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Posts Tagged ‘Welsh food and drink’

Update Food Festival Funding – FOI 10621

24 Aug

I posted about this Freedom Of Information Number 10621 on 19th August and was, let me say perturbed that wag food were unable to answer all my questions about food festival funding for this year.

To save you scrolling back, the questions that wag food couldn’t/wouldn’t answer are as follows:

  1. From which budgets or other sources of wag funding have Abergavenny, Conwy and Cardiff applied for and received funding for their food festivals?
  2. What criteria do these festivals have to meet before they can apply for funding from other than the food festival budget?

 5 & 6. We do not hold any information regarding this point.

  1. As the budget for this year’s festivals is £160k, can you explain where the remainder of this budget will be allocated?

We do not hold any information regarding this point.

In their reply wag food told me that if I wasn’t satisfied with the response offered, I could go back to them and they would then do an official review. Well dear reader I have done just that and yesterday received acknowledgement from wag food under the subject banner of a complaint! Well as far as I’m concerned wag food can call it what they wish, but to make life easier they could simply answer my questions at the first time of my asking. I’ve no wish to have to go back to wag food for a review or as in their view my complaint, all I require is my questions answered under an FOI. But now, and hardly for the first time, I’ve to chase wag again for answers to an FOI. Wag are well aware that if I’m not satisfied with their review/complaint then I am allowed to go to the Information Commissioner’s Office and they will investigate on my behalf.

Welsh Country magazine has backed and supported Welsh food and drink for over a decade. We promise our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers that we’ll pass on any relevant press releases, not that we get many through and also any foodie news to them. If they have any issues we’ll do our best to help, bearing in mind we’ve often to go to wag food to get any help………….

But that’s the system in place that I’m obliged to follow. Yet wouldn’t it be easier, quicker and cheaper for both parties if wag food would simply answer questions asked of them? How can wag and wag food  constantly forget that this is tax payers’ money they are spending?

 
 

Not Directly A Food Issue But………..

22 Aug

I’m aware of food and drink business, as we have at Welsh Country magazine, used Jobs Growth Wales.

So I’m grateful, but very annoyed to be informed today that the Labour Government has secretly cut its own job creation scheme. Jobs Growth Wales used to offer a 100% subsidy for firms to employ people aged between 16 – 24, but ministers have quietly slashed that subsidy to 50%, but without informing Assembly Members or the public.

Obviously I’m not the only one puzzled that we somehow, despite our elected Welsh Assembly Members, it feels more like we are living in a dictatorship. Shadow Secretary for the Economy, Russell George, said:

“Frankly, it’s appalling that a decision of this size can be implemented without having the courtesy to inform the public, or elected members. This is a profound change to a flagship scheme, which will undoubtedly affect take-up, and which has only come to light because a business has tipped off the media. Clearly we need to see stronger checks and balances placed on the Welsh Government. It’s not uncommon for Welsh Labour to sneak big announcements out via written statements, but this takes intransigence to new levels. It also highlights the hypocrisy at the core of their spin machine.

One minute the economy is in grave danger because of Brexit, now we’re told a 50% cut to their flagship job creation scheme is necessary because firms are doing too well. It makes no sense and I will be writing to the minister to seek clarity over the future of the scheme, and the budgetary implications of this dramatic cut to support.”

I’m puzzled by the government’s comments as our experience in the Welsh food and drink industry is that companies are not all doing well – let alone too well. To read this makes me cross when a £10k pay INCREASE for Assembly Members also basically went under the radar in fact I’m not sure that many  of the public are aware that Members got such an increase on top of their already ‘reasonable’ salary.

The problems with many governments is their ability to send out mix messages, should they send out any messages at all. Our economy is supposedly in grave danger from Brexit so our government’s idea is not to discuss it in the Senedd, but to go ahead and cut their own job creation scheme by 50%. You really couldn’t make this up!

 
 

Food Festival Funding – Was My Time Worth It?

18 Aug

I daren’t work out how much time and effort it has taken to get the second list of festival funding from the Welsh Government. Trying to get this information has been, to put it politely, frustrating. Add to this I’ve no idea why wag food think publishing the second list of food festivals mid August achieves much for anyone.

