hall, some superb produce available. It’s always a pleasure too to see so many of our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers there too. Steve had put  tentage outside with tables and chairs so visitors could buy and eat their food in comfort, but I hated seeing people using this area for their own packed lunch. Yes I know they were saving money and I no times are tough, but I’m also sure they did not give the producers a thought. In their eyes it was just somewhere to sit and eat their picnic in comfort!!!!

I got very mixed reports, which is the normal, but I’m safe in saying that many traders were well down on last year and the year before. The recession isn’t helping anyone, but all those traders would have been far happier if wag had supported this event.

Try as I might I cannot understand why wag don’t fund the Smallholder. How can wag food appear to think that it’s not important to have a Welsh food presence at the Smallholder? If they do believe that’s true then I think some of them need reminding of which department they are working for.

Well done wag another own goal.

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Funding Of Food Hall At The Royal Welsh Showground

08 Sep

I was greatly concerned that Wag, in it’s wisdom……. was not funding the Food Hall at the Smallholder Show, stating that that food was not its core activity and therefore did not fulfill this year’s brief. 

Some years ago Wag asked Steve Shearman, Farmers Markets In Wales to take over and run this event on their behalf. But despite the fact that the Food Hall is always a huge attraction to visitors, it now didn’t fit Wag’s latest criteria.

So that got me thinking, and wondered just how much Wag paid to lease the Food Hall at the Royal Welsh Showground. Interesting thought but my only option to get this information, as Wag Press office have said they would not answer questions from me, was another question through Freedom Of Information Act.

The answers are as follows:

Lease Costs

2009 £70,645.64 (inc vat) hall hire for RWS and Winter Fair

2010 £65,403.32 (inc vat) RWS

2010 £19,975.00 (inc vat) Winter Fair      

Event Build & Management Costs

2009 RWS                £155,023.30  (inc vat)

2009 Winter Fair    £61,355.38    (inc vat)

2010 RWS               £131,968.22  (inc vat)

20101 Winter fair   £56,078.64   (inc vat)  

Hope these figures are of interest. I was also told that over the last few years, Smallholder funding was taken from the ‘Promoting Welsh Food’ budget Expenditure Line. This is a budget I’d no idea existed and nor was there an explantion as to why it still couldn’t be funded from this budget. Yet another question to ask?

 was also told that over the last years Smallholder funding was taken from  – ‘The  

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Update On The Royal Welsh

19 Jul

Like many of you, I had an early start on Monday to visit the RWAS. My first stop was the Press Office to get my badge etc. McDonalds was again sponsoring the Press Room and if they had read welshfoodbites last they sadly didn’t act on any of my suggestions. As far as I’m aware coffee was not supplied by a Welsh company and the tea was, as last year, PG Tips. This is despite the fact that I told their staff about Welsh Brew tea, and where they were in the Food Hall. This year that company had three stands in total around the show ground, but McDonalds could only support PG Tips. I’m seriously unimpressed when McDonalds say they support farmers, but ignore food producers. It’s an unfair situation and would not take a great deal of effort to change it. The fact that the vending machine seemed to be a on constant ‘clean cycle’, it made for a fairly ‘dry’ press room. But whilst we waited again for coffee, it did give me a chance to catch up with one of Welsh Country’s magazine friends, weatherman Derek Brockway who was broadcasting from the show all week. With still no drinks, in the end I gave up, walked across to the Food Hall and brought back two superb mocha coffees from Preseli Coffee – a sure winner against McDonalds!!!!! The Press Office was certainly not as busy as usual with the number of journalists and photographers well down, a sign of the tough times all media is experiencing and does not look to be changing. It was disappointing to find a lack of food press releases in the press office apart from a press pack form Fork2Fork. I am not at all pleased that this sector was not looked after by Wag – surely we had endless food stories that could have been out to the Welsh media………

I browsed through lots of press reports from RWAS and under ‘Projects Completed For the Show’ and under capital at the top of the list was New Food Hall – Fit Out. I have no idea what that means but considering the Food Hall was only opened 12 months ago – it didn’t make much sense to me, and still doesn’t.

