Agony for organisers as country show calendar disintegrates

Across Yorkshire, the organisers of the agricultural shows that help connect the country community with the wider population, are agonising over how long they can wait before pulling the plug.

The Great Yorkshire Show in 2019

“We felt we had no choice but to cancel this year’s event, said Claudia Beutelspacher, secretary of the event at Otley – traditionally the first in the annual calendar.

“That was only a week ago, when there was still a choice to be made. A few days later it would have been out of our hands anyway.”

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The Wharfedale Agricultural Society depends on the income from the show, which was to have been held in three weeks’ time. The timing of the cancellation – the first since the Foot and Mouth outbreak of 2001 – meant it was too late to withdraw from contracts with suppliers, yet it recognises that some members and exhibitors will need refunds.

“We’ve got long-standing relationships with people that we want to maintain, and we are coming to some compromises – but it’s a financial blow because obviously money has been spent that we can’t get back,” Ms Beutelspacher said.

“We’re a charitable organisation – we don’t aim to make a profit and if we do, the money goes into our reserves. It only takes one bad show – a cancellation or a washout – to wipe out years of reserves.”

She added: “The shows worst affected will be those that are already depleted by a year or two of bad weather.”

July’s Great Yorkshire Show has already fallen victim, but at Kilnsey in Upper Wharfedale, one of the last big events of the year, chairman Chris Windle said arrangements were in limbo.

“We’re holding off sending out judging invites and schedules, and we’ve suspended any further applications for trade stands,” he said. “We’ve had a couple of good years when we were blessed by good weather, so we’ve built up some reserves – and fortunately we haven’t committed ourselves to a lot of expenditure yet.”