I was told by the press office that I would be sent a link to this second tranche of food festival funding but that would be next week, however a helpful person in wag food and yes I did say helpful, told me yesterday that the list would be available on Thursday and it was!!! Think this comes close to wag food and I having joined up writing, but even though I suspect only a temporary basis, it was a great help. This list will of course be sent around all our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers as they have been the ones asking me questions.

This will surprise regular readers, but for once I was going to publish the list of food festivals in Welsh Country, but as our S/October issue went to press yesterday, that opportunity has been lost. But I am thinking now it’s perhaps better to let wag food get on with what they think works best for them. If I was a festival organiser, I’d not be happy, assuming the second list people have only just been informed, but as wag food have now put in a £5k limit then maybe they’d question why bother for the amount of paperwork they have to complete. But perhaps that’s just wag food being clever. If wag food continue to be slow to award any funding, perhaps festivals will either decide to stop their event or decide, somehow to do without any funding. As wag food want festivals to be self-supporting maybe this is their plan to achieve it. But will that help Welsh food and drink producers?

I’m aware that Abergavenny have not been pleased that their offering from wag food used to be £52k and now the maximum is £5k. So as this list doesn’t show funding to festivals such as Abergavenny, Conwy and Cardiff, where are they getting their funding from? These festivals have obviously decided against going to wag food for funding so have they gone to Visit Wales and the Major Events Unit for their cash offering? I’ve asked a Freedom Of Information request to get that information and when I have the answer to that one, I’ll let you know. My other query is as I was told this year’s food festival budget  was £160k but adding totalling this list it accounts for £85, 068. So what happens to the remainder? Meanwhile here is the full list of wag funded festivals:

Welsh Government Supported Food Festivals 2016
Food Festival Festival Date Grant
Cowbridge Food Festival 29th  / 30th  May £5,000
Newcastle Emlyn Food Festival 11th June £2,581
Hay Summer Food Festival 1st July £2,351
Cardigan Bay Seafood Festival 3rd  July £5,000
Cardigan River and Food Festival 6th August £5,000
Big Welsh Bite 6th / 7th August £3,075
Menai Seafood Festival 20th August £5,000
Newtown Food & Community Festival 3rd  / 4th  September £5,000
St Fagans Food Festival 10th /11th  September £4,960
Gwyl Fwyd Beaumaris 10th /11th  September £5,000
Narbeth Food Festival 23rd / 25th  September £5,000
Margam Country Park Food Festival 24th / 25th  September £5,000
Newport Food & Drink Festival 1st October £5,000
Brecon Beacons Food Festival 1st October £4,750
Llangollen Food Festival 15th / 16th October £5,000
Llandudno Christmas Fayre 17th / 20th November £5,000
Hay Winter Food Festival 26th November £2,351
Portmeirion Christmas Food and Drink 2nd / 4th December £5,000
Abergavenny Christmas Food & Drink 11th December £5,000
 
 

Still Waiting For The 2nd Lot Of Festival Funding

04 Aug

I’m finding life hard work trying to get information from the Welsh Food department. Please don’t ask me why, all I’m trying to do is my job, ask questions, get answers and not to be pushed around in circles which ultimately creates more work for everyone. It seems to me that wasting time is easier when you get paid at the end of each month, regardless of whether you’ve done a good job or a bad job.

At the moment I’m chasing to find out which festivals have been funding by wag food in the second batch. The closing date for this second tranche was 14th July and I was told these applications would be dealt within two weeks. Well dear Reader, that is a wag ‘two weeks’ because as on 3rd August there is nothing about the second lot on wag’s website. As far as I’m aware, wag food haven’t sent out a press releasebut I’m not sure. I was promised by wag that I was on their press mailing list, but for some reason, known only to them of course, I didn’t get the first food festival press release. So just in case that had happened again…….. I went on the wag’s website again, but there’s still nothing posted.

