In response to the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020, we convened online assemblies where farmers and the community united to advocate for sustainable farming and land practices. These deliberative events resulted in a shared vision, emphasising the need to change shopping habits by empowering customers with knowledge to support sustainable produce and farming.

Food festivals offer a platform to celebrate and explore various foods, particularly those that are sustainable and locally sourced. Our intention was to ignite a food culture that would permeate eateries and inspire communities. However, the desired impact was not fully realised.

To kickstart our efforts, we organized a food festival in Newport Pembrokeshire, also known as Tydrath. The event encompassed a bustling food fair, featuring a day-long showcase of stalls, two cafes, and engaging talks and food demonstrations. Apple pressing activities took place outdoors. The festival attracted a significant crowd, leading to items such as bread, eggs, rum, flour, soup, seaweed fertilizer, and apples quickly selling out. Talks by producers offered personal insights and resonated with attendees. The atmosphere was warm, memorable, and fostered connections beyond shopping or attending talks.

Throughout the week, farm tours and producer talks were organised, and we successfully encouraged most eateries to incorporate local ingredient specials. Some establishments readily embraced the concept, while others procured local fruits and vegetables for the first time. The timely arrival of two new market gardens further contributed to the festival’s success.

Despite its positive reception as an event, the festival did not significantly alter the local food culture. Stall holders expressed enthusiasm for more frequent festivals, suggesting monthly occurrences. While some eateries continued to prioritise local sourcing, others did not. Therefore, this year, we plan to replicate the successful elements of the festival and seek support to further develop the food culture aspect. Prior to and after the event, business owners, restaurant owners, and chefs gathered to discuss strategies for relocalising suppliers and reducing reliance on companies like Total Produce. These discussions contributed to the ongoing development of the Kit Awake project.

What’s next? In 2023, we will host the Newport food festival once again and aim to extend our support to food festivals in other towns. The Newport festival will take place from October 29th to November 5th. Register for the festival to receive updates on the evolving program.

If you attended last year, we hope to see you again. If you missed it, be sure not to miss out this time. Our ultimate goal is to expand this festival model to other towns, and we are actively working on plans to achieve this. Notably, Haverfordwest and Narberth already host remarkable food festivals in May and September, respectively. Haverfordwest features a vibrant street festival, with shops and cafes spilling onto the pavement, accompanied by diverse musical performances. Narberth, known as a cultural gem, offers expansive grounds hosting a giant marquee, a wide array of street food, music, walkabouts, and chef demonstrations. Performance arts naturally blend with Narberth’s ambiance. Mark your calendars for Narberth’s event on September 23rd-24th, 2023. These festivals are larger in scale compared to Newport’s.

The organisers of Pembrokeshire food festivals plan to come together to support food festivals across the county.