The demise of the Royal Show – the premier farming event in the British calendar – has provided a glimmer of recognition in the national press for the plight of British agriculture. The countryside remains just as affected by the economic downturn as any city business or bank, despite the fact little notice is being paid at the moment to this issue in the national press.
The reason the organisers have cited for putting an end to the event is that the Show is no longer economically viable, despite its 170 year history. Chairman of trustees, Hugh Oliver-Bellasis wrote in a letter to members that with ‘the Foot and Mouth disaster in 2001 closely followed by very bad weather two years ago and Blue Tongue last year, the event has struggled – both financially and in its ability to attract both farming and non-farming visitors…today’s dire worldwide economic crisis is an added challenge.’
In response to all of this, both the agricultural show format and farming itself must continue to change with the times in order to survive. British farming looks increasingly likely to join rural post-offices, buses and pubs in their struggle for survival.
‘We don’t want people to dwell on the demise of the Royal Show, but focus on the innovative events that the Royal Agricultlural Society of England (RASE) will deliver in 2010 and beyond,’ added Hugh Oliver-Bellasis. ‘We want them to see this moment as a watershed; the beginning of feeling re-engaged with a society that not only listens, but also hears the call of its audience.’
Now is the time to rally behind our rural industries like never before, let us answer this call to arms while we still have the chance. The Royal Show will give its’ final swansong this year; British farming must not sing the same tune.
This year’s Royal Show is held at Stoneleigh, Warwickshire from 7-10 July. See www.rase.co.uk