I’ve also asked the press office how Abergavenny food festival, Conwy food festival and Cardiff food festival are being funded this year. But I have been told again that ‘I’d agreed’ that I’d not ask them questions for welshfoodbites. Well that’s not  true.  I was told by the Welsh Government press office that they wouldn’t answer any questions for  a blog and that’s what welshfoodbites is. But that’s not my ‘agreeing’ to it when there wasn’t a choice offered to me. My other point is that any Welsh food & drink information that I think is relevant, I post on welshfoodbites, but also email it around our Best Of Welsh & Borders, (BOW) producers. I’m communicating with our producers, which can only be a good thing surely? However it seems that wag think our BOW producers are not important either.

I was told the Welsh Government is being transparent in it’s dealings, well what does that mean? Is it more wag words and no actions? Or is it just lip service to us, wag telling us what they think we want to hear? It just feels like it’s a further dig at Welsh Country and I can’t see why when we are trying to promote Welsh food and drink as we are promoting our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers, as we promote any Welsh markets and Welsh food festivals that want to work with Welsh Country magazine. What is the problem with that? I simply don’t understand it.

But if I can’t talk to the press office I can use Freedom Of Information (FOI), so I can get questions answered, well that’s the theory anyway but I’ve met problems there too over the years. Then I can put those answers on welshfoodbites. So why can’t wag save time and money and simply answer my questions? That makse sense to me but sadly doesn’t  to wag.

Well as I can’t get that information on the three big ones from the press office of wag’s website, then my only other option is to send through a Freedom Of Information question which was done on 29th July. Today I still wait for an acknowledgment……………………………….

 
 

Food Festival Funding

20 Jul

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

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

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

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

Newcastle Emlyn Food Festival, Newcastle Emlyn (11 June)

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

Cardigan Bay Seafood Festival, Aberaeron (3 July)

Cardigan River & Food Festival, Cardigan (6 August)

Narberth Food Festival, Narberth (23-25 September)

Llangollen Food Festival, Llangollen (15/16 October)

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

Christmas Food & Drink Fair, Abergavenny (11 December)

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
 

Another Waste Of My Time

08 Jul

As Mike from Cwm Deri Vineyard was prepared to share his eviction from Narbeth – for update see post dated 17th June as Local Producers Don’t Get Priority At Funded Festivals – I thought you’d be interested in an update.

Both Mike and I have contacted one of his AMs and she is going to take his complaint forward, but was frnak from the outset, saying there was no likelihood that anything will chang efor Mike this year., which I understand. So my next plan of action was to ‘talk’ to wag food, although in theory I’m supposed to go through the press office. But I thought it worth a try and crafted a detailed email. I explained the back story on Mike and his long standing supprt for Narbeth. I queried the Narbeth committee’s reason to ‘vary the visitor experience’ as their justification for throwing Mike out and I suggested that variety could be achieved by the music, the street and childre’s entertainment that the event uses each year.

I still cannot accept that punters if they ARE surveyed, are saying although this is a yearly food festival, I still want the food stalls changed each year. If you bought some delicous cheese, jam, beer or wne last year wouldn’t you want to buy it again? Narbeth’s reasoning doesn’t make sense to me, but seemingly does to wag food. But in the interest of variety, Narbeth style, do you think the Devon fishcake man will be thrown out too?

I maintain as I have constantly done so, that wag food are not backing local professional producers, but instead is encouraging food miles. Which goes completely against the Welsh Government’s Policy. Wag food create their own Welsh food festival criteria, so perhaps ensuring the number of Welsh food and drink producers be raised to 90% and priority given first to local ‘professional’ producers. This would eliminate silly situations like this.

Narbeth cannot state that they are championing local producers when they have just thrown out Pembrokeshire’s local wine producer. 

The objectives of the Food Festival Grant scheme 2016 published by wag food state:

  • Improve Visitor Access to and awareness of Welsh Food and Drink.
  • Encourage Welsh hospitality businesses to source more local food and drink.
  • Increase the prevalence of Welsh Food and Drink on menus and retail offering.

