How Yorkshire's agricultural shows attract millions of pounds and incredible numbers of visitors to region

The Yorkshire Post explores the impact of the region's agricultural shows on the local economy.
The Yorkshire Post explores the impact of the region's agricultural shows on the local economy.
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Agricultural shows are a mainstay of Yorkshire’s blossoming outdoors events calendar but while rural folk and curious urban dwellers have enjoyed them for more than 200 years, their combined value to the region’s economy has never been calculated.

Yorkshire's Greatest Show: Visit our interactive website for an in-depth report on the value of Yorkshire's agricultural shows
With six million people visiting such events nationally, though, it’s unlikely to be a modest contribution.

Suzy Lawson, with her partner Wayne Stead and son Elijah Stead at the Otley Show 2019.

Suzy Lawson, with her partner Wayne Stead and son Elijah Stead at the Otley Show 2019.

But with major efforts to modernise shows through new technology, it is thought a more accurate picture of the economic worth of agricultural shows could be better calculated in future.

What’s more, a new breed of organisers keen to promote their shows through E-tickets, social media and broader family attractions in a break with tradition see agricultural shows as the optimal way of educating the wider public about country life.

Mark Stoddart is chairman of the Association of Show and Agricultural Organisations, secretary and treasurer of the Yorkshire Federation of Show Societies, and financial controller at the Yorkshire Agricultural Society, which organises the Great Yorkshire Show in Harrogate.

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Speaking about the impact of the more than 60 agricultural shows in the region on the Yorkshire economy, he said: “They are providing quite substantial amounts of money into the communities.

The Great Yorkshire Show.

The Great Yorkshire Show.

“When you are talking about economic impact, it’s people staying in hotels and people just shopping using local shops. That’s where the economic impact comes into it.

“Most of Otley [which has just held its show] would have been sold out at the weekend, putting up judges and stewards.”

He added: “It would be helpful to look [at the economic impact] for all sorts of reasons, but exactly how it would be reached and calculated I’m not sure.”

Annual report

Leo Williams from Bramley at the Otley Show 2019.

Leo Williams from Bramley at the Otley Show 2019.

An annual report shows that the Yorkshire Agricultural Society - which puts on the Great Yorkshire Show, Countryside Live and Springtime Live - earned £4,060,227 income from agricultural shows alone in 2018.

Yorkshire's Greatest Show: Visit our interactive website for an in-depth report on the value of Yorkshire's agricultural shows
Garry Norton, chairman of Wharfedale Agricultural Society which organises Otley Show, thinks that calculating the value of such events to Yorkshire would be easier if organisers knew the exact numbers of those that attend, which is not always the case.

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A move to E-ticket booking could provide more solid data, he said, though he declares that he works for a Hull-based company which provides them.

He added: “Unless we go through a laborious process of collecting tickets and stubs, we’ve got no idea how many people come through the gate. Once everything’s done electronically, the information is there.

“If we have so many members, we don’t know how many of those members turn up at the show every year.”

Changing technology

E-ticket use is one aspect of attempts to modernise agricultural shows for a new generation.

Mr Norton said: “It’s what people want. They want to be able to access these shows through their media. That’s where the kids are going to read about it.

“Using modern media and modern technology, booking systems, is one way of getting to the younger ones. They expect it.”

Some can be resistant to change, though.

Yorkshire's Greatest Show: Visit our interactive website for an in-depth report on the value of Yorkshire's agricultural shows
“When I’m working with other shows up and down the country, some are very negative about it,” he said.

“‘Oh we don’t want that sort of thing here, we have always sold our tickets at the corner shop down the road and we will carry on doing so’.”

But modernising is the best way to educate people about country life at a time when families are leaving rural areas.

He said: “I don’t come from a farming background, which is slightly unusual for a show chairman. I came into it because my daughter liked horses when she was eight.

“I’m quite passionate about trying to get non-farming people, non-country people and young people into this through events so we can educate them into country life.”

Family days out

He suspects that over 50 per cent of people attending shows are simply families on a day out.

“Once we get them are then we can educate them about the rural economy. We have to get them through the gate in the first place,” he added.

“I’m not ashamed of the fact that we have the Atkinson Action Horses and motorbikes if that’s what it takes to get people in.”

Mr Stoddart also prizes the social aspect of the shows.

“As much as money is a lovely thing, we’ve to gee up the social side of things, the sharing of best practice.”

David Tite, chief executive of Driffield Agricultural Society, organisers of Driffield Show, added: “You hear all the time about social inclusion and the situation where there is depression in farming and in rural Britain there is suicide rates.

“This is all about getting people together.”