Penarth Town Council’s new “venues committee” last night considered the future of the street-food festival “Picnic Penarth” and 4 possible options for its future – which included “retiring” the event.
Councillors were told that the event had been originally launched with a small “test event” in 2015 [ outside Gimber Motors] with funding from the Welsh Labour Government’s so-called “Town Centre Development Fund.
Since then there had been two further – larger-scale “Picnic Penarth” events – taking up the whole of Station Approach.
The most recent of these [ adroitly-timed to take place immediately before the local council elections] was in April 2017, which was attended by over 10,000 people over 2 days. One in four of those attending Picnic Penarth come from outside the town
Picnic Penarth – councillors heard – requires a budget of £20,000 – [allocated by Penarth Town Council using council-tax payer’s money derived from the Town Precept which now stands at a record high] . The April 2017 event was also sponsored by a “CoverBuilder” – a trading name of a Penarth-based insurance company called Source Insurance Ltd .
The council considered 4 options:-
- Keeping the existing model of the event – but obtaining additional internal and external funding
- Developing Picnic Penarth into a much larger scale event similar to “Cowbridge Food and Drink” and the Ludlow Food Festival
- Ending Penarth Town Council’s involvement in April 2018 and handing it over to an “external group”
- “Retiring” the event at the end of the current financial year.
Customer Servicers Lead officer at Penarth Council – Alice Turner – told the committee that the event was “highly successful in lots of ways”. It attracted people both from with the town and outside it and was a “real economic boost” to the “microbusinesses that actually come to trade at the event “and also to the wider town economy .
Ms Turner said Picnic Penarth was an expensive event to put on. The Penarth Town Council’s funding [£20,000] had had to be topped up by the Vale of Glamorgan Council and by sponsorship – and all that money had now been spent. She noted that the Station Approach location “does not have any of the amenities that we require to have, except that it is an open space with easy access to public transport, is central to the town and is an area which historically had been slightly overlooked or a little neglected but was now starting to have its own identity”.
Cllr Gary Allman (Conservative St Augustines) said he had been involved in sponsoring a successful event in Caerphilly called “The Big Cheese” which capitalised on Caerphilly Cheese as a brand.
He thought that a “Penarth Food Festival” would attract a lot of people, would bring in extra sponsorship and would work well. He proposed that Picnic Penarth should be “re-branded”.
Cllr Laura Rochefort (Labour Cornerswell) had misgivings about the current location used for Picnic Penarth – Station Approach.
She said the Picnic was held in a place which “I would not necessarily the place where I would think a picnic should be”. She suggested moving it to a different venue.
Cllr Liz Fahy (Labour St Augustines) agreed – although she noted the importance of regeneration. She pointed out that this was an event which attracted “the family market” but there was “nowhere for [families] to go” .
Cllr John Luxton (Labour Stanwell) said in his experience something like this could become commercial quite easily . He asked whether a detailed plan had been developed and suggested this could deliver benefits to the Town Council rather than to an outside contractor – so that the proceeds could be spent for the benefit of the public.
Council officer Alice Turner said this was how the first two events had been organised, and agreed that an event like Picnic Penarth could become commercial but would take “hundreds of hours of [council] staff time” – but was not a core part of what staff were there to do.
Cllr Ben Gray [Conservative Plymouth Ward] said established events in Cardiff had all been moved from the Cardiff Council events team to a private company. He favoured “Option 3” – bringing in a commercial group and working in partnership with the .He thought that the aim should be an event which directly boosted the economy of the town rather than the council coffers as a revenue collector. Cllr Gray said a commercial company would turn it into a Food Festival – because that was the way of getting more stalls.
Cllr Ian Buckley (Labour Cornerswell) suggested piggy-backing the Picnic with another event. He said that Whitchurch had a Food Festival and a Fun Run which was very well attended . The cost of road closures could be offset with two events taking place at the same time.
Council officer Turner was asked whether there had been any discussion about combining the Picnic with the Gwyrddio Penarth Greening Food Festival [ the independently organised GPG Food Festival was discontinued in 2016 partly because of competition from Picnic Penarth – but is to be revived in September this year. ] Ms Turner said this had been looked at, but the council’s aim was to spread events across the year.
Cllr Mark Wilson (Labour Stanwell) noted that some councillors had already expressed concerns about the location for Picnic Penarth [in Station Approach] and the lack of green space – but said that places like “The Depot” in Cardiff had a very context. The issue was really how the Picnic Event was to be positioned. Organisers of The Depot were obvious people to talk to . He advocated a mix between Option 1 and Option 2 which would enable Penarth Town Council to control the branding of the event .
Cllr Mike Cuddy (Labour St Augustines) asked whether any support from the Vale Council or the Welsh Government had been discounted.
Officer Turner said the Vale Council had been “incredibly supportive” and had provided matched funding of the first two events and had given the maximum £5,000 for the 2017 event. Meanwhile discussions were being opened with the Welsh Government. On the location she said there was an option to use some of the green spaces the council had – but she was not in favour of Penarth Cliff Top as a venue. It was “extremely windy” and a grassy area was not ideal for that kind if event in April when it usually rained.
Cllr Nigel Humphrey (Labour St Augustines) said he woudl ike more information on Option 3 and suggested that potential commercial partners should make presebntations to the council on what they would wish to do. Cllr ………….said “our role in this is as a facilitator” and proposed bringing in “external people” and then plug in all the outlets in the town .
Cllr John Luxton said what was required was a feasibility study into the options
Cllr Martin Turner said Penarth had now developed a reputation as somewhere to come and eat and he thought it would be very useful to have discussions with restaurants and cafes to see what their view is on arranging some sort of Food Festival at which people would be charged for attending . The council would be the facilitator and the umbrella organisation .
A “Task and Finish ” group is now to be set up to examine the options for the future of Picnic Penarth in greater detail and explore the potential involvement of outside companies.