I am sure some of you will have seen a company called Wavehill doing some food festival evaluations, which of course we/wag food have paid for. Here’s a snippet from one of their reports:

Wavehill 14/15 food festival evaluation

  • An average (mean) rating of 3.6 out of 4 illustrates a high degree of enjoyment across the surveyed festivals. Furthermore, almost two thirds of attendees felt certain their awareness of local food and produce had increased as a result of their attendance at the festival that day, whilst a further 27% felt it probably had.
  • In addition, the FD was keen on evaluating the following elements:
  • Would the festival continue without FD support (to what extent is the festival moving towards a model that is self-sustaining)?
  • Is the event considered to be an exemplar of the Promotion of Welsh Produce to visitors in and outside Wales?
  • The quality of the event.
  • The involvement of Food Tourism Providers – are they Championing Local Producers? 
  • The number of Food & Drink Producers, who these producers are, in addition to the numbers of Welsh Producers.

Confirmation that the festival organisers had used the Welsh Government financial contribution in the manner outlined in their application.

Then I can go back to the former Minister of Rural Affairs, Elin Jones:

From Food for Wales – Food from Wales 2010 – 2020

Food is a basic necessity for us all, as well as a key industry. It creates vital employment and is critical to our security and wellbeing. It is a source of robust health and a celebration of culture. Wales is rapidly gaining a credible, national and international reputation for its innovative food and drink and hospitality sector. Thanks to our producers, our unique geography, climate and farming practices, Wales can boast of a range of high quality foods, from our iconic Welsh lamb and beef to cheeses and Welsh seafood. The food and drink industry is important to the economy and the people of Wales; the UK Agri-Food sector contributes up to 7% (£79.4 billion) of UK Gross Value Added. Through careful informed planning and working together it is vital that we increase this and I have every confidence that we can build on our success achieved so far to ensure a thriving, developing industry in the years to come.

There are complex and cross cutting issues around food, such as making sure everyone continues to have access to the food they need, which requires an economically and environmentally sustainable industry capable of withstanding global pressures and meeting the challenges that climate change presents us with. Food issues are key to us all as consumers, throughout the industry, and as a Government. Reconnecting with food and how it’s produced is a fundamental message that reaches out to all those engaged in the future of food supply in Wales. This Strategy sets the overall direction – it cannot deal in detail with every area of policy it will affect. As Minister for Rural Affairs for the Welsh Assembly Government I am keen for Wales to do the best we can to ensure a sustainable food system which meets our economic and ecological priorities. To achieve this we need to reach out to

all parts of Government to ensure we work together to share agendas and make better connections.

The food chain accounts for 31% of greenhouse gas emissions within the EU (17% of total Welsh emissions), and we all have a part to play in addressing these issues. Working together, we can look to readdress these imbalances by looking to source food locally, eat seasonally, and reduce food miles; consequently reducing carbon emissions. We also need to look to reduce our food packaging which contributes to waste and landfill and increase the creation of bio diverse habitats for wildlife.

From the same source:

This Strategy sets the overall direction – it cannot deal in detail with every area of policy it will affect. This Strategy will however act as a common framework to inform our existing food action plans, such as those for horticulture, red meat, organic, dairy, local sourcing, food tourism, and fisheries, and act as a basis for a delivery plan to implement our aspirations. This overarching Strategy is for ten years, but delivery plans will be set over shorter timescales.

From the same source:

Principles

  • Local and locality branded foods from Wales should be developed and promoted to markets in Wales, the rest of the UK, and more widely;

From the same source:

  1. Increasing knowledge about food in our communities will help to develop a stronger

food culture, which can stimulate the demand for good quality and locally produced food.

From the same source:

  1. The general principles of a low carbon diet are eating local, seasonal food, wasting less food, minimising energy used in cooking and storage, taking fewer trips to the supermarket, and ensuring that a balance is achieved on carbon intensive food such as red meat and dairy products.

From the same source:

Food and Tourism

Tourism provides an excellent example of an area of Government influence in which food can play a key role. Good quality food and food service can enhance the reputation of Wales as a leading sustainable

tourism destination. Provision of Welsh food at tourist outlets can promote economic development and boost environmental and cultural tourism. This approach can make for a tourist experience that is highly valued, encouraging the return of visitors to Wales.

