You might not know her name – but you’ll probably have heard her voice. For many years Christine Moore has been heard at rural events across the country, as Sarah Todd explains
Public speaking competitions with her Young Farmers’ Club armed Christine Moore with the confidence to become one of the country’s best-known show commentators.
“I was at a private all-girls’ school, so diction – or elocution – lessons were taught,” she says, smiling. “But it was the local young farmers’ club and the public speaking I did as a member that helped me to get my first job commentating.”
This was at an indoor showjumping event being organised by Andrew Fielder, who was then internationally famous for his success on the back-kicking horse Vibart.
“Somebody had dropped out and Andrew asked me to step in,” she says. “I was still only a teenager and would never have been able to do it if it hadn’t been for the experience I’d had at public speaking competitions with young farmers.”
Christine went on to commentate for the nearby hunt’s annual events, such as the point-to-point race. The rest, as they say, is history.
Her yearly commentating schedule is far too lengthy to list in its entirety, but includes the Royal Highland, the Great Yorkshire and Countryside Live, Your Horse Live at Stoneleigh and the National Hunter Show.
She had also had a long association with the Royal Show, feeling sad as she switched off her microphone for the last time there this year. “It was very much the end of an era,” she recalls. “My belief is that identity was one of the Royal’s biggest problems.
“When I’m at the Royal Highland, the emphasis is all on the Scottish, there’s such passion for the country and everything it stands for. It’s the same at the Royal Welsh and the Yorkshire. They’re very much about promoting the local. But at the Royal it seemed to struggle to get across – and get people behind – what it was about.”
Christine also believes some smaller shows have suffered by trying to be “all things to all men”. “Those that have stuck to their traditional, agricultural roots seem to be thriving,” she reckons.
“I feel that some place too much emphasis on motorbikes jumping through hoops and other more fun-fair type attractions; sometimes at the expense of what made them special in the first place.”
Christine is from a farming family and agriculture is a subject she’s passionate about.
“First and foremost I was mad about horses,” she recalls. “But after that, my ultimate goal was to live on a farm.
“However, the nearest I’ve managed to get is through my work commentating at the shows and my ‘normal’ job as a farm secretary.”
Christine, a member of the Institute of Farm Secretaries, rents some land behind her home in a village near York and can often be seen out topping or harrowing on one of the three old classic tractors – a grey Fergie, a Massey Ferguson 35X and a Massey 135 – she owns with her fiancé Alan Barber.
Christine, who splits her working week between a large estate and three other freelance secretarial/accounts jobs, became interested in old tractors when she and Alan got a chance to buy the grey Fergie from a friend.
“There’s a whole shelf of tractor books upstairs,” she says. “As a woman I was always particularly keen not to sound ignorant at shows when it came to the vintage tractor parades.”
Apart from the tractors and horses, Christine says the grand cattle parades at the big county shows are among her favourite spectacles.
“When the Queen was at the Yorkshire Show this year, I was incredibly proud of the fact that she actually sat for the full hour of the cattle parade and seemed – from the photographs afterwards as I couldn’t lose my concentration and glance over for even a second – to be finding it very interesting.
“For me, it’s still very much a hairs-on-the-back-of-the-neck moment when the huge main rings are filled with these superb specimens of livestock.
“Of course, things go wrong. Bulls have got loose, or handlers been pulled over, but my job is very much to carry on regardless. To not draw the audience’s attention away from the main spectacle. While some may see it as funny if all chaos is breaking out, I’m very aware that it’s potentially very dangerous and that there’s some very valuable animals out there. So it’s all about keeping the show rolling.”
It is really rather rare to have a lady commentating on items such as the tractor and cattle parades. In fact, hers is very much a male-dominated profession, with Christine’s main contemporaries former event rider Mike Tucker and Nick Brooks-Ward, son of famous show jumping commentator Raymond Brooks-Ward.
While she finds some announcing on television “not very articulate”, Christine rates the BBC’s Clare Balding very highly.
“Commentating seems to be following everything else in our society, in the way that celebrity is everything,” she says. “Somebody may have been good at a particular sport, but that doesn’t mean that they can speak about it well.
“Clare Balding seems to buck this trend though. She’s not only knowledgeable but she’s very clear and easy to listen to.”
While Christine smiles about actually “kissing the Blarney Stone” as a child, she says it’s taken years of practice to try and get the “right amount of waffle”.
“People don’t want their commentator to distract them,” she says. “They want facts and information. The odd aside is fine, but it takes confidence to say nothing – to give people time to absorb what’s going on in front of them.
“If you’re babbling on endlessly, there’s the fear of becoming background noise and that nobody will be properly listening when you do have something worthwhile to say.”
During her years commentating, Christine has met many famous people including Prince Charles and Princess Anne. She respects both of them for their knowledge and interest in the farming industry.
“I’ve been incredibly lucky to never have to ask for a job,” says Christine. “Right from my very first local one, dare I say it that word-of-mouth has brought the shows to me. I’ve also been fortunate in that the people I do my secretarial work for are farmers and understand that, come spring, I’m around less often. Their work all gets done but not necessarily at the normal times during the week.
“It’s a lovely life. One day I can be walking over the fields – all my clients are within a couple of miles – with my spaniel, Millie, to sort through some farm accounts and the next I can be all dressed up in the main ring amid the razzmatazz of a top show.”
There’s one other place that Christine likes to spend a bit of time “I’ll always turn up, if invited, at the local young farmers’ club competitions when it’s public speaking time of year,” she says. “It’s the most marvellous thing – so satisfying to see the way taking part boosts members’ confidence.”
Christine Moore’s top tips for aspiring commentators