Revival for St Albans Food and Drink Festival

Food and Drink Festival 2013

Food and Drink Festival 2013 - Credit: Clive Glover

After the failure of this year’s Food and Drink Awards, plans to revive the event are already taking shape.

A number of high profile businesses pulled out of the awards in September, questioning its integrity, and the closing awards ceremony had to be cancelled due to poor ticket sales.

But the steering group has now been reinstated and a special workshop for restaurateurs has been planned for January.

Speaking at a St Albans scrutiny meeting last Thursday, Carl Cheevers, principal partnership and engagement officer for the district council, said: “I would say the decision to not use the steering group was quite a naïve one by officers and officers that were in charge of it at the time.

“We’ve held our hands up to the steering group members and we quickly re-formed it midway through the Food and Drink Festival this year and they are now driving the project again.

“They are really influential local people, really confident that next year’s will again be a great success and build on how its been in previous years.”

Despite putting the steering group back in place, Cllr Simon Grover expressed concern that more needed to done to instill local confidence in the festival, such as getting the voting system right.

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Chair of the meeting, Cllr Chris White, also said there were problems with the categories after a restaurant put itself in a category that was not entirely appropriate.

In response, Carl said: “Part of the workshop is going to be around actually testing the voting platform and giving an update on that and actually plugging any concerns that stakeholders might have on that.”

He said it was fair to say that there had been a few slight errors with the categories which he thought was probably because of not utilising the steering group.

In the past they had played a key part in identifying categories and who went where.

He added: “So part of the January workshop again is actually specifically looking at categories, things like should you include chains, what should the categories be?

“So we’re really bringing the planning much earlier, [giving] stake holders much greater involvement, more than just the steering group, to iron out all of the smaller issues that we had that blighted the festival to a degree this year.”

But Cllr Robert Donald said more needed to be done to regain the trust of local businesses and get them “buying in” to the festival again.