Abergavenny Food Festival

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Abergavenny Food Festival
Dates19 and 20 September 2015 (3rd weekend in September)
Location(s)Abergavenny, Wales
FoundersChris Wardle & Martin Orbach
Patron(s)Franco Taruschio

The Abergavenny Food Festival is an annual food festival which takes place in the town of Abergavenny in Wales each September.


The festival was founded in 1999, by two local farmers, Chris Wardle and Martin Orbach, in the aftermath of the BSE crisis.

"Abergavenny is to food as Cannes is to film – an annual festival for spotting rising stars in Britain's artisan food firmament"

— The Guardian[1]

The 2009 festival was attended by over 35,000 people.[2]

Over the years the festivals celebrity guests have included: Valentine Warner, Tom Parker Bowles, Mitch Tonks, Michael Winner, Matt Tebbutt, Mark Hix, Marguerite Patten OBE, Levi Roots, Keith Floyd, John Burton Race, Jay Rayner, Jason Atherton, Henry Dimbleby, George Alagiah, Franco Taruschio, Fergus Henderson, Christophe Langree, Antonio Carluccio, Anthony Bourdain, Allegra McEvedy, Alex James, Clarissa Dickson Wright and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall


The festival is a non-profit organization with a Board of Directors and small core team of year-round part-time staff. In 2013 Heather Myers was appointed as the second chief executive. The Festival is additionally supported by organizations and individuals in both the public and private sectors.

Overview of Festival (1999 – present)[edit]

The planning for the first festival started in 1998. Run by volunteers it was helped by the then 'three towns adviser' of Monmouth, Chepstow & Abergavenny and the Monmouthshire food initiative officer. 39 local food and drink producers exhibited their wares in the Market Hall. The first programme was a double sided single fold card. There were 2 talks (Attended by 234 people) in the Borough Theatre Marguerite Patten and Franco & Ann Taruschio and, in the evening, Martyn Lewis chaired a debate about GM Foods (Attendance 91).

The Community Banquet (now called the 'Festival Fanfare', also previously referred to as the 'Market Hop' country supper and 'Twmpath'. – On Saturday evening 23 October 1999, the Market Hall hosted 180 people at trestle tables for dinner, punctuated by interludes of song and speech.

Other events included Farm Walks, a Marcher Day apple exhibition, guided tour of Abergavenny Museum, and 'Revolting Rhymes' an exhibition of Children's Verse in Abergavenny Library.

The Abergavenny Market Hall was a key venue and the festival worked with the town hall staff (many of whom are still involved today).

Funding: £15,500 came from a variety of sources. A further £1,800 was raised from private sponsors and in addition the festival made £4,295 from the sale of tickets to events and stall holders etc. Any profits are used to help finance future festivals.

2012 – 2015[edit]

Over the years the festival has grown to become the National Tourism Awards "Best Event in Wales" 2013/14 and Finalist of the "Best Event in Wales ( Large)" 2015 and one of the leading food events in the UK[citation needed], attracting visitors from all over the country and from abroad. The event now comprises:

  • Around 220 stalls spread across several indoor sites in the centre of Abergavenny and throughout central streets.
  • Around 50 individually ticketed events: Master Classes, Tutored Tastings, Talks, Forays and Debates.
  • Children's Food Academy at The Castle (family-friendly venue) – featuring interactive workshops for all ages.
  • 'Rude Health' Speakers Corner: featuring celebrity guests.
  • Rolling programme of Chef Dems in the Market Hall and in the Fish Market at The Priory Centre featuring the Restaurant Tasters at St Michael's Centre where chefs and restaurateurs from across Wales cook their signature dishes.
  • Party at The Castle: An evening of music and food – capacity: 1,000.

