Poll: Will you attend ‘live’ shows amid Covid?

The coronavirus pandemic has decimated the UK agricultural shows calendar for a second year in a row, with big-name casualties including Lamma and the Royal Welsh Show.

But following a relaxation in lockdown restrictions, organisers of some large outdoor agricultural shows have been able to put in place Covid-safe measures to allow events to go ahead.

Groundswell, the UK’s largest regenerative agriculture show, attracted more than 3,500 visitors over two days at Lannock Manor Farm in Hitchin, Hertfordshire, on 23-24 June.

See also: Mixed prospects for agriculture shows during 2021

Cereals  – the UK’s leading technical arable event – is going ahead at Boothby Graffoe, Lincolnshire, over two days (30 June and 1 July).

The layout and facilities at both events were designed to give space and enable organisers to adhere to the latest government guidelines on Covid safety.

How do you feel about returning to live face-to-face events?

Yes, I’m ready now
Too soon right now
Yes, in a few months’ time
Only if they are outdoor
Not at all this year

There are no official attendance figures available yet for the Cereals event. However, anecdotal reports from the showground suggest that footfall was down on previous pre-Covid years when the event would attract about 20,000 visitors across both days. Better weather on day two (1 July) did appear to help numbers.

The subject of visitor numbers was taken up by Daniel Bennett, business development manager at Hillsgreen, a specialist marketing agency focusing on growing agricultural and rural businesses.

In a video uploaded to the company’s Twitter site, Mr Bennett said: “It’s been good to be out and about. I suppose, ultimately, there’s a question.

“So here we are at Cereals and there’s not enough people here. And if there’s not enough people here, then the companies aren’t going to come and exhibit next time.

“So I think we’ve got to consider: how do you get more people?”

Mr Bennett suggests that digital (virtual) events “may be the way to go”.

“In the last 15 months, we have seen a huge shift to farmers consuming content online,” he said.

“I think we really need to be looking at that channel to really engage with that audience and still get them to the shows because the shows still provide a really valuable platform to have those conversations.

“It’s now about combining the two: build live shows with online.”

Virtual shows

Organisers of both the Royal Highland Show and the Royal Welsh Show took the decision this year to host virtual shows behind closed doors due to the pandemic.

Wales’ premier agricultural showcase will go online for a second year for a week-long celebration of rural and farming life from 19 to 22 July.

However, like Cereals and Groundswell, this year’s Great Yorkshire Show will be held in Harrogate from 13 to 16 July, in what will be the first four-day event in the show’s history.