To date it has not exactly been an easy show season. It’s as if since late April some sort of slow-moving tropical storm has trundled around the country, leaving in its wake a trail of devastated venues and cancelled shows. Cambridgeshire, Credigon, Surrey Heath, North Yorkshire, Suffolk, the Scottish Game Fair – the list seems to go on and on.
While not underestimating the financial problems that a cancelled show causes, I have no doubt the show committees will already be planning for next year, undaunted by what the cruel weather gods threw at them this year. Such is the fortitude of those who organise our shows.
County and local shows are the icing on the cake that is British agriculture. They bring out the very best in us, not just in what is displayed, but also in the goodwill they generate. No one in the farming community gets financially rich from their involvement in these events, but we realise that they enrich us in more important ways.
My local is called the Tendring Show and we like to think it’s the best one-day show in the land. We say that while respecting the deluded charlatans who make similar claims for theirs. Held on the second Saturday in July, the Tendring Show is famous for always having good weather – and I hope I haven’t now put the mockers on that.
This year on the big day we are putting on a Grand Ring demonstration called “Farming on the Move”. The object of the exercise is to explain in 30 minutes what happens in an arable field over the course of a year. From the drill to the baler, the sequence is brought to life by a parade of shiny machinery, the main act being a state-of-the-art combine discharging wheat into a moving trailer.
And that brings me onto another grand event being held at the other end of the A12 a fortnight later. There are many differences between the Tendring Show and the Olympic opening ceremony – the main one would be cost. While Farming on the Move will undoubtedly involve some major shelling out in the beer tent afterwards, the drinks bill is most unlikely to come anywhere near the £27m being spent on the three-hour show being held in Stratford.
Despite the differences, there are also similarities. Both extravaganzas seek to explain the role agriculture plays in the British countryside. Although the fine detail is being kept under wraps, the ceremony’s impresario, film director Danny Boyle, had given a taster as to what is involved. Centre-stage will be the British countryside displayed as a green and pleasant land. The role of agriculture will be represented by farm livestock along with a horse and plough. And there’s the rub. While it is encouraging that the British countryside is being celebrated along with the role of agriculture, the question remains as to why our industry is being given a nostalgic Beatrix Potter-style make-over? Why can’t the estimated one billion TV audience be given something authentic such as the machinery we showcase at the Tendring Show? Farmers are proud of their heritage, but they are not stuck in the past, so why portray them as such?
So Mr Boyle, while I realise you are busy with rehearsals, I would urge you to take a quick dash up the A12 and get to Lawford Park. For fear of sounding a little above myself – we will show you how it should be done. I’ll even buy you a pint in the beer tent.
Guy Smith comes from a mixed family farm on the north-east Essex coast. The farm is officially recognised as the driest spot in the British Isles. Situated on the coast close to Clacton-on-sea, the business is well diversified with a golf course, shop, fishing lakes and airstrip.
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