Now if like me, you believe that Wag never listens, you will have been delighted to see the new layout in the Food Hall. This was proof, at least on this occasion, that Wag not only listened, but actually reacted in a positive manner. They took the time and trouble to ask for producers’ comments and suggestions, listened to what they said and then acted upon them. This is great news and a huge step forward. Sadly I have no proof that Wag read welshfoodbites’ post on last year’s Food Hall fiasco, but the important point is that Wag realised the layout was wrong and did something about it. Well done Wag.

It’s difficult and unfair to say at such an early stage how the new layout worked, but I’ll get feedback through on Friday I’m sure when the producers at last get home. I’m still not totally happy with Wag though as I wished they’d put some tables and seating in the centre area, which was empty apart from some pop-up banners. There was space also opposite the loos and some tables and chairs could have fitted in there. There were lots of visitors that were stood in groups chatting and I’m sure they would have appreciated a coffee, tea, cake and a sit-down and have a break. I find it odd that this new Food Hall was planned with no thought for a seating area, even just outside. There was such a fantastic array of Welsh produce on display, but impossible for people to be able to buy that food and eat it easily. But, having said that, I cannot believe that anyone wandering around the Food Hall would not be impressed with the wonderful array of food from the artisan producers. Well done guys.

I believe the gate was down by about 4,000 people but I do hope that doesn’t happen for the rest of the week and the food producers have a good week in the Food Hall.
I also made two visits down to the Farmers Market and congratulate Steve Shearman and Ralph’s Cider who between them got some smart tentage, this area certainly looked better and they had some great produce too. There were also some tables and benches with umbrellas which many people took advantage of.


Food At The Royal Welsh

06 Jul

Wales’ agricultural show is nearly upon us and hopefully the weather will be kinder than it has been over the last few years. Welsh Country’s focus of course will be mainly on food with two areas for us to cover, the Food Hall, which is run through the Welsh Government and the Farmers Market In Wales area, under the direction of Steve Shearman.

The producers that are in the Food Hall will be counting on lots of people through obviously, but also that the layout that will allow visitors the chance to browse and purchase at their leisure. Last year’s layout simply didn’t work and the crowds were so huge that is was verging on dangerous as people in wheelchairs and those with buggies were literally carried along with the flow, but struggled to even see the stands properly,let alone purchase. I hope lessons have been learnt by the organisers and that they realise how important this event is to our producers. Stand prices are very expensive in the Food Hall and a producer told me at the weekend that after paying in full, they’d be pestered for additional payments for electric, so unsure what had gone wrong there. But what I did find disappointing is that traders are charged £48.00 per night to park their caravans. It’s some time since I was in a caravan doing a tradestand, but usually we got it free or at the most a minimal charge. I haven’t a clue what today’s standard rate is for a caravan pitch but around £6.00 – £10.00 per night was the norm. In some ways I can understand private accommodation providers trying to make the most money possible during the RAWS week, but what I find upsetting is that this is caravan charge is being made by the RWAS. If RWAS are able to charge visitors £48.00 a night, fair enough, I understand that they have to make money. But what I don’t like is it feels like RWAS attitude is if you want to be here that’s what you must pay, take it our leave it. But I do think it would be a great gesture if RWAS would look again at traders’ caravan charges and make them more reasonable. The trader I was speaking to is paying out over £1,000 for a stand in the Food Hall, excluding samples, so I can only hope that this year the Food Hall does work well and the producers have a busy and profitable show – they certainly need it.

Head for Stand A42 to find the Farmers’ Markets in Wales Catering Concession, I’m really looking forward to seeing how this area looks and works. The market always has a great vibe about it. There’s nothing better than seeing families declining the vast array of fast-food that’s always on offer and enjoying good local food and drink with lots of taste and flavour – coming literally from Welsh forks in the ground to the fork on your plate at the Royal Welsh Show. It will be the ultimate fork to fork experience.


Usk Farmers Market

06 Jun

I’ve heard too many tales of markets that are still struggling despite the huge amount of funding that has gone into farmers markets, farm shops and box schemes. The main complaints from traders are that the markets are not promoted well enough, occasionally poor stands are allowed in and then the people are not spending as much. Well in all fairness, market organisers cannot be blamed for people not spending but it’s down to traders to tempt them with samples and background about their product, and special offers and recipe ideas often stir more interest. Maybe if customers were able to forward order from traders so their order was ready for them to collect on market day, would be an incentive too. 

