More farm shows cancelled as Covid-19 takes its toll

More agricultural shows appear to be on the brink as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, with news that the Newbury and District Agricultural Society has already decided to can next year’s Royal County of Berkshire Show.

In a letter to members, chairman Ali Brown explains that the society’s finances have taken a massive hit.

See also: £2m donations needed to help save the Royal Highland Show

“Losses from the 2018 and 2019 shows, a lack of growth in showground lettings income, a large bank loan and the reduction in free cash reserves meant that we entered 2020 with already very limited flexibility,” she wrote.

“Since then, almost all 2020 showground rental income has dried up and there remains considerable uncertainty about future trading prospects for 2021.”

A decision had already been taken to cancel this autumn’s ploughing match, and an alternative charity tractor run had also been scuppered by the government’s new “rule of six” – limiting most gatherings to just six people.

Risks

The society has now decided to abandon the 2021 Royal Berkshire Show too, given that its financial reserves will be “inadequate to shoulder the large financial risks associated with such a venture”.

“Weather is one factor that can make the difference between success and failure; the potential loss of some key stand holders, sponsors and participants is another; and the uncertainties about consumer and visitor appetites in a year’s time are all factors we have had to consider.”

Ms Brown said the society hoped to stage shows in the future, though they would almost certainly be smaller.

She added that some staff had already been made redundant, and the chief executive, who had resigned in June, was not being replaced.

Pandemic

The Royal Berkshire Show announcement came just days after the Royal Bath & West Society announced the cancellation of this year’s Dairy Show, which was meant to take place on 7 October, due to the ongoing global pandemic.

“This is an extremely difficult decision to make, though in light of the recent rise in confirmed [Covid-19] cases, we feel this is the responsible thing to do,” said a statement.

Last week, organisers of the Royal Highland Show in Scotland announced they had launched a £2m funding appeal to try to plug a £6m gap in its finances.

The aim is to still put on a show in 2021, but only if the funds can be raised.

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