Posts Tagged ‘Welsh food festival organisers’

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:


  • 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)


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…………………………….



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?


Festival Funding – Or A Game Of Smoke & Mirrors?

21 May

I’ve been asked so often about food festival funding, so the easiest way to update you is to show you my Freedom Of Information question Number 9403 and the response.

ATISN 9403 Food Culture Grant Scheme – Food Festivals and Events 2015
Thank you for your request which I received on 22.04.15. You asked for:
1. I require a full list of all festivals that applied for Welsh Government funding for 2015 in both first and second tranches.
2. How much funding each festival has applied for and how much they received.
3. The festivals that applied for funding and were not successful. Also the amount they requested.
4. Date when second tranche will be awarded.
5. For second tranche of funding I require answers to questions 1, 2, and 3 above.

Please note that the Food Festival and Events grant process for 2015/16 is still currently ongoing. With that in mind, I set out the response to each of your questions below.
1 and 2
As the application process has not yet closed, the Welsh Government does not hold a full list of all festivals that applied for Welsh Government funding for 2015 (in both first and second tranches) or the amount they have applied for/received. At best we only hold partial information relating to the applications received to date and how much they applied for. I can confirm, however, that it is the Welsh Government’s intention to ultimately publish the outcome of the Food Culture Grant Scheme – Food Festivals and Events 2015 -2016 on the following page:
Because of this, the partial information we hold is exempt under section 22 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOI Act) – Information intended for future publication. Section 22 states:
(1)Information is exempt information if:
(a) the information is held by the public authority with a view to its publication, by the authority or any other person, at some future date (whether determined or not).
(b) the information was already held with a view to such publication at the time when the request for information was made, and.
(c) it is reasonable in all the circumstances that the information should be withheld from disclosure until the date referred to in paragraph (a).
As set out above, (a) and (b) have been satisfied and as far as (c) goes I believe it’s wholly reasonable to withhold the information until its formal publication so as to allow the established timeline of the process to run its course.
Section 22 is also subject to the public interest test; that is, in order to withhold the information it has to be shown that the public interest in withholding the information outweighs that in releasing it. The Welsh Government acknowledges the general public interest in openness and transparency that the release would engender. On the other hand, however, the information is incomplete and inappropriate for publication at this stage as it could be misleading. Your own interest in the information notwithstanding, I do not believe there is sufficient public interest in this information to warrant release of the information prior to the official publication.
3 – as the process is still ongoing, decisions regarding the success or otherwise of the applicants has not yet been made. Consequently, this information is not held by Welsh Government.
4 – All awards under the second tranche of funding will be made by 31 July 2015.
5 – In relation to this question please see the response to questions 1, 2 and 3 above.

So the outcome is please don’t ask me about festival funding because you now know as much, or as little, as me. But there really is no need for you to worry, because the link wag have kindly sent through is a great idea, well it would be if us outsiders have the slightest clue of WHEN to look for it! Guess that’s another wag secret.

Under the old regime – later than I or you would like, wag food would send to me the full list of festivals they were funding. I then had to go back to them to ask which festivals had been turned down and how much each festival had asked for, but that was just another email for me to do. Now wag foods’ latest system only makes life more complicated and really does feel like a government game of smoke and mirrors. Money matters should be in the public’s interest because it is our money wag is spending. Seemingly Welsh food and drink producers are classed as public and they of course have no interest in food festival funding at all………………………

Welsh food and drink are supposed to be important to Wales, which means that Welsh food and drink producers are important to. Which then means our Welsh  food festivals are also important too. But not being able to get even part of the information I;ve asked me for, is to say the least annoying. Did Welsh food and drink producers agree that it was a good idea to run two tranches of food festival funding this year? Well I think not, because wag food can’t be bothered engaging with their producers, by and large. I really don’t know how many times I have to tell wag food that this is one of their many problems is a puzzle. Were Welsh food festival organisers asked it they wanted two tranches? Perhaps they were now wag have agreed to have a food festival committee, but is that committee talking to all food festivals that are chasing funding? I’m not sure they are. Obviously the big three festivals have got a voice to wag food, hence they are all getting more cash this year, but not sure it applies across the board and that is my worry. I’m sure the big three festivals will survive anyway, but what of our smaller festivals? If they don’t where does our growth come from?

