Frequently asked questions
Who runs the festival?
Thame Food Festival CIC is not-for-profit run by a small group of local people. In 2017 there are two paid event co-ordinators, working part time at a nominal rate, organising the event with additional services brought in and paid for on an ad hoc basis as and when required. There are two other Directors who contribute their invaluable skill set to the festival during the year.
What is a CIC?
‘A community interest company is a business with primarily social objectives whose surpluses are principally reinvested for that purpose in the business or in the community, rather than being driven by the need to maximise profit for shareholders and owners.’
What other support does the festival receive as a CIC?
Over the years the festival has attracted the fantastic support from scores of celebrity and local chefs who have come to the festival to demonstrate for absolutely NOTHING. Not a penny. They have come because they love what they do, and they are happy to be part of our celebration of great local British produce.
Behind the scenes there is also a a wealth of volunteer support that makes sure the event happens of which we are very grateful.
How much does it cost to put on Thame Food Festival?
In 2016 it cost £80,000 to put the festival on in the town centre.
Where does the money come from?
In 2016 less than half was from Stall Holder pitch fees. The remainder coming from sponsorship; the event has always relied upon sponsorship to make it happen.
McCormick were headline sponsors for three years and without their financial contribution the event would not have continued. Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons and Raymond Blanc, our Ambassador, have supported us both emotionally and often financially over the years and without them this festival wouldn’t be what it is today.
These are both shining examples of community support.
There is no revenue grant funding for the festival to apply for from local, district or county councils that would help with the costs of running the event.
Who makes money from the event?
The only people who make money on the day are the stall holders. They sell their produce and keep all of the money; the festival takes no cut from their revenue. Any income the event receives on the day from, for example, car parking merely goes towards the costs of putting it on.
‘No-one’s baking tin is being lined…’
Sadly the increasing costs took us into our reserves for the first time in 2016, over £7k was required to balance the books. This has focused the mind on the financial sustainability of the event in the town centre.
Is the event becoming more commercial/profit making?
Absolutely not. For the event to continue and flourish it has to be run with a business focus, as most charities and CIC’s do. Any additional income will continue to go towards supporting the costs and any surplus will replenish our reserves so the event can continue into the future.
Why did Thame Food Festival start?
It was Introduced into the town in 2008 as part of the SEEDA Market Towns initiative to promote the town and provide a different platform for local food businesses to flourish.
How has the town centre benefited over the years?
It’s put Thame on the map. Town centre businesses have always been encouraged to come out onto the street and take a stall as part of the event. Some have actively taken part by putting up a stall and paying the pitch fee. A few have not always contributed financially to the event believing that their business rates already pay for the festival. They don’t, because as we have said, there is no revenue grant funding available from local councils.
The shops and businesses have all benefited from the increased footfall in the town on the day and we know that visitors have come back to the town after the event, and some have even bought houses!
Who else has benefitted from the event?
Thame Lions, Thame Rotary Club and Thame ATC have been involved for many years on a voluntary basis and the event has enabled them to raise money for their organisations too. Other local causes have also benefited with free stalls on the day. The Big Thame Bake with the support of the Thame Belles WI raised money on the day with 50% of these proceeds going to the Thame Food Bank.
More details here.
Has Thame Food Festival contributed to tourism in Thame?
Yes. The event has won the Oxfordshire Business Awards – Tourism Event of the Year twice!
A bronze fin the Beautiful South Tourism Enterprise
Finalists in Countryside Alliance Awards – Rural Oscars for Tourism.
All the above are recognition of the hard work involved in putting on the Festival every year and for the people who do it.
How have other local businesses taken part?
Through sponsorship and benefit in kind. Wellers, for example, have produced our accounts since we became a CIC in 2012.They have also established our not for profit status with HMRC so that any excess of income over expenditure is retained for the following year.
The AGA shop, Royds Withy King and Lightfoots, for example, have all been an enormous help to us with their generous sponsorship.
Why have certain areas of the town not been utilised on the day?
We have an operating fire station within the town centre, along with a Royal Mail sorting office, both of which need safe access at all times during the day. This results in a number of areas within the town which have to be kept clear of people and stalls. For example North Street was used for stalls a few years ago but the fire service were unhappy as this is a major exit in the event of a call out and visitors would be at risk.
Why were there bigger food companies at the event in 2016?
To enable us to keep the stall holder pitch prices at a level for small artisan producers to afford, we need to attract more stall sponsorship from bigger food producers. Effectively these are subsidising our wonderful local artisan producers who are what this event is, and ALWAYS will be about.
Why are we moving in 2017?
The 2016 event saw bumper crowds of 28,000 in our town centre making certain areas very uncomfortable for visitors. As event organisers the comfort and safety of our visitors, stall holders and town residents is of paramount importance.
With the space restrictions already mentioned, we cannot expand the area of the festival in the town centre any further, and furthermore we can’t regulate the number of visitors.
Financially the event is not sustainable in the current location.
Why are we charging from 2017?
In 2010, the district council commissioned Miller Research to draw up a business plan for the Festival which included an entry fee for the event to make it financially sustainable. We have been unable to charge this before now because the town centre can’t be closed off and it’s therefore impossible to police it. All other major food festivals such as Abergavenny and Ludlow, which we are now compared to, charge an entry fee – this has to be our future.
It will be a small charge and children under 16 will still be free.
Why the Thame Show Ground?
It is a place that has the facilities, parking and space for us to safely and financially continue this great Food Festival with the added bonus of being able to run it over two days. The Festival has great notoriety both locally and nationally, which we know will bring visitors through the gates, stall holders happy and keen to take part, and us the opportunity to offer new and exciting visitor attractions.
But won’t it lose it’s atmosphere which is unique to the town centre?
We of course considered this when making the decision to move. That and the fact that the town has benefited financially over the years from the festival. But for the reasons we have explained, we have to move.
Change can be good and we aim to make the Show Ground an inviting place for visitors, using clever infrastructure and more stalls, workshops, pop ups and even a fun dog show!
Believe us, we’re going put all our efforts into it, to make it a success!
Will having more stalls on offer be a good or bad thing?
We have always taken care and time over the stall holder applications; we only let in producers of high quality food. This will not change even though we will be offering more of them. We don’t have too many of one category, ensuring that each producer has a fair chance to sell on the day. This gives the festival the unique mix of producers and point of difference that everyone enjoys.
So yes, having more stalls on offer is a good thing!
MORE DELICIOUSNESS COMING TO YOU IN 2017