The Food Tourism Action Plan encourages the use of food as a tool to increase the attractions of Welsh rural areas illustrated by the achievements of Monmouthshire and Pembrokeshire, which were the first two winners of the Food Destination Awards under the True Taste scheme.

In addition, research by the Mid Wales Food and Land Trust in 2006 concluded that, of the visitors surveyed, 82% stated that provision of good locally produced food was a very important part of their holiday experience and they would pay up to 13% extra to experience it.

From the same source:

(From Food Tourism Action Plan, Welsh Assembly Government, 2009)

CHAPTER 7

Summary of the aspirations and direction of the Food Strategy

1.Local and locality branded foods from Wales will be developed and promoted to markets in Wales, the rest of the UK, and the world.

Well the first surprise was I did get a response some two weeks later, the second surprise, well no it wasn’t a surprise, I got no help at all. Despite a few emails going to and fro, I was told my comments will be discussed with Food Festival Organisers when they meet with wag food. So that was a surprise as I’d no idea food festival organisers were still having meetings, but in fairness why should wag food keep me in the loop on that one?

Then I was told to take my individual points to directly to Narberth Food Festival. Well that was useful – not!!! Why is Narbeth going to answer my questions when wag food, the Paymaster, can’t be bothered taking up Mike’s case on the grounds that each festival is responsible for organising their own exhibiting area and food producers. This to me is a cop out, if wag food are paying, then shouldn’t food festivals be adhering to wag food’s policies? Does this not run along joined up government writing?

Wag food, the department that we pay for to promote Welsh food and drink, gives us Food & Drink policies, stating what must happen to promote food and drink in Wales, but then does little to fulfil them. These policies are only wag words, without any action. I’m stunned that wag food are telling me to talk to Narbeth.

Mike believes his feedback form might be to blame for his eviction, as he stated it should be professional producers at a fesitival and not a stand buying from the Cash & Carry and re-packaging stock. When I asked wag food if they saw the feedback forms they said no – but each event has to maintian feedback as part of their Quality-Systems and to maintain or better their producer /visitor experience in the future. So this proves that if organisers cannot accept constructive criticism, then traders must only put pleasant comments on feedback forms to ensure they get an invite back. So someone please explain how will feedback forms maintain or better their producer/visitor experience? Well obviously they’ll be another waste of time but again another area which wag food have ignored. So the outcome is that Mike has had to find another event, which is not only more expensive to trade at, it’s not local to him so his food miles are massively increased, plus he’s to pay for a hotel too!

To wrap up this post, I wasn’t sure that wag food would help, so it’s as I stated at the start, this is just another waste of my time talking to or at a food department which will not listen. Of course I’m disappointed/furious with the outcome of this scenario. But on a rare positive note from this post, perhaps I should just be grateful to have got two responses, such as they were, more like whitewash to me!

You couldn’t make this up, you really couldn’t…………………………….

 

 
 

Local Producers Don’t Get Priority At Funded Festivals

17 Jun

I’m sorry to have to post again about this topic but it’s only by doing this that perhaps wag food and festival organisers will take notice and change things for the better.

So it’s time to put names to this latest problem which has been brought to my attention. I only do this when it has been agreed and I understand that many producers with issues at festivals are too scared to raise problems in many instances. The festival in question  is Narbeth food festival, a super festival which Ian and I have attended for many years. It’s a great festival vibrant, busy and with a good selection of Welsh food and drink producers. But then I was told that  Mike Caine from Cwm Deri Estate has been evicted from this year’s festival, I was cross. No, not cross, I was furious. Narbeth is his local festival; it’s literally down the road from him and he’s been attending it from its early days when it ran in the Queens Hall.

Mike is an advertiser in Welsh Country magazine and one of our loyal Best Of Welsh & Borders producers, the other bonus is he makes exceedingly great wine. We have always said we’ll work

Mike has written and explained his position and the Narbeth Committee have responded saying:

Our space is limited and each year we strive to vary the visitor experience by engaging with a number of new stallholders. Given the space limitations of the festival site and the need to have a wide variety of different products for sale this means that, inevitably, difficult decisions have to be made with some regular stallholders being disappointed.

