Great Yorkshire Show verdict as 161st show in Harrogate goes one better than last year

With the skirt of her eye-catching yellow dress rippling in a gentle breeze, soprano Lizzie Jones delivered the pitch-perfect notes of her final performance in a sun-drenched main ring at yesterday’s Great Yorkshire Show.

Show director Charles Mills at the 161st Great Yorkshire Show in Harrogate. Picture by Tony Johnson.

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Show director Charles Mills at the 161st Great Yorkshire Show in Harrogate. Picture by Tony Johnson.

Last day visitors relaxed at the side of the arena as the pomp of the Yorkshire Agricultural Society’s presidential handover then followed.

Minutes later, show director Charles Mills and chief executive Nigel Pulling sat down in a side room of the nearby media centre where the blinds were drawn to keep out the glare of the late afternoon sunshine.

The final acts of the 161st Great Yorkshire Show were being played out as an event, planned meticulously for months, drew to a close. Yorkshire farmer Mr Mills had just completed his fourth show as its director, spending much of its last day escorting The Duke of York during his Royal visit, while Mr Pulling is in his 17th year as the society’s boss.

“I managed to get round all the stands at the show,” said Mr Mills, an accomplishment which any show-goer can confirm is no mean feat given its packed avenues and the showground’s 250 acres.

A view of the visitors on the President's Lawn, the bandstand and the cattle parade in the main ring at the 161st Great Yorkshire Show in Harrogate. Picture by Tony Johnson.

“Every section of the show was better than last year. It almost made the hair on the back of my neck stand up,” he said.

As it happens, the back of the show director’s neck featured in the opening credits of Today at The Great Yorkshire; Channel 5’s two-part highlights package which ended last night. A close-up shot revealed the underside of the collar on his official society tweed jacket to reveal the words: ‘Yorkshire Born and Bred.’

This sort of TV coverage was a show first and Mr Pulling spoke of the pride he had in the event’s ever broadening profile.

“When I first started as chief executive (in 2002), the show was ‘regional’, it didn’t get much national media coverage at all. It’s slowly built up and the Channel 5 programme is a culmination. I hope they do it again next year and it becomes part and parcel of the show.”

Ahead of the occasion, Mr Pulling told of how the society had set out this year to enthuse a teenage audience about agricultural careers, but he recognised the event had delivered a wider message to the same visitors.

“These young people are also the consumers of the future and we need them to understand about food,” Mr Pulling said.

These are delicate times for farmers producing that food – many examples of which featured in the show’s food hall. Beef prices are stuck in a downturn, future trade with Europe is uncertain, as is whether a Conservative government, with all post-Brexit policy proposals for farming’s future, will be in power come next year’s show.

“I fear for some of the livestock sectors. They need some security in the market,” said Mr Mills, whose parting words were of the escapism he hoped the show served up.

“We want people to come here and have fun, and if they have had fun, we will have succeeded in what we set out to achieve.”