Wet weather has cost UK agricultural shows and country events almost a quarter of a billion pounds in cancellations and low attendance.
The Country Land and Business Association calculated that a total of £243m had been lost in revenue at events and to the local rural economy.
The cancellation of the CLA Game Fair – which should have opened for its three-day run at Belvoir Castle of Friday 20 July – expected its 140,000 visitors to spend around £82m on goods and services at the event.
But the massive disruption to the summer show season has also deprived rural economies of a major annual injection of consumer cash. The CLA says the local economy around the area of the Game Fair lost £34m worth of income because the event was cancelled.
Suffolk-based milling company Skinners, which produces a range of food for working dogs, had to cancel 40 local hotel bookings after the Game Fair was called off.
And the Great Yorkshire Show – which was abandoned after the first of its three days at its permanent Harrogate site – announced the cancellation had cost the organisers £2m, which includes a £700,000 refund made to 600 standholders.
The Suffolk County Show was closed after the first of its two-day run when health and safety officials deemed the event unsafe as it was engulfed by force 9 gales. The closure will cost the organisers around £500,000; its gate money loss is about £200,000.
Small, one-day shows have also been hit by the bad weather. In some areas show fields are still carrying unharvested silage crops and committees made up largely of farmers have been struggling to operate because they have been unable to devote enough time away from their farms, according to the Association of Show and Agricultural Organisations.
Badminton Horse Trials, held in Gloucestershire in May, was the first of the season’s high-profile country events to fall foul of the weather. While the Royal Highland Show, the Three Counties Show and the Grassland Event battled on through difficult weather conditions, the Scottish Game Fair was cancelled and the Suffolk Show and Great Yorkshire Show abandoned.
The three-day Great Yorkshire Show has become one of the most successful in the UK, attracting more than 130,000 visitors, but this summer’s torrential rain made it impossible to provide parking for up to 15,000 cars a day on the show’s 150 acres of “field” car parking.
The show’s chief executive Nigel Pulling said it was a “heartbreaking decision” to cancel and though it was not incumbent upon the show to refund standholders, the decision was made because they were regarded as “important partners” in staging the event.
The £2m cost of the show’s cancellation is made up of ticket refunds, extensive remedial work to the car parks during the show, cancelled attractions and displays, and reimbursement of the trade stands.
“We had a good first day with 35,000 through the gate but the car parks were the big issue after so much rain. We will be looking at a range of measures to try and reduce future risk as well as undertake further drainage of the car park fields,” said Mr Pulling.
In the aftermath of the cancellations there have been suggestions by some livestock exhibitors that the many agricultural and country events have simply become too large and so more vulnerable to the weather because of the volume of parking now required and the additional pressure on showground facilities.
But organisers say any attempt to restrict entry to members or ticket holders in an effort to control the size of these events would be unthinkable.
“The bad weather has caused enormous disruption and disappointment to all those affected but agricultural shows and country events have created a most valuable interface between urban and rural communities and that role continues to be vitally important,” said Paul Hooper of the ASAO.
|2012 shows under the weather|
• Suffolk – force 9 gales cause early closure
• Great Yorkshire – closed after first day as 150 acres of car parking unusable
• Game Fair – cancelled as ground conditions prevent final set-up
• Royal Highland – survives atrocious weather
• Cereals – bad weather hits event build-up
• Grassland UK – torrential rain prevents machinery demonstrations