AFTER MORE than a decade of planning, fundraising and decision-making, Driffield Showground has finally got the events venue that has long been dreamed of.
The Rix Pavilion was opened this week and saw the culmination of years of hard work and dedication by the show staff, local businesses and the society members.
The idea of an events venue on the site had been discussed for years, but it was Mitch Kirkwood, in her role as Driffield Agricultural Society president in 2004, who started the ball rolling with a donation towards the new building. Since then it’s been a bumpy road. The committee shelved initial plans for a £2 million futuristic eco-building.
David Tite, the Society’s chief executive, said: “We started on plans for this current building two years ago after we realised that, due to financial constraints and the global economic crisis, the other building was not going to happen.”
The new pavilion is on the site of the former farmer’s market building.
Mr Tite explained: “We stripped the building back to its shell and extended it to the North and East, adding a foyer at the front.
“The actual infrastructure on the showground is aged. The key building before this was the members’ building, which is a 100-year-old Nissan hut.
“The new pavilion will enable us to hold weddings, conferences, meetings and dinner dances. We have 77 acres of open grassland which makes a lovely setting for any venue and the new Rix Pavilion is fully licensed for marriages and civil partnerships.”
The pavilion’s main hall can seat 350 guests for a dinner dance or a 750 theatre audience. It can be partitioned off into smaller rooms and has a fully serviced kitchen, toilets and parking for more than 1,000 vehicles.
The building project cost around £400,000. A fifth of the funds came from grants; the rest from charitable trusts and local businesses; and additional income from the sale of more than 100 new lifetime memberships of the Society.
The National Farmers’ Union also provided an interest-free loan and local business Rix petroleum came forward as the main business sponsor.
Mr Tite said: “The loan is on a minimal payment scheme for the first six years, by which time the building should be generating enough income to more than cover the repayments.
“Rix have been fantastic as they stepped forward just when we needed a big company to say they supported us. East Riding Council has also supported us from the word go.
“The idea of the pavilion is that it will generate income and create revenue which we can then pile back into our charitable activities. We would love to hold an education day for local schoolchildren but at the moment we don’t have the funding for that.”
Funding constraints meant the pressure was on to finish the pavilion by the end of March and this matched with the diary of the Countess of Wessex, who was due to open the building this week. But an electrical fault with the Countess’ helicopter scuppered her appearance, so Susan Cunliffe-Lister, the Lord-Lieutenant of the East Riding, performed the honour instead.
The unfortunate no-show was not the only hitch, as Mr Tite explained: “About six weeks ago we did a calculation that it would cost around £14,000 to decorate the whole building, money we just didn’t have.”
Left with little option, Mr Tite rolled up his sleeves and got painting: “We had lots of helpers, including members of staff and the society along with my friends and family who all came along to paint.”
The Society’s chief executive built some parts of the pavilion himself to help keep costs down, including temporary staging, a backdrop for the stage and vanity units in the toilets.
He added: “Everyone was very positive and excited about the new venue (at the opening event). It marks a positive future for the Society as a whole.”