Some prominent local traders are unhappy that after supporting the Wellington Food Festival for many years they weren’t able to take part in this year’s event, managed for the first time by EAT Festivals of Burnham on Sea.
The Vintage pub, Sheppy’s Cider, Wet & Wild fishmongers ,Tim Potter butchers and Rule 7 bar were amongst those complaining that they were either excluded or disadvantaged. Members of the public also noticed the missing familiar faces.
“Compared to previous years it was a complete bloody shambles. The local businesses that Wellington do have were told they weren’t welcome,” said Graham Layzell.
“I applied to EAT for a pitch and a few weeks later got an email saying we weren’t what they were looking for,” said Dave Lock, landlord of The Vintage who does a hog roast most years. “Normally we’d cook three pigs and take about £1000.
“Then the pitches were full of businesses from Shepton Mallett and Bristol. The festival is meant to celebrate local food.”
The Sheppy’s team had arrived with a fully loaded van but found there was no space for them and were turned away. “There were empty spaces and we asked to be squeezed in but the organisers said no,” said Louisa Sheppy. “I don’t know what went wrong, I was under the impression we’d been given a stand but I was too busy with Sheppy Fest the same day for an inquest.”
Fishmonger Sam Cunningham was equally unhappy. “I put my application in and wanted to be there as a local food trader,” said Sam, who has sold fish in Wellington for many years. “Then there was some excuse about how they thought I was going to a demonstration of fish cookery but that was not what I asked for.
“I’m really not impressed and neither are a lot of other people in the town. They brought in lots of outside businesses and there wasn’t a lot of local produce there.”
Donna Munson, former organiser of Food Town for 10 years and owner of Rule 7 was unhappy that her live music was moved back off the street onto the forecourt of Mount vets and kept to sound levels that were quiet and hard for the public to hear.
“People said that there was a lack of atmosphere in the town and I put that down to lack of music. I was very disappointed at the location I was given and I know other traders felt unhappy at the way they were treated,” Donna said.
Co-organiser Sarah Milner Simonds was unwilling to respond to individual complaints saying:” It would be deeply unprofessional to discuss individual applications and why some traders weren’t part of the festival.
“it was a mixture of lack of communication, late booking, lack of environmental health registration and I don’t think it would be appropriate to put that in the public realm.
“Our role is to raise the aspirations of Wellington businesses and raise the town’s reputation for food.”