Great Yorkshire Show cancellation to cost region £40m

The cancellation of this year’s Great Yorkshire Show amid the coronavirus crisis is set to cost the region’s economy as much as £40m as organisers admitted the decision will have a major impact on their operations.

Independent research carried out by the Pegasus Group, seen by The Yorkshire Post, showed that last year’s three-day agricultural show generated £39.8m for the economy, with the wider programme of events organised on the showground worth £73.7m during 2019 alone.

In all, more than a million people visited the Great Yorkshire Show during the past decade.

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However, the famous Harrogate showground will be empty this July after organisers took the decision to cancel due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Great Yorkshire Show

The chief executive of the Yorkshire Agricultural Society (YAS), Nigel Pulling, told The Yorkshire Post that the cancellation will be significant for the charity’s operations.

He said: “It is the biggest event in the region, certainly in North Yorkshire. It draws people from all over Yorkshire and wider than that.

“And it does generate a lot of economic activity which translates into jobs and investment in Harrogate and Yorkshire.

“First and foremost in our minds is the health and well-being of everybody involved. But secondly, there are consequences and this underlines those consequences for Yorkshire just by this one event cancelling.”

Nigel Pulling

Mr Pulling said the decision to call of this year’s show was “devastating” for the organising team.

The show has been operating since 1838 and had previously only been cancelled due to war or foot and mouth disease, although it was abandoned after one day in 2012 after torrential rain flooded the showground.

“For the people involved in the show it is part of your DNA to put it on,” said Mr Pulling.

“Your natural instinct is to want to continue to put it on. You know how important it is to so many people and how many people you rely on you.

Lizzie Jones

“It is the highlight for many people in Yorkshire’s year. But clearly there was no way we could have 130,000 people over the three days collecting in one place.

“There was a grim inevitability to the discussion. We have to think of the health and welfare of everybody involved. It is a necessary casualty under the circumstances. When the Olympics was postponed a few days later, you knew it was the right decision. I never had any doubt that it was the right decision.”

Mr Pulling said the response from the public has been incredibly supportive. Many traders who had signed up for this year’s event have already agreed to roll their backing over to 2021’s event.

The society is better placed to weather the current Covid-19 storm than other charities or agricultural shows owing to financial reserves and investments.

However, the cost to the YAS is still something it is trying to deal with as it grapples with losing the vast majority of its income for the year.

“We will suffer significant losses this year, no doubt about it,” Mr Pulling said. “As well as the show, which is obviously the biggest, we have cancelled an awful lot of events. We have put the best part of £500,000 into supporting the community directly, everything from farmer health checks to education events.

“In terms of the knock on effect and whether we will be able to continue that to the same level, it is really too early to say.

“What we do not know is how events of any size will be allowed to take place. Until that happens we have virtually no income coming into the society.”

Mr Pulling said the YAS team was already looking ahead to the 2021 event and he expressed hope that as and when the movement restrictions put in place to contain the virus were lifted, the public would support the show with renewed enthusiasm.

“There is no doubt in my mind that this is such a watershed,” he said. “People will talk about the period before and the period after, as two different landscapes.

“There will be implications that will never quite resolve themselves to the way they were before. But I am absolutely certain that the enthusiasm for the Great Yorkshire Show will be there in abundance when we next hold one.”