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August 13, 2007

Show wars: Major farm event organisers clash

Conflict has broken out between two of the UK’s major agricultural events, over a shifting of show dates, which could threaten the future of both shows and damage the farming industry.

The Royal Show 2008 has been moved forward three days by its organisers the Royal Agricultural Society of England (RASE) and now spans Thursday 3 July to Sunday 6 July. This leaves only a day before the start of the Great Yorkshire Show, which runs from Tuesday 8 through to Thursday 10 July, and has resulted in uproar.

“The Yorkshire Agricultural Society (YAS), organiser of Great Yorkshire Show, is extremely disappointed to learn that the Royal Show is to move its dates forward, which will inevitably mean that many exhibitors will not be able to attend both events,” said a recent YAS statement sent to EVENTS:review.
Currently, many exhibitors, both trade and livestock, as well as contractors attend the two shows. The YAS has described RASE’s decision to move the dates of the Royal Show as “divisive to the industry”, saying it will have a major negative impact on farmers.
Standing firm
Despite the move, dates for the 2008 Great Yorkshire Show, which is held at Harrogate and celebrates its 150th anniversary next year, have, so far remained unchanged, with the YAS insisting that this will remain so.

Commenting on the date shift, the Great Yorkshire Show’s director, Bill Cowling, said: “We were told by the organisers of the Royal Show that in order to boost their public visitor numbers they wish to have an extra weekend day and are thus moving their dates forward. The Royal describes itself as ‘the most prestigious agricultural event of the year’, but it seems to us that they are willing to sacrifice agricultural content for the potential financial gain of greater public attendance with the extra weekend day.
“Leaving only one day between the end of the Royal and the first day of the Great Yorkshire makes it impractical for many exhibitors to attend both, whether showing livestock, as trade stand exhibitors or indeed as contractors. At present, exhibitors have a choice, including attending both events if they wish. This takes away that choice, and halves their opportunity to promote themselves and do business.
Damaging the status quo
"RASE has suggested that they may look at allowing livestock to leave their show early so that they could also be shown at Harrogate,” Cowling continued. “This is simply not an option for exhibitors. It isn't logistically practical or advisable to show stock with less than a day's rest between two events, particularly as several hours of travelling are involved between the two venues. Farmers would not wish to do this, and nor should they, thus the Royal has put them in a position of having to choose.”

The YAS insists that the national show calendar is carefully worked out to ensure clashes are kept to a minimum, so exhibitors have the widest choice possible, and that this has always worked very well.

"We celebrate our 150th show next year and have built our reputation around the strong farming content (72% of the show is devoted to agriculture), the quality and quantity of our livestock and trade stands, our prize money and the high standard of our showground. We had record entries last year, and despite horrendous wet weather, our £15 million investment in the site over the last decade enabled us to stage another very successful show last month. We had an excellent attendance figure of 122,042, only slightly down on the previous year's all time record of 135,111.
“We are very confident that the Great Yorkshire Show will maintain its appeal to agriculture and to the public, and see the Royal's decision as divisive and damaging to the industry."


When approached by EVENTS:review to comment on the YAS’s attack on the decision to move forward the Royal Show’s dates, RASE’s chief executive, Professor John Moverley, was unrepentant, and seemed only too aware of the impact it may have on the Great Yorkshire Show.

“The days of the show have been under consideration for some time and we have responded to the overwhelming views of people we have consulted widely with over the last year,” he said. “We are aware that this change of date has direct consequences in terms of the Yorkshire Show. I just wanted to emphasise that the chairman, the honorary show director and I have been, and are, in close consultation, and that we will do everything we can to ensure that both shows are successful, but do realise that any change in date was going to have an impact on someone.”

Explaining the reasons for the date change, Moverly said: “The change in many ways allows us to put greater emphasis on the engagement with agriculture, exhibitors and stewards. We have also indicated that we intend a greater focus on food and drink across the whole supply chain.”

It remains to be seen whether either party will move to take pressure off exhibitors and contractors, and indeed to benefit the agriculture industry as a whole, which both shows are supposed to be supporting.

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