Last weekend we ventured to the beautiful town of Abergavenny where the now famous food festival takes place. The festival is billed as “to food festivals what Canne is to film festivals” -quite a reputation! The selection process itself is quite rigorous requiring an application and lengthy selection. The festival naturally favours local Welsh producers so to be selected as an outsider you need to have something that little bit different and exceptional. We were delighted when we were selected in June, the only down side being that accommodation in Abergavenny books months in advance for that weekend. Hence we were very lucky to pick up a cancellation at the delightful Llansabbath guest house just outside of Abergavenny.
We decided to set up on the Friday night. Fortunately Nanny C had agreed to look after our two boys for the weekend, so unusually for us we had a weekend away without children – working. On arrival on Friday evening I eventually navigated my way to Lions Place, the area we had been allocated. First impressions weren’t that great as despite the billing it was basically market stalls in a car park, but at least the weather was good! After several minutes analysing the sun rise and sunset – pretty important for chocolate stalls – the friendly and laid back organiser let us move stall to avoid the Indianna Jones chocolate melting effect. A good couple of hours, lots of table cloths and sticky tape later I had transformed the stall into a white chocolate harem which I thought looked rather splendid.
I always love the start of festivals, there is a real camaraderie with fellow producers and it’s often the only chance to catch up with old friends, I managed to briefly say hello to Guy from Tracklements before Diana called and directed me to our guest house which was up a long winding lane resplendent with chickens and farm cats.
The next day we rose bright and early to a hearty breakfast and chatted to visiting American and Canadian guests.
The morning of the festival was extremely busy and it was clear that tasters were proving extremely popular but not necessarily converting to immediate sales. An unfortunate side effect of being at a paid food festival and next to the entrance is that a) people want to eat their way through their entrance fee; and; b) they don’t want to carry anything yet. By 2pm we were feeling a little despondent thinking it was possibly going to be a disaster in terms of pure sales. Fortunately a late rally came between 2 and 5pm and things started to feel a lot better. We also met a couple of rather lovely deli owners and Maple Chocolates immediately placed an order which rounded the day off nicely.
A delightful local gentleman decided to write us a poem, he does it for all of the local businesses apparently and he was utterly charming, I also think he had rather taken a shine to Diana as he returned the next day with two more! But his heart was most definitely in the right place and helped make our day.
We had tentatively agreed to meet Clare from Sherston Tea for a pub meal, but eating out in Abergavenny proved very difficult due to the sheer number of people so we ended up catching a delicious early meal at the nearby Hardwicke before collapsing in a heap.
Sunday morning started very promisingly with lots of visitors from all over the country who were genuinely interested. It proved to be a little early for our Christmas range but Sea Salt Pralines were flying. Surprisingly Uncle Bert’s Walnut Bristols also seemed to hit the right note and were a sell out on the day. The afternoon dropped off again and by the end of the festival fatigue had set in from talking to so many people.
Pack up was pleasingly quick and we said goodbye to Abergavenny and hello to our boys who we’d really missed.
So would we do it again? Well, possibly, you’ll probably have to ask us next year. So many people took a card that if we see a splurge of sales from Wales and Bristol we’ll know why. We certainly tip our hats off to Abergavenny, they really are putting on a top quality well organised festival.