Todmorden Show revival as event returns to Calderdale after seven years of exile in Lancashire since devastating flood

While many agricultural societies are looking forward to celebrating historic anniversaries of their annual shows or simply returning after a two-year hiatus there is an agricultural show revival taking shape in Calderdale.

Todmorden Agricultural Society had held Todmorden Show at Centre Vale Park right in the centre of town since 1912 up until seven years ago when new flood defences led to the ground no longer being suitable to host it.

The show moved six miles to Cliviger, out of Yorkshire and into Lancashire, but now it is back in West Yorkshire as members of Todmorden Agricultural Society have this year shifted to a new home at Walsden just three miles from town and back in the land of the White Rose.

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Organisers Bruce Kenworthy and Chris Adamson, both local lads and proud of their local show that once attracted as many as 8,000 have a much more modest aim at present.

Todmorden Show was last held in 2015

Bruce said it is a case of a gradual rebuilding of the show that this year, as last year at another different venue, will be all about sheep classes.

“We are starting out again. We are calling it Todmorden Agricultural Society presents a Sheep Show rather than misinforming people by calling it Todmorden Show that people might then expect being back as it was before.

“It’s going to be held on Sunday, June 12.

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“We ran the first one last year and it was a real success among the sheep farming community and the general public.

“We wanted to keep our regular exhibitors who have always taken part and keep the agricultural community connected to the show. This area is a bit like small upper dales shows in Swaledale where they just have Swaledale sheep.

“For us this is the epicentre of our local breeds the Grits (Derbyshire Gritstones) and Lonks.

“It was a real buzz last year because with it being a much smaller show those breeds became really high profile to a new audience.

“There is a lot of interest in farming and particularly sheep right now and the public is really interested in becoming more aware of breeds and their significance.

“We believe that putting on a Sheep Show and now also having a new site that we are hoping will become our long-term home it will allow us to build a proper base again and include more classes.”

The new home of what Bruce, Chris and the rest of the Todmorden Agricultural Society hope will revive a full show in the future is the Riverside Centre at Walsden.

Chris said they would love to see the return of classes for animals such as goats, poultry and rabbits along with trade stands and other activities for families.

They would also like to see cattle classes once again if there was sufficient staffing and infrastructure, but that costs would be monitored closely.

“We are still in talks with the other sections of the society, but our first aim is to see how this year’s sheep show works here. We have classes for Grits, Lonks, Dorsets, Kerry Hills and other breeds, plus a young handlers class.

“One thing we are not going to do is overcommit ourselves. We need to build the show back up in stages knowing that we have people who can look after each section when we begin adding to the show.

“At the moment we have little in the way of cost in putting on the sheep show because we already have the hurdles and last year it went really well. Nobody had been out at a show for nearly two years and everyone came, enjoyed the day, had a good old natter, a beer or two and went home.

“But the response we received afterwards from the public who came was in some ways better than when we had held the sheep classes at Centre Vale, because the spotlight was just on the sheep.

“I think it allowed more people to ask questions about the breeds and those who are showing love to talk about their sheep.”

Bruce, who took part in Todmorden Show from being around eight years old when he showed bantams in the poultry classes, had been involved in stewarding for many years.

He said the rebuilding of the show isn’t simply about taking kit to a new showfield, setting up and charging entry fees.

“We’re trying to get a show model of finding funds mainly through sponsorship from local businesses whether they have an agricultural leaning or not.

“As it stands, at the moment we don’t have the numbers of people to stand at a gate and take money or direct for car parking. Last year we just left it to the public’s own minds as to whether they wanted to donate to the society and many did. It’s the same this year.

“We are thinking differently and we will start looking at what else we can add, but our first base is to get this year’s show on successfully and we are looking forward to putting on the sheep show at the Riverside at Walsden.”

Todmorden Town Deal is sponsor for the Riverside Centre. Board member Stephen Curry said they are delighted to be part of Todmorden Agricultural Society’s revival of Todmorden Show.

“We are about to invest over £1m of the Towns Fund to develop the site for inclusive community multi-use recreation, leisure and sports activities.

“The sheep show is an early opportunity for the Riverside Centre to work with the farming community. We think they are just as important a part of Todmorden’s rich culture and heritage as any other sector we are engaging with.”

Bruce said the revival of Todmorden Show might take some time but that the new showground and the second sheep show were steps in the right direction.

“It’s important to keep the Grits and Lonks going and telling the story behind why they are here – and we now have the bonus of a showground that has little chance of flooding.”