David Tite has been chief executive at Driffield Agricultural Society for the past 15 years and this year he is also chairman of the Association of Show & Agricultural Organisations (ASAO) which has never had a more vital role than over the past 18 months.
In its quest to make Driffield Show as safe as possible and cater for a restricted attendance, an additional day has been added, mirroring the Great Yorkshire Show, and will be held over two days next week, Wednesday 21 and Thursday July 22.
David said he is delighted with the response from exhibitors and that the dairy, beef and commercial cattle and sheep classes will all be held, as well as heavy horses and showjumping, but admits that his primary responsibilities this year have been in getting the show on and assuring that everyone on the showground is as safe as possible.
“In a way we may actually have a little more pressure on our show management as we will be the first agricultural show and probably the first large-scale event in the country to take place after the Government’s lifting of the remaining pandemic restrictions on July 19.
“Our show view and to safeguard visitors, exhibitors and our wonderful team is that it is not going to change an awful lot from what was allowed before that date.
“I think we have a duty to everyone on the showground. We need to give people that confidence that things haven’t just gone from zero to 1,000 miles per hour more or less overnight.
“We will still have mask zones for anything that is inside, although most of what would normally be in marquees is now outside. We will also be watching for overcrowding and if necessary encouraging people to move on if there are too many folk in one particular place. I really hope people will understand we are only trying to look after everyone’s welfare as best we can.”
David said the ASAO has proved itself to be of great assistance to all shows since the pandemic restrictions in sharing information and experiences.
“I took over as chairman from Mark Stoddart of the Yorkshire Agricultural Society this year and every month we have held a catch-up meeting on Zoom when around 130 shows have been represented throughout the UK. We talk through what has worked and what hasn’t and learn from each others experiences. Showgrounds such as the Three Counties and South of England have already hosted shows this year and the rest of us have been able to hear their experiences, how the public reacted to the environment, whether crowd management proved necessary and what systems were put in place.
“One of the points mentioned specifically was not having any dead ends, sending people down one way where their only option is to come back on themselves.”
David said that not being able to host shows for one year and now, for many, two consecutive years has put even the most affluent of agricultural societies under financial stress. He said the talks between ASAO members have also included ensuring everyone knows what they have been able to apply for by way of grants.
“A big part of what we have all had to do is to apply for grant aid to see us through. I spent at least half my time last year just trying to keep us afloat. We were able to furlough which helped. In our case we brought in £130,000 through grants and donations but we still lost £90,000.
“We lost 190 events last year including the steam rally and country fair. Agricultural and show societies never had a specific grant and so we have all informed each other where we have managed to find relevant fundings.”
David and his team have worked hard to ensure that visitors to either day can still enjoy the agricultural experience of livestock competitions.
“Our cattle classes will feature the commercials and pedigree dairy breeds on Wednesday and the pedigree beef breeds on Thursday. East Riding Federation of Young Farmers Clubs will be talking to visitors about how cattle are judged across both days.
“Our sheep numbers have hardly been affected at all, which is great news, and we will be having MV accredited and non-MV accredited across both days. The heavy horses will be out in force.
“It’s been a long haul. I have to pay tribute to everyone who has played their part from my team on the showground, stewards and standholders who left their payments for last year’s show with us for this year. Now let’s have a safe and wonderful show!”