Obviously space is limited, it generally is, but I simply don’t understand what the committee are saying. ‘Varying the visitor experience’, why does that relate to food stands and not to their music, street entertainment, kids entertainment or the many government funded Quango stands? If you were a regular holiday visitor to Narbeth festival and wanted to find your favourite cheese stall, beer stand or wine stand, wouldn’t you be seriously miffed if your much-loved stand had been thrown out by a committee vote? Well that’s if there was a vote. What I cannot understand is why a funded festival is not made to support local professional producers first and foremost. Last year I remember a stall selling sweets but they’d seemingly been to the cash and carry and repackaged them. How is that local produce? How could they be given a stand? Where they professional traders? No. As I understand it they both had full-time jobs and this was just for spare cash. I know this for a fact as Ian always ask new traders for business cards or flyers and of course this stand didn’t have anything at all but jars of sweets. I can also remember a stand, maybe the previous year, that just had paper plates with food on them making faces. Those types of stands cannot be more worthwhile than having a professional local producer take a stand.

PLease don’t think I ever underestimate the hard work that goes into putting on a food festival. There’s a huge number of people that give up their time for free, work long and hard to bring a great event into their area and get very little thanks. But what I want organisers and wag food to understand that this is what our professional traders do this for a living. They, like me, don’t get any guaranteed money in their bank at the end of the month unless we sell something. That scenario I’m sure must be hard to imagine for those in safe and secure jobs, but that doesn’t mean it should not be taken into account and treated as a priority. I’m talking professional producers not the ‘Pin-Money’ brigade that just want to earn some extra cash, which might not well be declared for tax purposes. Now Mike has to find another event to boost his potential income for September, which means he’ll be lucky IF he can find something and IF they’ll accept him at this late stage. He’ll end up travelling further which means his earnings will be reduced. However wag food are in words at least very keen on food miles.

Narbeth have told him he can re-apply next year. But can anyone reading this believe that’s a viable option for Mike? Are the committee next year are going to sit down and say ‘oh we threw this loyal trader out last year, but maybe in 2017 we’ll let him back in…….really?

Producers have to plan their events each year; they’ve to work out which events were worthwhile and how they can boost their income for the new year. Can organisers not appreciate how difficult this is and how stressful? Yet this is even more crucial when you have got staff relying on you for their wages, not to mention your own mortgage etc.

I’m gutted for Mike and I’m struggling to understand Narbeth’s thinking and their lack of loyalty. However this is just one example, as there are other festivals, including Abergavenny, that sometimes use the same excuse to throw professional producers out. The difference here is that Mike is OK for me to air his experience, but many others haven’t wanted me to do anything, just to be aware they can get thrown out on a whim. Plus the obvious fear producers might never get back in – even if they wanted to.

Mike has written to Narbeth and explained his position, but that’s proved pointless. Now I’m talking to his AM and also to wag food by email and will keep you posted if anything does happen. I will not stop working hard for Welsh food and drink but just wish it wasn’t such hard work and common sense was more commonly available! One option is to take to social media, but I’m not sure that’s the right way to go, but it would be a way of Mike telling his customers why he’ll not be at Narbeth this year and if he’s found a replacement event.

It’s pointless my wishing things would change with food festivals because nothing really ever does. Wag food are happy that we go around in circles and as they’ve the money to pay the piper as it were, this looks to continue.

 
 

Who Are Welsh Food Festivals For?

10 Jun

Please don’t think this is a silly question, it’s not it’s a serious one. Festivals are firstly for food and drink producers and that must be the priority because without their support we literally don’t have a food festival do we? Then Visit Wales will say our festivals are to attract our visitors. That I agree with, just wish Visit Wales would help festivals more on that front. Smaller festivals will also say it’s to bring their community together whilst still encouraging visitors too.