The Festival Debates (1999 -)[edit]

1999"GMO's Do we need them?" chaired by BBC Broadcaster Martyn Lewis (Attendance 91) • 2000"Organic Food, Hope or Hype?" chaired by BBC Broadcaster Martyn Lewis (Attendance 89) • 2001"Beyond Fast Food? A Menu for the 21st Century" Produced in association with the BBC Radio 4 Food Programme and • 2013"Do we still need the High Street?"2002 – "Today's meat culture is Unsafe, Unsavoury and Unsustainable" chaired by Sheila Dillon2012"Do we still need the High Street?"2013"Food or wildlife- are we striking the right balance?" chaired by Sarah Dickens, BBC Wales • 2014"Is healthy eating making us ill?" Chaired by Nick Barnard of Rude Health

The Festival Conferences (2007 -)[edit]

2007 – "Food Festivals – fads for affluent foodies or can have a real impact on local food culture" chaired by Sheila Dillon, presenter of BBC Radio 4's The Food Programme2008 – "Developing Regional & Local Food Tourism in the UK"2009 – The Big Food Debate. "Sustainable Food – The Debate over Greening the Food Chain – from Policy to Plate" Covered by The Food Programme on BBC Radio 4. • 2010"Food Festivals: The Next Generation"2011"Changing Attitudes to Local Food"2012"Food in a Recession"

Facts & Figures[edit]

