Show team planning to weather any storm

David Tite, chief executive of Driffield Agricultural Society
David Tite, chief executive of Driffield Agricultural Society
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It’s England’s biggest one day agricultural show. Now Driffield Show’s boss is hoping to expand, if it can find the cash. Chris Berry reports.

Sunshine or at the very least fair weather had seemingly been such a guarantee at Driffield Show that when the inclement days eventually came it was a huge shock to the system for everyone. The rain also proved to be something of a watershed time for the Driffield Agricultural Society’s plans for its future.

Like many other agricultural societies Driffield is not awash with cash. It ploughs back its resources into its charitable remit of educating children and the public about agriculture and food. So when harsh weather took its toll on the show in both 2011 and 2012 it brought about a rethink of where the society was heading and refocused its attention on making better use of its facilities all-year-round on the 77-acre site.

Lofty plans had been drawn up and were on display for all to see at Driffield Show in 2009 when the society’s blue sky thinking had centred around providing an eco-friendly, straw-bale-built and insulated structure that would have been funded largely through sizeable grants.

Plaudits gathered and no doubt Kevin McCloud of TV’s Grand Designs would have been lurking in the shadows scratching his head in wonderment at a roof that was to be made of grass, but the straw building idea was blown away when Yorkshire Forward also met a similar fate.

This week Driffield Agricultural Society has launched a promotional campaign to raise the £360,000 it needs to invest in a new events centre building and toilets and shower block on the showground for its other outdoor events. David Tite, the society’s chief executive, is the man charged with the task of bringing the new concepts to reality and the clock is already ticking rapidly on the time he has to reach his target.

“At the moment we have a £50,000 grant in place from the Humber LEP but in order to receive that cash we need to have raised the overall figure by December 15.

“It’s a challenge but we’re already at £146,000 in the pot. This is the time when we really need all agricultural and local businesses to get behind us as well as anyone and everyone else who has an interest in Driffield and this area’s prosperity. What we are trying to do is to safeguard the future of the society by making the site more attractive for event hire and to do that we need to improve the facilities we offer to become more of an all-year-round venue. But whatever we do here will also have a beneficial impact on Driffield and the other local villages so we believe support is thoroughly justified.

“Up until 2011 we had bathed in the luxury of having had 35 years since the last time heavy rain fell on show day. The saying went that the sun always shone on Driffield but it isn’t any kind of business plan that relies upon the weather to see you through. Most societies will have cash reserves in case of an odd wet year but to get two in a row and four months of flooding is always going to cause problems, especially when you’re talking of a show the size of ours, the largest one-day agricultural show in the country. It costs £250,000 just to stage the show and that doesn’t include staffing.

“Fortunately we rely heavily on volunteers but there are still bills to be paid.”

The Driffield Showground has always hosted events 
from steam fairs to motor shows.

A new company Driffield Showground Events was set up 18 months ago to capitalise even further on the site’s acreage.

This year the showground has hosted a game fair, motor shows and a wedding fair amongst its 95 events, but the new event centre will add a great deal more power to their elbow. First though they must raise the cash.

If you would like to know more about sponsorship of the new building and taking up life membership contact 01377 257494.