Ben Barnett: 5 lessons from day three at the Great Yorkshire Show in Harrogate

The third and final day of the Great Yorkshire Show in Harrogate had the honour of a Royal visit, the attention two government ministers and was basked in sunshine.

Soprano Lizzie Jones performs at the 161st Great Yorkshire Show in Harrogate with the band from the Yorkshire Regiment. Picture Tony Johnson.

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Soprano Lizzie Jones performs at the 161st Great Yorkshire Show in Harrogate with the band from the Yorkshire Regiment. Picture Tony Johnson.

As the most prestigious agricultural celebration in England concluded for another year, what did this reporter learn?

No Lizzie, no show

This is only Lizzie Jones’ second outing at the county’s premier agricultural showpiece but so fitting were her anthemic performances that it has quickly become unthinkable that she should not now be an annual fixture.

Mrs Jones has spoken with genuine affection about the show and how stepping out in the main ring is a huge honour. Whether or not we are lucky enough to be treated to her wonderful notes filling the showground air and contributing so much to the show's atmosphere next year remains to be seen, but the packed ringsides told their own story.

Farming Minister Robert Goodwill chats to Swaledale sheep farmers during his visit to the Great Yorkshire Show. Picture Tony Johnson.

An indulgent slice of pure entertainment is what Yorkshire's own sporting soprano serves up and the show, the county's greatest showcase of rural life, is the perfect stage for a live performance of the ilk she delivers with such aplomb. And, there's no denying that the singer's statement dresses add that extra touch of class and glamour to the show rings.

Brexit concerns are heightened

The Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay was at the Great Yorkshire Show on its final day and he heard the grave concerns that food and farming businesses have about the undiminished prospect of a no-deal with the European Union in a debate described as "honest" by National Farmers' Union officials.

A no-deal scenario would be "catastrophic" for the agricultural sector, according to the union, with UK cereals particularly exposed because of a lack of tariff protection.

A visitor looks at sunflowers displayed in the Garden Show at the Great Yorkshire Show. Picture by Tony Johnson.

Mr Barclay was said to be in "listening mode" with no firm reassurances forthcoming about the scenario British agriculture will face as soon as November.

When the Minister's own position is not guaranteed under new government leadership - the outcome of the Tory leadership contest is still a fortnight away - all that farmers can do is continue to make the case to whoever holds sway until the 'leave' date on October 31.

Scientific potential

When Farming Minister Robert Goodwill spoke to The Yorkshire Post at the show, he talked up the case for gene edited crops to help British farming become more productive and resistant to disease - but it is a science that is currently held back by the reluctance of European politicians to categorise gene editing as genetic modification.

It is a science that Mr Goodwill advocates but one which still requires a leap in public perception to view it as acceptable. This is something that Mr Goodwill said the Government needed to work on, saying there is nothing in gene edited crops other than the plant's DNA and the technique was a case of accelerating the processes of natural mutation and selection.

"What is frustrating is that you talk to people about using this technology in medical science and they are absolutely up for it," the Minister said.

"If we can prevent people from having inherited disease and we can cure a disease by using this technology they are absolutely up for it, but if you are talking about modifying a potato plant so you don't have to spray it every 10 days with a fungicide, because I think of the way that some of the 'green' pressure groups have portrayed it, I think people are nervous about it."

Screen time

It is clear that the Great Yorkshire Show has an appeal that spans geographical boundaries - Yorkshire vet Julian Norton's fans from across the Atlantic are an example - and definitive proof was delivered in the viewing figures from part one of Channel 5's highlights series Today at The Great Yorkshire Show.

The show's first ever screen time of its kind generated an impressive 1.6 million viewers at its peak, proving that Leeds-based Daisybeck Studios have the magic touch when it comes to rural Yorkshire programming. 'Exhibit A', The Yorkshire Vet.


Seriously, the weather forecasters called this week's conditions badly wrong. The frequent showers and even spells of heavy rain never materialised and some opening day drizzle aside and a spot of early morning moisture on day two, the truth was that the show increasingly assumed its favoured summer-like balminess.

Ice cream cones were doing a swift trade on day three as warm temperatures and blue skies ensured your hapless correspondent's purple umbrella acted as little more than a vaguely offensive-looking talisman as it was finally, after much online shaming, retired from show duty.