Abergavenny Food Festival CEO Aine Morris lets us know what’s new and what to expect for 2019.
As we enter the busy summer period, when food festival HQ becomes a hive of activity, I wanted to take a moment to share some of the changes and developments that you can expect to find at this year’s event, plus more details about what we get up to locally.
With more events, more women and more diversity in the programme than ever before, this year’s festival has been a joy to programme. The problem at times has been trying to find room for so many great people and ideas! For me, this year’s programme is a real reflection of the dynamic change and entrepreneurial creativity underway across much of UK food and farming. It feels like a substantial year for Abergavenny Food Festival , as we continue to welcome people from across food and farming communities, and offer space for them to come together to exchange knowledge, ideas and inspiration.
If you love food in all its forms, then Abergavenny Food Festival offers much more than just the chance to fill your bellies. This year’s festival promises to deliver delicious experiences, whilst also dealing with the thorny issues facing the future of the industry. Our aim is to introduce you to the people who dedicate their lives to making, cooking and writing about food. We want to get you tasting new products, learning new skills, and shaking the hand that feeds you.
In the face of great environmental and economic uncertainty our farmers, food producers and restaurants need the support of the British public more than ever. I hope that AFF 2019 will be the place to come if you want to understand more about how you can join the delicious revolution! Read on for more information about what to expect at the festival this year.
Returning to the Castle Street area of town, our festival farmyard continues to find its feet in its new home. Running along the back of the Angel Hotel, up by the Castle, the move into this area gives the whole festival more of a circular route through the town, and helps to connect our market-stalls situated in St John’s Square. With a slightly smaller footprint than last year (our kids cookery school has moved up to the Castle, and part of this site has been given back for much-needed disabled parking), we have completely revised the layout, creating a new ‘open-plan’ feel and better visibility for stallholders.
The farmyard itself has expanded to include a new Welsh chef demo stage, a bar from Tiny Rebel and a kids activity tent stuffed full of farm-related activities to occupy the little ones. Our rare-breed animal area has expanded to include a new petting zone, giving kids the chance to get up-close and personal with the farm animals, and our friends at Talgarth Mill will be showing us different varieties of British grains and what goes into growing them. We also see the return of our Farming Matters stage, sponsored by our partners at Triodos Bank, which plays host to talks, debates and discussions across the weekend, on everything from keeping pigs to what it means to be a farmer today. All in all, if you want to learn more about farming in Britain today, and try delicious products made by on-farm innovators, then this is the area for you.
All Welsh chefs stage
We are delighted to partner with PGI Lamb & Beef Wales to deliver a new all-Welsh demo stage to the festival farmyard. Situated just near the kids activity tent and the Tiny Rebel bar (See what we did there!) you can kick back and enjoy some of the very best chefs that Wales has to offer, with a pint in hand while the little one’s are occupied. What more could you ask for? Expect to find Tom Watts-Jones of the Hare and Hounds discussing lamb sweetbreads, while Hywel Griffith of Beach House in Oxwich (one of my favourite meals so far this year!) demos a delicious dish of salt-marsh lamb and lobster.
Extending through the streets
As many of our local visitors will know, some substantial building works have been taking place in and around Abergavenny this year. One of the great benefits to the town is the lovely new pedestrianised area, extending down the main High Street to the bottom of Frogmore Street. For 2019 our free street stalls will be extending to this area of the town, with priority spots given to Abergavenny based food businesses at discounted rates. Remember, you don’t need a wristband to come and enjoy the many free stalls and activities around the streets of Abergavenny.
New partnership with the town
The food festival is excited to have been working on a new partnership agreement with the Abergavenny Town Council. We know that over the weekend disruption caused by the festival can be an inconvenience. In order to say thank you to Abergavenny residents we do a number of things that deliver local benefit.
- Market Hall decor: Delivered in collaboration with our arts partner, Peak, and local artist Bettina Reeves, the food festival and the local community have been producing our annual Market Hall decorations project for the last 20 years. With on-going support from the town council, and the generous contribution of volunteers for two intense weeks in August, the beautiful food themed decorations stay installed in the Market Hall all year round, attracting visitors into the town long after the food festival has finished.
- Employing young people: Over food festival weekend more than 220 young people from across the region are recruited as food festival crew, stewards and hospitality staff. By offering paid employment experiences to 18-25 year olds, the food festival hopes to not only provide valuable experience for their CV’s, but to also inspire the next generation of farmers, food producers and festival folk.
- Fundraising for community groups: Each year many of you make use of the festival car-parks, situated in Castle Meadows to the bottom of town, and Bailey Park towards the top. Parking costs £4 per car, per day. What you might not know is that 50% of your £4 fee is given back to the community groups that help to run the car-parks. Last year we distributed over £7,500 to the community groups that helped to staff and run the carparks all weekend. Over the year’s the friends of Bailey Park and Castle Meadows, the local rugby and football clubs, and many others have all benefited from your parking fees.
- Town Ambassador Scheme: For 2019, we’re delighted to be rolling out a town ambassador scheme offering local people the opportunity to act as guides for visitors to the town. Delivered in collaboration with Monmouthshire County Council, Abergavenny Town Council and Visit Monmouthshire, the scheme invites Abergavenny citizens to train as ambassadors to represent the town over festival weekend. Find out how you can become a town ambassador, and make sure to look out for them when you’re visiting.
Changes in the Market Hall and Upper Brewery Yard
As I’ve already mentioned, visitors and local residents will have noticed significant building works going on around Abergavenny this year. Our iconic Market Hall is currently under-going extensive renovations as part of a programme of works delivered by Monmouthshire County Council. This is great news for the town and the food festival in the long-run, as the Market Hall will have a shiny new mezzanine level, as well as improved access and facilities which will look fantastic by the time we reach food festival 2020. For 2019 however, visitors should expect some of the building works to still be in place. With some small sections of the Market Hall and Upper Brewery Yard blocked off for this year.
As I head into my third summer of organising this event, 2019 feels like the strongest year to date for our new festival team. We are delighted to be offering a programme jam-packed with good stuff, which includes; 9 unique market sites, featuring more than 220 traders, 4 free stages of chef demonstrations, and free entry for all under 16s, along with a programme of free kids cookery classes and activities. For those who want to explore the additional events we have a drinks theatre, masterclasses, cookery classes, feasts and tasting workshops, as well as more off-site foraging and outdoor cooking events than ever before. If you don’t fancy buying a wristband then there are plenty of stalls and entertainment out on the streets of Abergavenny, and for those that do want to buy a wristband, the festival is packed full of free demos, tastings and entertainment. For a full list of all free events at the festival take a look here.
Accommodation is already booking up fast, so out of town visitors don’t hang about.
Remember, local residents with an NP7 postcode get a 20% discount on all wristbands and event tickets. Email the office for the local code, and don’t forget that free wristbands are distributed to Abergavenny businesses and residents living on roads directly affected by our road-closures. Watch out for a letter through your door by mid-August.
On behalf of the whole team here, as we head into 12 weeks of eating and sleeping all things festival related, we’d like to say a big thanks for all your support, and we can’t wait to welcome you all to Abergavenny Food Festival 2019.