Here you will find answers to some frequently asked questions about the Festival’s origins, how it is run, and the experiences on offer.
Who started the Festival and why?
- AFF was founded in 1999 by two local farmers in response to the BSE crisis.
- It takes place over the third weekend of September. Set up on a not-for profit basis, it celebrates the food culture of Wales and beyond.
- Now an established place where visitors can meet growers, producers, exhibitors, educators, writers, campaigners, chefs and cooks all in one place – the high-profile and established – alongside fledgling enterprises.
- The Festival is committed to drawing in a wide demographic, transforming the way people think about food; challenging and promoting new ideas, pushing the boundaries, and encouraging people to look differently at where their food comes from.
- It also acts as a gateway to Wales for cultural tourism, encouraging first-time visitors to come back for new experiences, contributing extensively to the regional economy.
Who runs the Festival?
- A small team of part-time paid freelance professionals, in conjunction with a Board (who give their time and expertise on an unpaid basis).
How is the Festival funded?
- Core-funded by the income from ticket sales, exhibitor fees, and sponsorship arrangements with companies from various sectors. Over the years conditional income grants have also been paid by the Welsh Government. The Town Council funds the making of the Market Hall decorations.
Where does the money go?
- AFF is a not-for-profit organisation limited by guarantee. Any surplus is utilised as cash-flow to secure the event for future years. There are substantial annual overheads involved, all subject to inflation (see below).
Why is there an admission charge?
- Ticket sales go towards covering overheads, for example: licence fees, marquees, stalls, seating and staging across six sites; portable toilets, water, generators and fuel, catering equipment and fridges, safety inspections, waste management, first-aid, site-wide signage, information stands, security, fencing and barriers hospitality, venue managers and site crew (employing many local young people), fees for part-time freelance team who put the event together across the year covering sponsorship and fundraising, programming, operations/logistics, markets, communications and staffing.
- In 2023 an all-day adult stroller ticket giving access to six venues (internal and external) costs £13.50, and children under 16 get in free if with an adult. (The Night Market in Brewery Yard has been brought back and there is an optional additional charge of £3 for this).
Why are all tickets sold in advance?
- In September 2021 (during the pandemic) all tickets were sold in advance for the first time. This was essential in order to control numbers. Feedback post-event from people who regularly attended the Festival – exhibitors and visitors – was very much in favour of this approach. (Concerns had previously been raised about overcrowding.) Stallholders reported better sales and visitors appreciated less congestion and the opportunity to browse and take their time when shopping. Whilst capacity for each day was increased post-pandemic, all tickets have continued to be sold in advance. This is an important factor in the overall management and budgeting of the event, as well as the actual experience on the day.
Am I paying just to get into a food market?
- The Festival has extensive markets with 180 carefully selected exhibitors, but there is more on offer too. If you are coming on either Saturday or Sunday there are lots of free events as part of the stroller ticket, giving the opportunity to meet some of the brightest lights of the food world.
- On any one day you can choose to watch seven live chef demonstrations in the Market Hall, five cooking over fire sessions in the Castle Grounds, four talks and debates in the Dome at the Castle, and five interactive talks and performances in the Local & Vocal tent at the Castle.
- You can meet authors at book-signing sessions. You can also get your children into the free Kids’ Cookery School, and take advantage of other family entertainment on offer. All this is part of a full day stroller ticket experience.
What does the town and region benefit?
- Over its 25 year life-span the Festival has helped develop and promote the food and cultural offering of Abergavenny and area, bringing repeat visitors and new businesses to the town.
- The Festival car parks are run by local community groups and all takings go directly to those groups.
- Whilst encouraging visitors from further afield, the Festival attracts the majority of its visitors from Abergavenny, Newport, Cardiff, South Wales, and the Border counties, offering an immersive, stimulating and educational family day out with free entry for children under 16.
- When trader selections are made, the top criteria is quality and sustainability. Local and regional Welsh producers meeting that criteria form a core element of the markets. Organisers also actively seek out interesting chefs, new food traders and food stories with Welsh provenance and backgrounds.
- The programme of events in the ‘Local & Vocal’ tent showcases growers, producers, writers and campaigners from the immediate area.
Why aren’t there any stalls in the streets any more?
Since the pandemic, Abergavenny’s many hospitality businesses have developed a successful year-round street café culture. This is further expanded over the Festival weekend when other shop owners also put out stalls to promote themselves. These businesses are now the mainstay of the street offering, giving visitors the opportunity to enjoy additional local hospitality and retail experiences, whilst still having easy access to the shops.
Why can’t I bring my dog into the Festival?
Assistance dogs are welcome. There are several reasons why pets are not allowed in the Festival venues. Firstly, hygiene. Food is prepared and/or served in all the venues. Secondly, dogs on leads are a trip hazard for other people. Thirdly, it is a busy and noisy environment which can be highly stressful to dogs. This can result in unpredictable behaviour.