The first tranche of food festival funding has been sent out by wag and has been published here on so why I can’t have questions answered about that first tranche makes no sense to me an their explanation doesn’t help at all, but that’s so typical of wag.

Wag, why help if you can hinder?


Food Festival Funding 2014

16 May

Funded food festival list from wag.

20th April Broneirion Food Fair, Llandinam


26th April Gorseinon-Swansea Food Festival


10th May Caerphilly Food Festival


17-18th May Wrexham Food Festival Guild Hall


23-26th May Welsh Perry & Cider Festival


14th June Gwyl Fwyd Castell Newydd Emlyn Centre


28th June Hay Summer Food Festival


11-13th July Cardiff International Food & Drink Festival


13th July Cardigan Bay Seafood Festival


26th July Lampeter Food Festival Lampeter


2-3rd August Big Welsh Bite Rhondda


16th August Cardigan River & Food Festival


6-7th Sept Newtown Food & Drink Festival


6-7th Sept St Fagans Food Festival


20-21st Sept Abergavenny Food Festival


20-21st Sept Mold Food Festival


26-27th Sept Feastival Bridgend


28-28th Sept Narberth Food Festival Narberth


3-4th Oct Neath Food & Drink Festival


4th Oct Brecon Beacons Food Festival


4th Oct Newport Food Festival


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


18-19th Oct Llangollen Food Festival


23-27th Oct Mumbles Oyster Festival


25-26th Oct Gwledd Conwy Feast


29th Nov Hay Winter Food Festival


5th – 7th Dec Gwyl Fwyd a Chrefft Portmeirion


14th Dec Abergavenny Christmas Food & Drink Fair


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 ………………………………………



Update On Food Festival Funding

23 Apr

I got some news in this morning, needless to say not from wag food, which was that some Welsh food festival organisers have had an email giving an amount wag food are offering them for their festival. As far as I’m aware there’s been no information that anyone has received an official funding offer by letter from wag food. Some organisers say it’s a letter they require before they are assured it’s fully official – which seems to be an on going lack of trust between them.

A ‘polite’ way for me to describe this situation is farcical, but there are many other adjectives that are more appropriate to describe how the Welsh Country team are feeling about wag food festivals!

Welsh Country magazine have many sectors that are concerned about wag’ festival funding – organisers, obviously, food producers, of course and also our readers both for Welsh Country magazine and on Our M/June issue is on the printing press tomorrow and I’ve been unable to cover many festivals because I don’t know for certain much of what is going ahead. But fret not wag food, you carry on doing what I guess you think is a good job on food festivals and just ignore the rest of us being left in the dark, not knowing what on earth is happening. We lost another festival advert this week because the organisers hadn’t received an official letter confirmation from wag food. But again wag food, that’s not for you to worry about, your salaries will still plop in the bank at the end of the month. Plus, once you have finally handed out your funding offer, it’s not your responsibility to get producers into festivals or to get visitors through the gates. If your current form continues you’ll take little interest in food festivals until European box-ticking has to be completed. This is surely a case of wag food saying ‘I’m alright Jack’

We used to publish a full list of wag funded food festivals in our M/June issue and then follow that up in our J/A, S/Oct and N/Dec with festivals running then. This acted as a reminder to our food producers and also to our readers. A full wag funded food festival listing also ran on Anyway that was back in 2008 and 2009 when wag were advertising with us in each issue and so we were happy to support wag food in any way we could. We always promise to give additional support to our advertisers and this 2-way street, does work.

Since 2010 we’ve been fobbed off, or in my view bullied, with the ‘no budget scenario’ and yes, it appears our additional work in 2008-9 was irrelevant. I guess no-one in wag food evaluated what extra work we did for them, which is par for the wag. If you need to guess when welshfoodbites was born – try 2010!

Ian was told officially yesterday that there will be no advertising from wag food for 2014 – quelle surprise, but I think it’s important that you know where things stand here this year between us and wag food. Wag food are responsible for food festivals and part of their criteria is that festivals must market and advertise, but wag are throwing this totally back to organisers, even though wag food are penalising festivals running early. It’s also important that food producers ask each festival about what marketing/advertising programmes are in place before their cheques are sent off. That must be your safe-guard and it’s no good moaning to me when a festival is not working with us.

Losing wag food’s support from 2010 has caused some confusion and queries from our readers. They’re are unaware of the huge problems that still exist with wag food and have been expecting me to cover all festivals as we did in the past, but that’s not viable for Welsh Country and also not fair on festivals that are working with us, so that’s where we now are.