Anyway I’m digressing – so back to Usk market, which is one I had never been to, but I thought I would check out what Steve Shearman was doing with his markets under Farmers Markets in Wales’s banner. It was rather late when I got there with only one hours trading still to go, but it was encouraging to see both inside and outside stands and plenty of people about. There was a wonderful array of stands including: coffee, meat, olives, cheese, jams, chutneys, cakes, veg, sauces, beer, apple juice, Welsh cakes, with plenty of samples to get those taste buds flowing. There was a lovely friendly feel around the market which made it really worth the long drive from Ceredigion. I was delighted too to see a fish stall there too, fish is quite a rarity at markets these days and the fisherman was so helpful in giving ways to cook the various fish he had for sale. What I didn’t expect to find, but was an added bonus, was a lovely café area at the side of the Memorial Hall, a ideal place to catch up with friends and have a gossip.

I did struggle to find where the market was, only seeing one sign as I came into Usk, but apparently the guy charged with doing that job wasn’t able to do it that day!!! The other slight niggle was a couple of stands that left early. I don’t accept that if they have sold up they can up sticks and leave, I think they should still stay there and explain to people who they are and what they do and remember next time to take more stock…………

Congratulations to Steve and all the traders at Usk for a super market which hopefully others can learn from!


Success For Welsh Food At Smallholder

23 May

Congratualtions to Steve Shearman from Farmer’s Markets in Wales, who put on a great show in the old Food Hall at the Smallholder show this weekend. As already posted, I had expected to find the producers in the new Food Hall, but was relieved to find that sector busy and some relatively producers on Sunday when I visited.

What really made me very angry was the fact that this event received no funding from the WAG, the Welsh Assembly Government.  I’ve no idea who told me, but I knew that Steve attended the festival organisers meeting in February, but I couldn’t work out why. The funding for this event has not, to my knowledge, ever come from Wag’s festival funded budget.  If I’m wrong, then it’s been left of the list I have received from Wag for the last four years. So as this funding has always come from another budget, which budget was it from? My next question is why has this funding been withdrawn and who made that decision?

I’m not sure whether you would label this event as a Food Festival or a Farmer’s Market, but the label is irrelevant. What is relevant and is very important, is that thisevent was actually a celebration of Welsh food at its best and surely this is what Wag (Food) should be promoting.  This year Wag’s criteria for festivals they are supporting is that they ‘will have food activity as the core. Therefore events such as Agricultural Shows with a food hall or events that use a food hall as an additional attraction will not normally be eligible’. What normally be eligible means must qualify as ‘Wag speak’ which makes us none the wiser…………….so can anyone clarify that statement please. I feel that maybe it means that Wag will continue to do as is pleases, regradless of the consequences.

As an example of my confusion, can I remind you that I attended Saundersfoot in March this year and counted 18 food stands, plus a cookery demo area and 9 craft stands. This festival got funding again this year, around £8k, but according to Wag they should have had 20 food producers. Did anyone attned from Wag and if so does that mean this funding is now reduced? Saundersfoot have also been awarded funding for 2012 but with a lesser amount of £5,006.35.

But back to the Smallholder event which had over 40 of our best producers on show, got no financial support at all, due to Wag’s change of criteria. Wag’s other big push as far as food festivals are concerned, is that huge prominence is made of True Taste Food and Drink Awards winners. I won’t bore you again with my views on True Taste, but check out my post on 22nd November and let me know what you think. The financial headache that no funding caused this event meant that stand prices had to be doubled, bad news for the producers in this economic climate, but there was absolutely no choice if this was to go ahead. I cannot imagine the Smallholder without Steve Shearman’s market and our offering to our visitors is bog-standard fast food vans with little if any local  food.

This event was a success despite Wag’s childish behavouir, they even had a covered area on one side where Steve had put seating so people could enjoy some great coffee, food, ice-cream and a chance to rest and chat with family and friends.

Carwyn Jones, our First Minister says, “I am delighted the Welsh Assembly Government has been able to continue to support food and drink festivals across Wales.”

Well Mr Jones and Wag, I’m not happy that I don’t understand what has happened to the Smallholder funding and why Wag (Food) don’t put their onus on Welsh food first and True Taste second – if you can improve the standard and variety of local producers you’ll of course improve the entries for the True Taste. Please explain to me why this event had to run without financial support from Wag bearing in mind RWAS say 26,026 attended over the two days. This is yet another instance where Wag need to wake-up and understand what is actually happening in Wales with our food producers.