The executive chairman of the Royal Agricultural Society of England has hit back at critics of his organisation by vehemently insisting the Royal Show is not in decline, despite a lacklustre start to visitor numbers at the show this morning.
At a press conference on the opening morning of the Royal Show 2008, Hugh Oliver-Bellasis acknowledged the relative quiet in the livestock lines, but said RASE had “no intention of this being the last Royal Show”.
Instead, said the Royal Show would change with the shifting demands on agriculture and pointed to this year’s inclusion of a special area for alternative energy exhibitions.
Future shows would give special attention to issues likely to come under scrutiny in agriculture, like water management.
Mr Bellasis also insisted farmers would remain the focus of the RASE audience, although he said expectations of farmers would change, adding that energy crops would place a demand on farmland as more sustainable energy solutions were sought.
“We will demonstrate this as the years roll on.”
He dismissed declining trade stand numbers as simply the “changing nature” of the Royal Show. “The Royal Show is not our only activity – it is part of a portfolio of events which include the Pig & Poultry Fair and the Grassland Event.”
Element of sadness
His comments come on the same morning that NFU president Peter Kendall reflected on an “element of sadness” at a more sparsely populated Royal Show.
Mr Oliver-Bellasis curtly declined to comment on the sudden departure of RASE chief executive John Moverley.
However, RASE communications director Denis Chamberlain said the Society was already actively seeking a replacement and had already received interest from a significant number of individuals. He expected a replacement for Mr Moverley to be appointed in the coming months.