We’re running a business, so it goes without saying that in an ideal Welsh world I’d want all wag funded food festivals to advertise and support us. But the reality is that that’s unlikely to happen. It’s up to organisers to make their decisions, the choices are theirs. Ian’s often told of funded festivals saying they’ve no advertising budget, which could be a fob-off or rather that they’d rather run in their local rag and local radio. Of course we accept their decisions, it’s pointless wasting more time doing anything else, but those festivals have to accept that if they’re not advertising, we’ll not give them any coverage either in Welsh Country magazine or on We’re also unlikely to visit them either, but maybe some festivals will find that a blessing as that means they haven’t a hope of getting on welshfoodbites either!!!

But don’t get too down about all this, just remember how often we are told how important Welsh food and drink is to Wales ……………………………………….


Spoken to more festivals today and can confirm that others have also had wag’s email offer, but NONE have yet been sent an official letter.


Food Festival Funding For 2014

11 Apr

I’ve no idea how many times I’ve asked for this listing from the wag food press office, but having chased again on Wednesday, have today received the following response:

We’re aiming for June.

Well that’s useful isn’t it? Wag food are aiming for June, well wowee!!! But with their track record to date, do you know if their ‘aim’ is good or not? I’m sure it is not relevant to wag food that for those of us in the real world, June is halfway through the year.

On a serious level, I can only feel sorry for Welsh food festival organisers, especially those that are running early. I know how some of them are feeling about this situation, because they tell me. They can hardly have-a-go at wag food when they want funding from them can they?  I think this situation is disgraceful and totally unfair and it goes on year after year after year. Wag food don’t deserve the loyal band of organisers that they have. Many of them are volunteers and as much as I love food festivals, I have to ask, is it really worth it worth it for them?  Of course they are doing it for their communities, but the needless stress wag food put them under is beyond my comprehension.

But don’t forget that wag food say Welsh food and drink is important to them and Wales.

There surely is no doubt

But don’t forget that wag food say Welsh food and drink is important to them and to Wales!!

There surely is no doubt that you couldn’t run a business like this…………………………………


I’ve now had the following revelation from the press office – apparently their response to me is correct, the list will be available in June – no date given of course, because that would come under being helpful. But as in previous years, food festivals organisers  will be told ahead of this.

I have never been told wag food when they’ll be informing the festival organisers, because again, that would come under the banner of wag food being helpful to me wouldn’t it? I’ve just spent a great deal of time, once again this year, trying to get some basic information, information that people are asking about. I didn’t realise when talking to organisers that I should have thought to ask them when they were told by wag of their funding – well silly me. But this year a couple of organisers  have told me they’ve been given different dates by wag food when they be notified about funding. So once again this food festival funding is as clear as mud. Who cares? Well not the press office and seemingly not wag food either – this is such a waste of everyone’s time.

I’m fed-up of saying that we are trying to help wag food, that message has not got through. In the big scheme of things, it really doesn’t concern our business when the food festival list comes out, because I’m not and would not run food festival. However it matters to our organisers and to our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers and we promise them all we’ll support them. Stupidly, I didn’t realise when making that promise, how difficult it would be with wag food’s lack of communication and being forced to go through the press office.

I’ve also been told, again by an organiser, that there is an unofficial copy of Wavehill’s 2013 food festival evaluation in circulation. However I’ve also been told by the press office that this report will not go on their website until end of April. Well if you’ll excuse my saying, it looks like there’s a ‘mole’ in wag food as well as in Welsh Country – but sadly this wag mole hasn’t bothered to send a copy to me. In fact I’ve not had information sent in brown envelopes for some time, though I’m not sure why.

I’ll say again you could NOT run a business like this……………………………






Cowbridge Food & Drink Festival

28 Oct

Cowbridge festival is not always blessed with the best of weather, but leading up to their weekend they were blighted with news on all media with forthcoming storms and possible hurricanes – not the news they needed at all. Sadly the forecasts were reasonably accurate and I’m sure it must have affected the visitor numbers, although I didn’t get an official count.

