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Letter from The Chairman
Letter from the Chairman
The Food Festival, started by Pat Hill, Peter Pritchard and Maurice Abney-Hastings just 7 years ago, has become the biggest event in the Alcester High Street. Having started as an annual event, we have responded to demand from stallholders and are now running a May and an October event. The Festivals in 2015 attracted record numbers of stallholders and, according to police estimates, May 2015 attracted 20,000 visitors!
Our revenue comes 100% from fees paid by the stallholders. This includes quite a number of High Street shops and pubs, who are given a modest reduction in their fee. Unlike many other Festivals, the public pay nothing for entry to our Food Festival. Likewise, we charge nothing for the Park and Ride facility because it minimises congestion in the town centre. In the early days we were very grateful for substantial grants from Stratford District Council, but nowadays we are self-sufficient. Early on we had to invest in a lot of cabling and electrical gear to supply power to those stallholders supplying hot food. In 2014 our work became more complicated because we adopted a much more careful approach to insurance and health and safety. In addition to having our own insurance, we now ask every stallholder for an up-to-date copy of their own insurance. We have two paramedics on duty in a fully equipped ambulance for the duration of each Festival. Also, we have bought cable covers to cover potentially dangerous exhibitors’ cables and we have a Health and Safety Officer inspecting the stalls throughout the Festival for danger points. Despite these extra complications we are able to make a healthy surplus from which we have been able to donate over £3,000 in 2015 to worthwhile local causes and organisations such as the Scouts and Alcester Cadets who have helped us in a major way.
We know that Festival visitors don't only come from Alcester – some come from surprisingly far away and we understand there are even special coach trips from places such as Solihull! Our aim is that all our visitors have a great time and gain a favourable impression of the Festival and of our High Street shops, pubs and cafes. Moreover, they are bound to notice that Alcester is a very attractive town which they would like to come back to. In fact one first-time stallholder said to me as she was leaving that she would like to move to Alcester!
We have a volunteer Organising Committee of seven people. The Committee has a heavy workload and the Festival could not survive without the help of a large number of other volunteers and supporting Organisations. These include our electricians, the Round Table (posters); the Court Leet (with their colourful Assizes to check the quality of the produce is fit for the consumption of the residents of, and vistors to, Alcester); the Scouts; Seco Tools (parking for stallholders); the Greig Centre (parking) and many other small groups and individuals. Litter Free Alcester help to keep the streets immaculate and besides the litter they pick up themselves, they manage to persuade the general public to be much tidier! We are extremely grateful to all our volunteers.
The Food Festival had a tremendous year in 2015 in terms of public support and, we believe, did a great deal of good for the town. Working on the committee or as a supporting volunteer is very satisfying whilst being pretty challenging. In January a new Organising Committee was elected and I was delighted to become Chairman, following in the footsteps of Frank Wood, who did such an excellent job. Following the May 2016 Festival, in line with our plans to be both more professional and to limit personal liability of our volunteers, we converted from an unincorporated association to a Community Benefit Society, a registered society regulated by the FCA (Financial Conduct Authority) and we are now Alcester & Forest of Arden Food Festival Ltd.