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Agricultural show industry enjoys a record season

The Association of Shows and Agricultural Organisations (ASAO) which represents around 200 of Britain’s food farming and countryside events, said today that in spite of the sad demise of the much-loved CLA Game Fair, other country shows were faring well and in no danger of following suit.

The Country Land and Business Association issued a statement at the end of last month, explaining its decision to pull the plug on the long-running and popular event.

It was scheduled to take place at Ragley Hall, Warwickshire in July 2016, but an increasingly crowded summer calendar of outdoor events and a subsequent drop in income had, they said, made running the event financially unsustainable.

Secretary of the ASAO, Paul Hooper, who is also Secretary of the Royal Bath & West  of England Society, said that the demise of the Game Fair was a real loss to the industry, describing the CLA’s decision as ‘brave’ and acknowledging the impact of increased competition on the show circuit.

But, he added that while re-evaluating strategy and content on a regular basis was vital if events were to stay ahead of the game, it wasn’t all doom and gloom.

It was therefore important to reassure traders, exhibitors, sponsors and visitors that for the greater majority of events, the future is looking good.

Mark Stoddart, Financial Controller for the Yorkshire Agricultural Show echoed the sentiment.

“Agricultural shows are important in raising the profile of farming and rural life” he said, “and quite unique in combining a snapshot of farming with first class entertainment and extensive shopping opportunities. It’s a busy marketplace though and it’s tough, so keeping a finger on the pulse and offering visitors a value for money, quality experience is an ongoing challenge.

A finely tuned balance between tradition and innovation underpins the Great Yorkshire Show, which attracted high visitor numbers this year and record livestock entries across the board. We see a bright future for our show and for the industry generally.”

It was good news too for The Royal Cornwall Show which welcomed more than 126,000 visitors to its annual event in June – the fourth highest attendance in its 222 year history.

Christopher Riddle, Secretary of the Royal Cornwall Agricultural Association said: “The interest in our event locally, regionally, nationally and internationally proves that the passion for this type of event, come rain or shine, has never been greater. There’s a real appetite commercially for the Show, and a waiting list for trade stand space year on year. We are confident of another successful year in 2016.”

The New Forest & Hampshire County Show at New Park, Brockenhurst enjoyed a record-breaking crowd at this year’s spectacular and had to provide extra parking to accommodate increased visitors.

Show Secretary Denis Dooley confirmed that 105,000 people came through the gates this year, and that livestock entries were at an all-time high. He said: “We are privileged to have HRH The Countess of Wessex as the Society’s President next year, and hope to build on this year’s success with our new theme, ‘Supporting The Countryside’. “

According to the ASAO, it’s not just the big, multiple-day shows that are doing well, with many of the smaller ones reporting a successful season too.

Visitor numbers for the two-day Cheshire County Show, which has shown a steady growth in attendance over the last few years, were exceptional this year, with 6,000 more people coming through the gates, and livestock entries and sponsorship at an all-time high.

Executive Director, Nigel Evans said that the Show had faced stiff competition from other events taking place at the same time, adding that its growth was almost certainly down to a strategy of providing a quality, value for money event experience.

The one-day Westmorland County Show, recently voted Cumbria’s Tourism Event of the Year in recognition of its importance to the wider economy, also closed just a couple of weeks ago, to a record gate of 35,551, and livestock entries of 3,500.

But Christine Knipe, Chief Executive of the Westmorland Agricultural Society, said it wasn’t just about the numbers, and that working hard to retain the quality of the event and staying true to its core agricultural message was the key to success.

Clare Farrell, Show Manager for Newport Show in Shropshire was equally upbeat.

“It was another great show this year, and we were up on 2014’s gate”, she said.

“It was our first year of e-ticketing and we revitalised the Food Court and brought in a celebrity chef. We also increased our social media campaign activity and invested in some new road signage – all factors which I believe contributed to our success.”

The ASAO said that the CLA was an industry leader in advice and support, with a busy schedule of national and regional events, including partnerships and projects with many ASAO members.

It echoed CLA Director General Helen Woolley’s hopes that the event might be able to continue in the future.

Planning is now well underway for next year’s food, farming and countryside shows, and readers can visit the ASAO website for more information: www.asao.co.uk

For more information and/or interview/photographic opportunities, please contact:

Sharon Gilbert