The first-ever Fishguard Bay Food and Drinks Festival takes place this month. We caught up with the organisers to find out what’s in store.
From October 21 to November 4, Fishguard will host a delicious array of food-focused events during the inaugural Fishguard Bay Food and Drinks Festival. From feasts built on local food and drink to markets and even a sourdough clinic, the festival offers many imaginative ways to connect with food from the area.
The focus on local produce, community and sustainability sits at the core of the festival. This ethos has been driven by the combined efforts of Eilish Blade, a nutritionist and caterer, and Jeremy Martineau and James Hunt from the local chamber of trade and tourism, North Pembrokeshire Trade and Tourism Ltd.
The Fishguard Festival has also been supported by the community wellbeing organisation Grwp Resilience which is now hosting the second year of the (little) Newport Food Festival.
“It felt like a natural development to start a Fishguard Bay Food Festival,” says Eilish, who is well-connected with the food scene in the area: her innovative catering business Wyld Burger holds pop-up events showcasing local food, and she is committed to supporting a local food network.
“The aim of the festival is to be a celebration of food culture in Fishguard and to help create the networks and partnerships between local eateries and local producers, so that we have more food security and healthier, more nutritious food as well,” she says. “We really want to get behind the growers and the producers who are making a real effort to grow in a way that supports a sustainable food system.”
The festival is also an opportunity to explore ways to address issues such as nutrition and sustainability in the longer term, and with that in mind, strong links have been forged with local schools and with the catering team at Pembrokeshire College.
James Hunt, the festival’s coordinator, adds: “My involvement with the festival has opened my eyes to the problems surrounding food producers and sustainability. Without sounding overly dramatic, we are potentially at crisis point.
“I hadn’t realised just how dysfunctional our supply chains have become. Local farmers, growers and producers, are disconnected from local communities, and are mainly selling through big organisations. The real challenge is to create local communities where people know the provenance of the food they are eating and are supporting those great local growers who are doing the right things when it comes to looking after the soil. Soil health fundamentally affects our own health, as I have come to learn through working with Eilish.”
Funding from the chamber, the Town Council, Planed, and Grwp Resilience has enabled the organisers to hold a series of activities with pupils at Ysgol Bro Gwaun. This included visits to local growers, a visit from an award-winning celebrity chef and food development officer, Alex Cook, and a sourdough bread workshop from local artisan bakery, Nourish.
Based on the research from Alex Cook around a Sustainable Menu in Wales for eateries, the pupils will be funded to run a pop-up café at the indoor market on October 21 at the school. There will also be cookery demonstrations, talks, and some surprise entertainment.
Other key events during the festival include a screening of a film about seafood and shellfish farm Car y Mor supported by a speaker from award-winning marine conservation charity Sea Trust Wales in Goodwick.
The Goodwick Land, Sea and Food Pilgrimage on October 29 is a walk led by Pilgrimage Officer David Pepper, which will begin with a chance to learn about beekeeping and sample mead made by James Smyth, the chef and pub owner of the Rose and Crown, before heading onto the Parrog to view some ancient fish traps.
Fishguard’s annual Cawl Crawl takes place from 11am to 4pm on October 28, posing the challenge to eat cawl in 15 different locations; and on November 1, the Ladies’ Circle Progressive Supper will provide a meal in three parts, each enjoyed at a different venue.
“There will be lots of exciting community engagements and excellent food throughout the festival,” says James. “There are some wonderful hidden gems in Fishguard. To name just a few, there’s the Red Onion Garden Café, which the owner Rhianna opened at her father’s former garden centre: she cooks food grown in her father’s polytunnels.
“Then there is Jane’s Garden Café, which is both a wool shop and café run by twins Penelope and Catrione, who use ingredients grown in their garden and make mackerel pate with fish they catch themselves at Strumble Head; and there’s Ffwrn (an iconic building in Fishguard), whose Aussie owner, Alice, has an international catering background and will be creating some lovely locally-sourced tapas-dishes. We also have some great dishes to look forward to from Daniel at JT Abergwaun Hotel, who won Pub Chef of the year 2023. There’s a lot of great talent to be found in Fishguard!”
Throughout the festival, an initiative called the Fishguard Dish will see 12 of the town’s eateries putting a special dish on the menu, created to represent and celebrate Fishguard’s unique identity.
“These will be local, sustainable dishes that promote their restaurants in the context of the eating culture in Fishguard and Goodwick,” says Eilish.
The festival’s finale meal takes place in Ffwrn on November 4, where Pembrokeshire College students will be showcasing their fine dining skills.
“We will use local produce and the meal will represent seafood and local meats and vegetables in a great location,” says Eilish. “Of course, we want the festival to extend the tourism season in Fishguard and Goodwick, but first and foremost, it’s for the community. We want the festival to welcome people of all incomes and age groups. We particularly want the festival to focus on our young people, to inspire them and give them the platform to showcase their talents. It has to be grounded in the needs of our community as well as offering people a great time and open the longer-term discussion around creating a sustainable food system in Fishguard and Goodwick.”
Visit the festival website here.