However regular readers will know that Cowbridge food festival is one of my favourites and I can assure you there are not many Welsh food festivals in that select group! So why is it a favourite? Well lots of reasons really and the starting point is Polly. If you haven’t met Polly, she is the Cowbridge Events Manager. She runs her own company, pollywilson events and I think she does a great job – so enough said. Polly’s been managing Cowbridge for what seems like forever and if only I could bottle her skills and positive attitude and send it around some other festivals that could do with a much-needed boost. But obviously Polly’s not running this festival solo; she has the backing, direction and support of John Davies, the Chair of Cowbridge Food Festival. John’s such a star. Over the years he’s assembled a brilliant team around him. Between them they give Cowbridge a festival they have every right to be proud of. I’ve never said that it’s an easy job to run a food festival, I’m certainly wouldn’t volunteer to run one, but I must say, with tongue-in-cheek, it tends to look easy when you visit a well run one!!! Or maybe the Cowbridge team have all been brilliantly trained as swans, gliding serenely along whilst paddling like mad underneath!!! But it’s the producers and the visitors that matter and no-one can take away that this festival has got a great deal right.

So how did our visit to the 10th Cowbridge Food & Drink award winning festival go? Well Ian and I always visit on the Sunday as Saturday is always busy, busy, plus I obviously get better feedback after a day’s trading. The opportunity to talk to producers that are, by and large smiling, although tired and sometimes rather damp, is really worthwhile. I did talk to a few producers who weren’t on a par with their last year’s figures, but on the whole, a reasonably positive picture in that weather and this climate.  Overall Wag’s funded festival programme has not been that good this year, with very few festivals managing to buck the ongoing economic recession, so to talk to some happy food producers did help to make my damp day. Another bonus at Cowbridge is that Polly accepts quite a few of our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers, but that just shows what a quality festival this is, selling the best of Welsh food!!!!!

What always impresses me at Cowbridge is how John, Polly and the team have continued each year to encourage the whole town to get involved, not only back the festival, but to push their own businesses too. I’m disappointed when other festivals can’t get their towns supporting their festivals because I do feel it is important. I’m certainly not saying it is easy, it’s something Polly and I have discussed on a regular basis and  it’s been hard work for the Cowbridge team, they have found it tough, but no-one can disagree that this makes the whole festival work much better and gives it a real buzzy, party atmosphere. Some of Cowbridge shops were even advertising festival specials. I did hear of a wag funded festival who wouldn’t allow one of the shops on his own High Street take a food stand, even though it meant his shop still stayed open! I wouldn’t have believed it if the shop owner hadn’t told me himself but you couldn’t make it up could you?

I’m sure I commented last year that Polly is one of the few organisers who does listen to the traders; she takes their comments on board and makes improvements, if at all possible. The traders respect Polly and that is fairly unusual. Yet despite Polly’s skills, even she can’t increase the festival site size! Over the years John and the team have tried their best to gain additional space where they can and re-jig the layout to utilize the space they have available, but it’s inevitable that some traders are turned away. Of course that’s annoying, but as traders talk amongst themselves of a ‘fabulous festival at Cowbridge’ then the more traders apply each year and the disappointment continues. I’m sure some of you are from time to time a bit sloppy filling in your application forms, but you cannot expect Polly or any other organiser for that matter, to remember the little quirks about your particular business. Put as much detail on your form as possible and stop expecting organisers to be mind readers, or the equivalent of Memory Women!

After all these years asking, I’m now not sure that wag food can devise one universal application form that all food festival organisers will accept, even if it’s only for a year. I used to be hopeful that could happen, but with the lack of interest from wag to date, maybe that’s something else I’ve got wrong! It would cut down on producers’ paperwork, as they would fill in one form each year and email it through as an attachment, with an opportunity to make changes during the year if necessary. Instead we have a time-consuming system which wastes our producers’ time and effort and doesn’t help organisers that much either.

It’s the dialogue that Polly has worked hard to establish not just with the traders but also from my side too. I get everything I need for Polly. I know what’s happening; I know who’s exhibiting, so there are no grumbles from me. The finishing touch was on Tuesday when I received in the post two wristbands – without having to ask!!!!!! Efficient, yes, helpful, yes, but more so I actually feel that this event wants to see Ian and I in Cowbridge – so how brilliant is that?

