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Long serving show organiser receives OBE in birthday honours

A man who abandoned his A-level studies in the mid-seventies to manage the first public event of his career, has been recognised by Her Majesty The Queen, for his services to the agricultural industry.

Paul Hooper, Secretary of the Association of Show and Agricultural Organisations (ASAO) and Society Secretary for the renowned Royal Bath and West of England Society, started out by running the Stoke Park Hospital Horse Show almost 40 years ago when he was still in full-time education.

Now, following a long and illustrious career, quite literally ‘in the field’, his unstinting work in the agricultural show world has been rewarded with an OBE in the recent Birthday Honours.

Mr. Hooper, a Justice of the Peace, says he is delighted with his award, although he’s modest about the Royal accolade.

He says he simply ‘got the bug’ for bringing people together to be entertained while he was still at school, and never really looked back.

A staggering six million people visit agricultural and country shows in the UK each year – that’s 10% of the population.

Thousands of farmers across the country use them as an opportunity to exhibit and sell prize-winning livestock, meet up with colleagues and compare notes, and enjoy social interaction with other farming families.

Not surprisingly, Paul has seen many changes in the industry during the last three decades, and has witnessed a shift in show culture. He views shows as businesses which must be profitable to survive, and knows from experience that events must evolve to stay in the game.

“Show life has changed dramatically since the 1970s” he says. “For a start, it used to be all pen and paper as opposed to the new, more efficient digital entry and result systems we now have in place.

After the Foot and Mouth epidemic in 2001, agricultural and country events were placed under intense pressure. Some, like the Royal Show which came to an end in 2009, were hard hit and unable to recover, but others weathered the storm and carried on, albeit with some diversification of content and audience. We are now a pivotal part of bridging the rural and urban divide.”

Paul is the Society Secretary for the now thriving Royal Bath and West of England Society which runs the flagship event the Royal Bath and West Show. The event celebrated its 50th year at the permanent site in Shepton Mallet in 2015 and has around 400-500 volunteers and a permanent staff of 20.

He says his greatest pleasure is working with the team to see it through from start to finish – knowing that the year-long efforts to bring people together to see all the wonders of the countryside in one place, are both appreciated and enjoyed.

“For the hundreds of thousands of people who go along, it’s a chance to get on the other side of the farmer’s hedge and see the cream of the crop.

The key is to be innovative in the way you present farming to non-farming show visitors. Aside from the displays of cattle, a good show will also explain the food chain, and show the end product being used in cookery demonstrations, and readily available from food stands for show-goer consumption.”

When he is not planning the Royal Bath and West Show, Paul is busy as Secretary for the ASAO – a national body which promotes agriculture, horticulture and the countryside through shows and other events.

The ASAO works hard to encourage and share best practice between agricultural societies and related organisations and holds an Annual Conference in the Autumn for its members and partners.

It is consulted and included in regular discussions with a number of consultative bodies including breed societies, charity commissioners, DEFRA, Health and Safety Executive and Police and Trading Standards.

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

Sharon Gilbert, Managing Director