Hopefully we are agreed on those points, but another one is encouraging locals to buy their produce locally, using our wealth of artisan producers. Of course we have farmers’ markets that locals use, but in fairness they are very much a mixed bunch. Some are brilliant with local producers selling a wide range of locally sourced and hand-made products. Other markets, well lets just say they need improving, but to do that they also need the backing of councils as well as the support of local people. Now as I keep mentioning local, I have in my head food miles. I love using markets and festivals because I know that ‘most,’ but not all producers, are from that local area. I refuse to buy fishcakes from the south coast when I know how tough a time our local fishermen are having, likewise I will not buy garlic from the Isle of Wight when garlic is a product that can be grown here in Wales.

But my reason for this post is being told each year of food festival organisers who are refusing professional local producers stands at their events. Often its producers that have supported those festivals not just for years, but for decades, then to find their loyalty is rewarded by being thrown out. I don’t understand it. There are a number of festivals still playing this sad game, but best I not name them in case other events, like Abergavenny food festival, refuse me press tickets. I’m only raising these issues again because it is time these things changed AND, if producers tackled organisers directly, even if they’re polite, chances are they’ll never get back into that festival again.

Organisers are often vague when they reject a stand, so could it be true that they are full, but then we don’t regulars, especially locals get back in or is it simply down to a clash of personalities? Perhaps organisers forget that our professional food producers are doing this to earn a living, earning at festivals let’s them feed their kids and pay their rent or mortgage. Organisers tossing them out of an event they’ve planned and budgeted for at the start of the year, means they’ll have to try and find an alternative event for that weekend. An event could be 20, 30, 40, or 50 miles away, which just isn’t green?

My other whinge is that some organisers are giving stands to producers that I’ve dubbed, ‘Pin Money Producers’. These are people who already work a full time job, but apply and get stands at weekends to earn some extra cash, which I guess is building the Welsh black market. Ian and I often acquire flyers and business cards for traders we’ve not seen before, but usually these are the ones that never have them! If they’re not busy we’ll ask them about their business, which is usually when we label them ‘Pin Money Producers’. These are not businesses, they are not professional traders and no way should they be allowed to trade at a Welsh Government funded event. Some of these producers are actually buying from the cash and carry and re-packaging the contents of their purchases. How can tricks and deceptions like this showcase the best of Welsh food and drink which is what our visitors are expecting to see, taste and purchase?

Please don’t think I’m just attacking organisers, I’m not. I appreciate their skills in bringing a food festival together. I’ve been visiting festivals for over ten years and count many organisers that I see and speak to regularly as friends, they’re so easy to talk too and they do listen. It’s a tough job running a festival and I appreciate wag food offer very little help to these hard working people. Either they are too busy to do so, or they’ve other more important priorities. I understand that if someone new applies for a stand, it takes a lot of effort to work out if they are a genuine business or not, plus I fully accept it’s no good asking wag food if they have heard of them to help you make a decision. I wish there was an easier way to sort this professional versus ‘Pin Money Producers’ but is raising these instances with the HMRC the only way left to stop them?

I think I can sum up in saying we’ve still not got joined up writing on food festivals and my concern is will we ever achieve that?

 
 

Is Food & Drink Still Important To Wales?

20 May

I’m asking this question after looking at the Welsh First Minister’s new cabinet. We have some Minister posts that seem to be upgraded to  Cabinet Secretaries and these include: Economy, Health, Finance, Education, Communities and Children, and Environment and Rural Affairs. Then there are Junior Ministers for Skills & Science, Lifelong Learning and the Welsh Language and Social Services and Public Health.

The Welsh Government state that they have an Action Plan for the Food and Drink Industry 2014-2020 which has an ambitions target to achieve growth for the sector of 30% by 2020. In light of these targets research is being undertaken to investigate how individual sub sectors which contribute to the wider food and drink economy are performing. From this an industry baseline will be developed and used to monitor trends and track changes in the sectors going forward. This will yield a greater understanding of how specific sub sectors in the Welsh food and drink sector are growing and performing.  