Year Date No. Attendance Key Events Speakers / Celebrities Market Hall Decorations
1999 23–24 Oct 1st est. 3,500 Entry to Festival in Market Hall £1 Adult, 50p Child (39 stalls, 3 ticketed events) Marguerite Patten OBE, Franco Taruschio, Martyn Lewis 10' 'Decorative Wheels' made from Natural Grasses and Agricultural implements, a horizontal hand painted food themed festival banner.
2000 20–22 Oct 2nd est. 6,000 First time Children involved at Festival with a Recipe Competition (40 stalls, 7 ticketed events) Elisabeth Luard, Martyn Lewis, Antony Worrall Thompson, Charlotte Roskill, Harry Mathews, Russel Celyn Jones, Peter Begvad, Shaun Hill, Stephen Bull, Ruth Watson, Susan Campbell Festoons of coloured lights and lanterns with a seasonal theme? handmade fabric bunting?
2001 20–23 Sep 3rd +10,000 1 of 50 Best Summer Festivals[3] – Welsh Tourist Destination Award – Iconic logo created – prog. A6 booklet – Waitrose become first headline sponsor (56 stalls, 36 ticketed events) Alan Davidson, Tom Jaine, Raymond Blanc, Sheila Dillon, Mike Love, Jane James, Milton Jones, Sarah Dickins, Franco Taruschio, Charlie Hicks, Andrew Jefford, Angela Gray, Ian Marchant, Martina Mullaney, Sam & Sam Clarke, Alex Dufort A shoal of giant colourful fish, 12x 20' batik banners of underwater themes, 8 x 12' brightly vegetable themed batik banners, handmade fabric bunting & festoon lighting.
2002 21–22 Sep 4th + Festival expands to include Abergavenny Castle grounds – programme 1/2 A6 booklet Stephen Bull, Alan Davidson, Monty Don, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Angela Gray, Sean Hill, Roger McGough, Sri Owen, Collin Pressdee, Claudia Roden, Franco Taruschio, Stephen Terry
2003 20–21 Sep 5th + Jill Dupleix, Giorgio Locatelli, Jonathan Meades, Ruth Rogers, Rose Gray, Franco Taruschio, John Hegley 12' long Vegetable batik banners.
2004 18–19 Sep 6th + (84 stalls) Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, John Burton Race, Elisabeth Luard, Mark Hix, Charlie Hix, Gregg Wallace, Hywel Jones, Amy Willcock 20' long banners with a variety of embroidered vegetables.
2005 17–18 Sep 7th + programme A5 booklet Anthony Bourdain, AA Gill, John Torode, Gregg Wallace, Marguerite Patten OBE, Fergus Henderson, Tom Norrington-Davies, Jeanette Orrey, Gerard Baker, Matt Tebbutt, Brent Cockbain Huge Plates of fried breakfasts.
2006 16–17 Sep 8th + Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Matt Tebbutt, Giorgio Locatelli, Amy Willcock, Silvena Rowe, Mitchell Tonks, James Sommerin, Jeanette Orrey, Mark Hix, Ray Smith, Matthew Fort, Joanna Blythman, Cyrus Todiwala MBE, Richard Ehrlich, Lee Evans, Rufus Carter, Thomasina Miers Huge Plates with fish & lemon slices.
2007 15–16 Sep 9th + Separate Site Map as festival expands Clarissa Dickson Wright, Keith Floyd, James Sommerin, Anissa Helou, Allegra McEvedy, Jake Tilson, Matthew Fort, Rufus Carter, William Chase, Mitch Tonks, Joanna Blythman, Tom Parker Bowles, James Oseland, Pete Brown Larger than life flying chefs.
2008 20–21 Sep 10th + 10th Anniversary fireworks lit up Abergavenny – Separate fringe programme Allegra McEvedy, Henry Dimbleby Giant Chickens, Cockerels and Chicks.
2009 19–20 Sep 11th +35,000 Free Entry for Children – 1st chief executive Appointed Kim Waters (180 stalls) To be added A flock of sheep with landscaped banners as background.
2010 18–19 Sep 12th + New look website – All tickets available online (190 stalls, 50 ticketed events) To be added 3' – 5' long Bumble Bees amongst large flowers.
2011 17–18 Sep 13th + (220 stalls, 60 ticketed events) To be added 12' high jugs, utensils & clusters of sardines and mackerel.
2012 15–16 Sep 14th +27,900 (220 stalls 42 ticketed events) Yotam Ottolenghi, Fushia Dunlop, Monica Galletti, Atul Kochhar, Pierre Koffmann, Jekka McVicar, Kate Humble, Sally Butcher, Marc Demarquette, Hazel Thomas, Matthew Fort, Carolyn Steel, Adele Nozedar, Tom Moggach, Claudia Roden Game – Giant Hares, pheasants, grouse and a turkey.
2013 21–22 Sep 15th +27,500 220 stalls, 40 ticketed events. Second CEO appointed Heather Myers, WINNER "BEST EVENT IN WALES"(Visit Wales National Tourism Award), WINNER "ENVIRONMENTAL EXCELLENCE AWARD" (Monmouthshire Business Awards- MonBiz) Rick Stein, Tom Kerridge, Magnus Nilsson, Valentine Warner, Stefan Gates, 'Gardens of Plenty' – giant cauliflowers, leeks, carrots and pumpkins as well as garden tools.
2014 20–21 Sep 16th +31,000 220 stalls 46 ticketed events WINNER "BEST EVENT IN WALES" (Visit Wales National Tourism Award), WINNER "SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE BUSINESS OF THE YEAR" (Monmouthshire Business Awards- MonBiz) Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Claudia Roden, Thomasina Miers Chiappa Sisters, Cyrus Todiwala, Valentine Warner, Sam ad Sam Clark (Morito), Jancis Robinson, Xanthe Clay, Joanna Blythman, Rory O'Connell, Marcus Verberne, Marc Demarquette, Sabrina Ghayour 'Pigs and Garlands' – giant pigs and piglets of all varieties.
2015 19-20 Sep 17th + 220 stalls, tbc ticketed events, FINALIST Visit Wales National Tourism Awards "BEST EVENT IN WALES (LARGE)" Market Hall Decorations will be unveiled at the Festival

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Joanna Blythman (30 March 2008). "Anyone for pudding?". Observer Food Monthly.
  2. ^ "Festival homepage". Archived from the original on 17 September 2010.
  3. ^ "The Fifty Best Summer Festivals in Britain". The Information, The Independent Newspaper. 9–15 June 2001. p. 5.

External links[edit]