Thursday, 9 July 2009

The Last Great Show On Earth (or reasons why it is the last Royal Show ever)

Well in a few minutes I'll be on the road heading for the last Royal Show ever - bit of an historical moment I suppose, a bit sad. Maybe it's been on the cards for years. Farming is a sideline and no longer as important as it once was - but should we really have given up on the Royal? Should we really give up and give in at a time when our rural and urban societies are still so divided? Surely shows such as this are important to bring these two disparate tribes together. And where better than at The Royal, which brings together all the best from the whole country?
I don't know.
I haven't been to The Royal in 20 years - the last time I had just finished at Seale Hayne Agricultural College and got wildly drunk and landed up asking anyone who was anyone to: "Gi'e us a job".
I got taken on by Farming News but to this day believe it was really all down to the fact I was wearing a very tight white T-shirt and my more obvious attributes sealed the deal rather than my scholarly mien.
I wonder how it has changed....the Show, folks not my attributes: they remain the same (or at least that is what Dear Charlie says!)
Some time later - actually the next day...
I can understand why it's the last one. Not because it is not a great day out, it was and anyone who is within an hour or so do go because you will be so welcomed and it will be such fun.
I spoke to loads of people there from livestock folk, trade stands and retailers, from the guys picking up the litter to the punters walking around - there are lots of reasons why they think it's the last one but probably the most telling thing I saw was the Flower Tent.
Twenty years ago you had to pay extra to go in and when you did it was like walking into a sultry Eden, heavy with the perfume thousands of exotic blooms. At every turn there were simply stunning flower creations, sculptures and concoctions in every hue imaginable and plenty that defied description. I used to be so jealous of all that talent as however much I try I just cannot make flowers do anything but die in a vase.
Now when I walked in it felt half empty, lack lustre and the grass underfoot had not even been mown. It was full of weeds ready to trip you up. At one end there was a table where a florist was preparing to demonstrate the art of flower arranging to a few desultory show goers.
There were some lovely displays but no care had been taken in their placing, there was no drama, no anticipation and to be frank one felt that well - they had given up. Perhaps this really was Eden but after Eve had eaten of the apple.
Down the cattle lines and in among the pigs and sheep there was a much livelier atmosphere but also a kind of desperation; I felt that everyone was looking for that last rosette confirmation that they had been there, when something great had died.
Somewhere along the line something went badly wrong at The Royal Show for I can tell you other shows I attend are jumpin' The Royal Welsh, The Suffolk and The Great Yorkshire Show seem, at least to me the mere punter, to be packed out and thriving.
Yesterday I asked what had heralded The Royal's demise and these were tha answers I got:
Too much emphasis on the corporates
So busy chasing down sponsorship that the fundamentals were forgotten
Letting a management company in who alienated the smaller trade folk
Lack of care for the details
Cutting corners on hospitality
In essence failing to care for the members, their wants and needs and letting greed get in the way. But there again haven't we all been doing that?

PS. If you are still waiting for my report have a look at The Best of British Mummy Blogger Carnival over at


mountainear said...

A bit poignant I think - I went to the first show at Stoneleigh and my father had a classroom on the show ground which he used all year round, so it has a lot of memories for me. Having said that I've not been now for nearly 30 years....

menopausaloldbag (MOB) said...

It's always sad when an institution comes to an end but from what I can see, many other events have taken the participants elsewhere. Some things just reach a natural end. Hope you enjoyed your day.

@themill said...

The original purpose was to showcase all things new and developing in British Agriculture. It was where you went if you wanted to know about new seed varieties, the latest piece of state of the art equipment and the changing trend in cattle breeding. In the rush to, quite rightly, include the non agricultural community, the organisers lost sight of the fact that their core business was agriculture. The trade stands became too expensive so the dealers set up rival events hence the arrival of The Cereals Event, The Beef Event etc. Twenty five years ago we would go for three days, it took that long to see the whole thing, during which time The Farmer would have seen every bit of new kit on the market, every smart bull and would return home able to make an informed decision as to the future of his industry and his particular part in it. The last time he went was 2002 when it was nothing but equine and defra stands and of the ten priorities listed by defra, food production was number six on the list. He has refused to go again ever since. I went on Tuesday, for old times sake, and just found the whole thing incredibly sad.
Whereas The Royal Highland - now there is a show......

Sorry, this has turned into a bit of a rant

Tattie Weasle said...

Mountainear: It is poignant and well sad but I am gald I went!
MOB: I think you are right that some things reach there natural end however I feel this one was hastened through bad management and not looking out for what the RASE (Royal Agricultural Society of England) members wanted.
@themill: You have not ranted but put more consicely exactly what has gone on there. The balance between the reasons for the show in the first place i.e showcasing the latest agricultural decvelopments etc and the opportunity to educate the urban population in all things agriculture and have a fun day out have been wildly mismatched. As with most things at present we need to go back to basics and rebuild but few have the guts to do so - would that those in charge had actually listened to their members!

Preseli Mags said...

I used to go to the Royal Show on every day each year when my father's company had a stand there. It's so sad to hear that this will be the last one and that it's looking so lacklustre. Not so the Royal Welsh which is going from strength to strength, but I still have such fond memories of the Royal.

Lanny said...

Mmmmm we have a few "agricutural fairs" succumbing to the same demise for similar reasons.

Tattie Weasle said...

Preseli Mags - So glad the Royal Welsh is going from strength to strength. It has a wild reputation as a great place for the younger farmers as wekll as those of more mature years etc maybe that's why it does so well!
Lanny - it's such a shame when such an established agricultural show goes into decline. The Royal Show was the show of shows in the UK so it's ending really is the end of an era.

disa said...


Go on you know you want to...


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