Some people believe the Government’s statement …..but many wonder how wag will achieve it. It appears that Welsh food and drink isn’t worthy of its own Minister, let alone a Cabinet Secretary but once again Welsh food and drink is still being lumped alongside agriculture & fisheries in Environment and Rural Affairs. To me it seems a huge portfolio to encompass food and drink as well and as always the danger is food and drink will not get the attention it deserves which makes the target of 30% growth a tough target to get.
The new government is as follows:

Carwyn Jones – First Minister
Ken Skates – Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Infrastructure
Vaughan Gething – Cabinet Secretary for Health, Well-being and Sport
Mark Drakeford – Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Local Government
Kirsty Williams – Cabinet Secretary for Education
Lesley Griffiths – Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs
Carl Sargeant – Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Children
Jane Hutt – Leader of the House and Chief Whip
Julie James – Minister for Skills and Science
Alun Davies – Minister for Lifelong Learning and Welsh Language
Rebecca Evans – Minister for Social Services and Public Health

Yesterday, Ian and I met some tourists that live in the home counties. The couple are regular visitors to Wales and also to Cornwall where their son and his family live. Their comments where interesting as they were complaining they couldn’t get fresh fish & seafood in Wales. They can get fresh fish & seafood in Cornwall so easily, and of course there are there endless fish restaurants, but Wales is failing in this are. Doing our PR for Welsh food and drink we gave them a copy of Welsh Country magazine and highlighted a couple of excellent companies: Cardigan Bay Fish & Solva Seafood. But as Wales is surrounded by the sea on 3 sides, why can’t Wales have fresh seafood available in every seaside town?

Obviously I can’t blame wag for everything, but this is their problem and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to get fresh Welsh caught fish & seafood. This glaring problem will not help wag to achieve their target growth of 30%.

 
 

Is There Really A £5k Grant Limit for Food Festivals?

11 May

I’m still trying to find out which food festivals are getting funding. As I asked the Welsh Government Press Office again yesterday, they told me that this year there is just one Tier of support  withing the Food Festivals Grant Scheme instead of three Tiers as was used last year.  The Press Office also said that there is a maximum grant of £5k per festival and apparently the total budget for this year is £160k. I’m told that details of the scheme for this year were sent directly to producers, including those who have previously had funding.

For regular readers I’m sure it goes without saying that yet again I’m perplexed with how wag food are allocating food festivals funding this year. If there’s £160k in this budget, when last year, according to my figures the budget was £137,571. So not only has this budget not been cut again this year, it’s actually been increased. In these tight times, how does a food budget get an increase? My other worry is being told that all festivals can apply for a maximum of £5k. That again to me makes no sense when last year that’s the amount Abergavenny Xmas Fair got, whilst the main Abergavenny festival was awarded £14,350 and Conwy food festival were awarded £15,255. Both Abergavenny and Conwy were running under Tier 3.  But with only Tier 1 running this year I can’t imagine these two festivals being very happy. Are there other sources open to these two larger festivals for funding, apart from the Major Events Unit   Budget?  So with an increased budget of £160k and a maximum of £5k, just want to know how many ifestivals are being run across Wales this year. Will some of this budget be spent elsewhere? If that’s the case where’s that likely to be?

Questions, questions, questions……if only a civil servant would give me the answers. I was at a food event last weekend and was asked numerous times what was wag food doing about food festivals. The message hasn’t got through to all our producers that I do not have a hot line to wag food, I actually wish my line to the Press Office was hotter than it is, but there we are! So my response is now a cheeky – how would I know? I’m simply a journalist and editor for Welsh Country magazine, a magazine that’s so supportive of Welsh food and drink, why would wag food think that telling me what’s happening would be a good idea? It’s obvious to me that it would be a good iddea but obviously in their world it isn’t. Much better that I keep pestering the Press Office so they can ask wag food and then come back to me, so I can go back to them. In my view it’s a waste of time but then I’m not a civil servant guaranteed getting paid each month.

This is a sorry situation we are in and yes, I still maintain communication is the key, it just looks like wag food has lost that key, if they ever had it………………………..

I shall of course post any further updates, but suggest no breath holding!