Cowbridge is a beautiful, town full of character, without a multi-storey car park and I say thank goodness for that. So it stands to reason that parking will always be an issue. It goes without saying that every trader wishes to park a maximum of 20 paces away from their stand, but that is just not how it works in the real world. The Cowbridge team has worked hard to try and grab any space they can get their hands on for their two day festival, but as the festival continues to grow in popularity, its bond to be a victim of its own success. A great solution has been using the young people from ATC Squadron 293; they always do a great job each year, helping traders move their stock to and from their vans, litter picking and sorting out any little hiccups that occur. These young people are always polite and a credit, not only to the ATC, but to their parents too. To help combat the parking issue Cowbridge runs an efficient Park & Ride, which is a huge help and the other bonus was clear signage on my way in. Another plus was all the Marshalls/Stewards I came into contact were polite and helpful; so it’s no wonder I find Cowbridge festival a pleasure to attend.

The cookery demos were moved much closer to the main action, which was sensible and worked well. There were locals chefs down for duty and again this is something I like and want to see more of at other festivals. Not sure though if the chefs were using food from the producers, but if not, maybe this can be sorted for next year. .

Cowbridge had little option this year but to run without wag funding, not Cowbridge’s fault at all, it’s all down to lack of organisation, late confirmation of budgets, but whatever the reason it is simply not acceptable wag. Cowbridge were given at the best two and a half weeks notice not only to fill in oodles of wag paperwork, but were this year asked for CV’s for their team. No, you haven’t misread it, I did say CV’s. Now you are going to ask why CV’s are required and my answer is they are not. But it is apparently in case wag’s P.A.s are asked for them. What utter rubbish.wag food of course will then say this is public money and we have to be careful and responsible. Well that’s their theory which simply doesn’t stand up because wag food waste as much public money, in my view, as many other government departments. Someone at wag food needs a whacking dose of common sense before Welsh food festival organisers all decide on mass to resign. Again in my view, wag food doesn’t deserve to have such hard-working volunteers, because they are simply not appreciated. So a serious reality check is needed here wag. Firstly the bulk of your funded food festivals are run, by-and-large by volunteers, many retired or semi-retired. But CV’s has to go to the top of my very long list of wag’s stupid, pointless requests. No-one in wag food has thought this through from the organisers’ point of view, which continues to be one of the main problems of the wag food department.

So far this year, Ian and I have attended seventeen festivals and have failed to see a wag food person at any of them. But surely if official visitors wish to attend can’t wag pick up the phone and talk to the organiser directly? Because wag sent out their applications so late,  Cowbridge were out-of-pocket by £10k – which is a big hole to fill, and more so when it was not their fault. I wonder if wag raised any concern as to why Cowbridge hadn’t applied for funding this year. If  I’d have been wag, I certainly would, but then I am talking about civil servants that get paid each month, not the self-employed and certainly not volunteers. However I find it sad, because as wag, I’d want to take some of the credit for this fabulous festival. It showed off Welsh artisan food producers, the bulk of them Welsh food producers, to great advantage, it added a great deal to the town, with locals and visitors enjoying themselves.

Now there’s a funny twist to this thread, because ironically, for this festival who through no fault of their own were not funded this year, guess who visited on the Saturday? Minister of Natural Resources and that includes food, Alun Davies as well as Jane Hutt, Minister of Finance. They spent a good hour there and were given a tour around by John and hopefully in that time both Ministers could understand the problems that both their departments put on these volunteers who are supporting not only our food festivals but also their communities by attracting more people into their areas. Please don’t hold your breath on this one but let’s just hope seeds were sown and they grow. Now any festival would be reveling in two Ministers visiting in a day but that wasn’t enough for Cowbridge, oh no. On Sunday, someone else who was their in a private capacity with his family, was first Minister Carwen Jones. I didn’t realize Mr. Jones had such good taste, but as we all met up at the SamosaCo stand, in the food-to-go marquee, for their amazing chicken curry, I shall have to retract that, I cannot fault his taste on the curry front!!!

Next year Polly is going to have the same problem with even more producers desperate to get a pitch there. From her side, in some ways, it’s a lovely position so be in, providing she accepts that she can’t please all the producers, all of the time!! So if I can offer a snippet of advice to producers, fill the forms in fully, sell your company well, be adaptable about maybe not bringing your whole range, and then keep your fingers crossed. If you fail to get in maybe Polly can give you feedback ……

Congratulations Cowbridge to all involved for once again putting on a fabulous festival; your hard work has certainly paid off, despite the dreadful weather. Your success is totally deserved.


More Food Festival Rumours

15 Oct

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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