Christine Barber is a lady who can talk the talk when it comes to agriculture. A summer doesn’t go by without the Tadcaster-born show commentator picking up a microphone and relaying the action from the show rings to thousands of visitors.
Anyone who has attended the Great Yorkshire Show over the years will instantly recognise her smooth, calming tone. She’s also a regular at numerous other events across the county, as well as others further afield such as the Royal Welsh Show and Scotland’s Royal Highland Show.
For Christine, whose grandparents were farmers, her path into a career spanning 40 years and counting evolved from her childhood obsession with riding a pony.
“I got on a pony as soon as I could walk. I always wanted to ride even though my parents weren’t horsey at all. I was so desperate to get on a pony I would knock on people’s doors to ask if I could ride theirs if there was no one else riding it. I went on to compete and did so for a lot of years - eventing, showjumping and dressage.”
Her love of riding saw her lend a hand at an equestrian centre near Pool in Wharfedale, then run by the esteemed former showjumper Andrew Fielder who staged shows there.
“One day Andrew asked me if I would commentate at one of his shows,” Christine explains. “I was used to speaking as a member of Young Farmers and I was away at boarding school so I wasn’t backwards in coming forwards. It became a regular thing, then I was asked to do Otley Show.
“I’m very lucky in that I’ve never touted for business. Once I’d done one or two, other people wanted me to commentate elsewhere and I did more and more.”
Christine commentates 26 days a year and is a regular at Malton, Driffield, Ryedale, Penistone, Nidderdale, Tockwith and Gargrave shows, the Great Yorkshire, Countryside Live, York and Ainsty Point to Point and showjumping trials at Askham Bryan College. She has commentated at Bramham Horse Trials since its first incarnation and has received a long service award for 30 years service at Nottinghamshire County Show. A highlight, she says, was commentating yards from the Queen during the Great Yorkshire Show in 2008.
So what’s the secret to lasting success?
Christine says: “Less is better than more. If you talk and talk, you become monotonous and people forget you’re there. Assume you know as much as everyone else out there about what you’re commentating on, but stick to what you do know rather than make up what you don’t, and do research so the terms you use are specific to that community. I read a lot about heavy horses for example, because it’s not something I’m as knowledgeable about.”
But is Christine’s own success down to a trip over the Irish Sea?
“When I was very little I visited the Blarney Stone in Ireland - I’ve never been lost for words since!”
It can be a very demanding role, often involving 12-hour days, and Christine’s trips outside of Yorkshire present particular challenges.
“When I’m at the Royal Welsh Show there’s all these Welsh names. I’m Yorkshire through and through. When I see a name with no vowels in, I think what am I going to do? I’ll ask them for the pronunciation and will say it as fast as I can and move on.”
Away from the shows, Christine works as a farm accountant. The majority of her work is for the Hutton Wandesley estate near York. Most of the year she walks the 2.5 miles to the estate from her home in Healaugh, North Yorkshire with her trusty ten-year-old cocker spaniel Millie.
She is married to Alan, who is retired after a long career with Yorkshire Water and the pair share an interest in vintage tractors.
Christine is in action at the Great Yorkshire Show this week