Anita Rani and Jules Hudson prepare to present Today at the Great Yorkshire Show in Harrogate for Channel 5

The Great Yorkshire Show returns this week, and Channel 5 is once again bringing it to television viewers. John Blow speaks to rural presenters Jules Hudson and Anita Rani.

When the Great Yorkshire Show rolls into town, everything feels all right with the world.

Anyone who has attended will fondly look back on scenes of sporting displays, close encounters with farm animals and, hopefully, the best of British weather.

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But obviously, all has not been right with the world for the last year and a half.

Anita Rani and Jules Hudson with a British Charolais belonging to Emma Andrews of Holmfirth, as they prepared to broadcast two-part TV series Today at The Great Yorkshire Show in 2019. Picture: Bruce Rollinson.

So the major showcase’s return to Harrogate after a two-year wait – like nearly all big events, it was cancelled in 2020 – is a welcome sight for anyone who wants to celebrate the region and its vital rural industries.

And following a string of programmes about farming and country life more generally proving a draw for audiences in need of escape and perhaps a little bit of perspective, Channel 5 will bring be bringing the show to television screens.

Today at The Great Yorkshire Show airs on Wednesday and Thursday at 8pm, with Jules Hudson and Anita Rani presenting from two of the show’s four days of activities (though capacity is limited, the event is a day longer than usual this year).

Hudson, known to many for appearing on the BBC’s Escape to the Country, cannot wait to be back at the Great Yorkshire Showground.

Jules Hudson at the Great Yorkshire Show. Picture: Dale Lavender.

“I think we’re all looking forward to it – it’s one of the great things about the farming calendar that we’ve missed over the last 18 months or so,” he says.

“It’s a great opportunity for everybody to show that fellowship that comes with farming and country life.”

He adds: “It will be a slightly different show to what’s gone on before. Hopefully we will rekindle the spirit of farming shows.”

They will certainly be given a good chance, with more than 2,000 exhibitors, 8,500 animals, various food stalls and pretty much every country craft imaginable there for the presenters to grapple with during the event’s 162nd outing.

Hudson, 51, says that a presenting gig such as this gives him and fellow rural broadcasters the chance to be hands-on.

“We will see animals and livestock at their very best.

“For me, it’s about the opportunity to meet up with friends and (also) make new friends.”

Speaking of which, no such showcase would be complete without stars of The Yorkshire Vet, Julian Norton and Peter Wright, and familiar faces from Barnsley’s Cannon Hall Farm and its television shows.

Above all, says Hudson: “We hope people will come to it and enjoy the opportunity to be out in that environment again.”

In episode one, viewers will find out how show novices Morgan and Natasha get on with their Duroc pigs under the watchful eye of their mentor, Jason, and Cannon Hall Farm’s Shire Horse, Blossom, will also take to the show ring.

Bradford-born Rani will be going head-to-head with French chef Mehdi to see who can make the best Yorkshire pudding – only Mehdi has a trick up his sleeve.

The show will feature artist blacksmith Katie Ventress, 32, who is set to undertake her biggest challenge yet.

Presenters will also check in on Wright when he’s tasked with commentating on sheep in the show ring.

It is also a very special year for Russell’s, a tractor retailer from North Yorkshire. To celebrate their centenary, the business has decided to buy back one of their vintage tractors and restore it to its former glory.

In the second episode, viewers will meet fourth-generation farmer Stephen Short who has won many prizes for his animals over the years.

In 2018 his beloved sheep won the coveted prizes of Hampshire Down Male and Female Champion, but after a less successful outing in 2019, it is time to see whether he can return to former glories.

Emily Turner and her four-year-old son, Jack, will also appear as they compete for the first time with their Golden Guernsey goats, Stacey and Clementine.

Away from the animal classes, the show will present the Yorkshire Volunteers Band, who will be performing together in public for the first time in more than a year.

Meanwhile, Hudson will be trying his hand at a spot of sausage-making during the show.

“I just can’t wait,” says Rani.

“I really can’t wait, I can’t wait to meet people, I think it’s going to be a real celebration, as it always is.”

The presenter, who is known to viewers for her role on Countryfile and also to listeners of BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, added: “I’m so excited and exhilarated and really pleased that we’re able to put it on because obviously it was cancelled last year and it brings so much joy and it’s such an important part of the Yorkshire calendar. It’s great that the organisers managed to put it on, really. I think it’s brilliant. It’s obviously a huge amount of logistics, a lot of hard work, brilliant team and, yeah, really looking forward to it.”

The huge showground and various events all on at the same time can be a daunting task for journalists to cover, not least after a lengthy period of social distancing.

But Rani says: “I think every experience we’re having now post-pandemic, as we are slowly coming out of this, because we’re not out of it yet, is exhilarating and really meaningful. I think we’re all figuring out, stepping out into the light, if you like, but I’m really, genuinely looking forward to talking to people. I’ve missed talking to people, I’ve missed being in Yorkshire. I’ve missed social interaction. So bring it on. Bring it on.”

It is the latest Channel 5 show on rural affairs that comes after its popular series The Yorkshire Vet and hit updated version of All Creatures Great and Small, in addition to the broadcaster’s various programmes that have been based at Cannon Hall Farm in South Yorkshire.

Modern presenters such as Rani, 43, have helped to keep shows such as Countryfile fresh and most recently Amazon’s top-rated Clarkson’s Farm has raised awareness of rural issues.

Rani says: “We are a nation that is very proud of our countryside. We are people of the land, aren’t we?

“I think the gap is closing between cities and the countryside, I think there’s a big overflow between both, you know. I think you’ll find a lot of these events now tailor themselves to be open to people from all walks of life, so it’s just a really nice day out. If you live in a city or a town it’s nice to be able to go and see animals and, you know, learn something more about where your food comes from, or just rural Britain or celebrating produce or whatever it might be.”

She adds: “I think that there’s something very basic and nostalgic about connecting with the land.”

Today at The Great Yorkshire Show is on Wednesday and Thursday at 8pm on Channel 5.