As Great Yorkshire Show evolves, it must stay true to its roots - Sarah Todd

Next week’s Great Yorkshire Show is the biggest and best event of its type in the country.

Its pulling power – yet again it is to have a Royal visitor – is something to be hugely proud of. Who would have thought during the darkest days of the Covid-19 pandemic that this showcase of all things farming, food and countryside would emerge stronger than ever as a four-day event from its traditional three? As if the 35,000 visitors a day weren’t impressive enough, there is a national television audience of over three million viewers expected to tune in to a special series from the Harrogate showground on Channel 5.

Yet, there is some part of this correspondent – and it seems almost churlish to express it – that would like to press pause.

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The Great Yorkshire Show takes place in the region this coming week.The Great Yorkshire Show takes place in the region this coming week.
The Great Yorkshire Show takes place in the region this coming week.

The Husband says never mind pressing pause, he would like to hit a rewind button. More specifically back to the 1970s when he would be picked up from the school gates the second the bell rang and be on the showground by 4pm.

“There were loads of local children straight from school and people who couldn’t get the whole day off work but could manage to leave a couple of hours early for a look around the show,” he reminisces while rubbing his rose-tinted spectacles.

“Lots of people were on haymaking during Yorkshire Show week, so they wouldn’t know which day they would be going to the show – it would all be decided last minute depending on the weather.”

Farming is ruled by the elements and by events beyond control, like a difficult calving or somebody not turning up to milk. While there is doubtless very sensible reasons behind the advance ticket sales only policy (pretty much a complete sell-out at the time of writing); the fact that some – those not on their mobile phones getting Facebook updates about pre-ordering tickets – will have missed out seems a shame.

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There were a few things about Bramham Horse Trials, such as the lack of a proper printed programme and cashless payments that ruffled this writer’s feathers this year.

However, the equestrian event’s initiative of offering free admission from 4pm on the Friday for late night shopping is genius.

It gladdens the heart to see schoolchildren teaming in, along with others straight from work.

Perhaps this is something,

an on-the-gate entry for latecomers, that could be looked into…

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Nothing could live up to rider Ben Atkinson’s display of horsemanship and romantic proposal to his girlfriend in the main ring at last year’s show. Taking the star spot in 2022 is the less high-octane, but definitely rural, offering of sheep dog trials. Competitors from the UK’s four home nations will take to the hallowed turf of the main ring to pit their skills against each other.

It’s good to see there is still top-level showjumping and sporting soprano Lizzie Jones’s daily performances in the main ring never fail to bring spine-tingling gravitas, as does the traditional military band.

Controversially, the main ring parade of hounds will not take place at this year’s show. The move, which the Telegraph reported as the result of pressure from animal rights activists, has angered many country people. Looking back at old newspaper cuttings the parade always used to be photographed as one of the visual highlights of the show.

Anyway, celebrity is what we are all supposed to be interested in these days.

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The former fashion show building (which always makes me think of my late grandmother who loved watching the catwalk shows) has been transformed into the brand new GYS Stage. From here, television presenter Christine Talbot will host a chat show with a different farming celebrity each day including Countryfile presenter Adam Henson (Tuesday), JB Gill from boy band JLS (Wednesday), TV host Matt Baker (Thursday) Yorkshire Shepherdess Amanda Owen (Friday) and Peter Wright of The Yorkshire Vet (every day at 1.30).

The Princess Royal is set to visit this year’s show, the 163rd , on Tuesday – the first of the four days – in her capacity as patron of the Shorthorn cattle societies. Two hundred Shorthorn cattle are coming to the showground to mark 200 years of the breed.

The Princess Royal runs her Gatcombe Park estate in Gloucestershire as very much a working farm. Apparently, her Range Rover is full of the odds and ends all farmers carry around “just in case”. If she sees a gap in the fence she’ll jump out with a hammer and nails to repair it.

The Great Yorkshire Show is in a great state of repair, a credit to all involved, but to continue the analogy let’s keep it good solid wooden post-and-rail or rustic stone wall rather than anything too trendy.

Sarah Todd is a farmer’s daughter and former editor of Yorkshire Life magazine.