The global challenges to food production and distribution were the theme of Slow Food Cymru Wales’ forum at the Hay Literary Festival 2023 earlier this year.

The forum emphasised the role of the local via the Welsh concept of Milltir Sgwar (the square mile) in combating systemic inequalities through local resilience and sustainability. 

The Hay Festival was famously dubbed ‘the Woodstock of the mind’ by former US President Bill Clinton, and a large audience at the Festival’s Wye Stage received much food for thought from renowned food journalist and presenter of BBC Radio 4’s Food Programme Sheila Dillon; author and environmental journalist Louise Gray; manager of Our Food 1200 project in Bannau Brycheiniog, Duncan Fisher; and food historian Professor Bryce Evans of Liverpool Hope University.

The discussion was chaired by Ian Rasmussen. 

Key themes discussed included the priority of rebuilding local food economies through community action; the relationship between globalisation/deglobalisation and local food communities; food pricing, food poverty, and the cost of living crisis; and the fragility of supply in a multipolar world grappling with the climate crisis.

The concept of Milltir Sgwar (the square mile) has formed the basis of a travelling debate that Slow Food Cymru Wales have been hosting in a variety of venues over the past couple of years.

Started online during the pandemic the organisation is keen to explore just what eating locally means to the nation and how this can be achieved. Summed up by Sheila Dillon;

"Eating locally can be complex and a challenge but people report satisfaction from eating locally and it brings us joy.

"We have developed the theme by delving into the concept of communal eating.

"Based on the research of Bryce Evans Professor of Modern World History at Liverpool Hope University and author of Feeding the People in Wartime Britain, we are looking at the topic in the round. As he rightly states ‘we could be promoting social eating with dignity.’ 

 Local eating, eating together and the benefits that can bring will form the basis of their next event that will take place on 17th September 2023 Local and Vocal Stage Abergavenny Food Festival.

A recording of the event is available here: