Game Fair cancellation will cost rural business millions

Today’s announcement that the CLA Game Fair at Belvoir Castle is the latest casualty in this disastrously wet summer is a serious blow to small rural businesses.

Some 900 companies, from estate agents to gunsmiths, sporting agents and artists to purveyors of clothing, fishing tackle and fudge, had booked space for the Game Fair, due to be held next weekend (July 20-22), but the organisers, facing a desperate struggle against the elements, made the ‘heartbreaking’ decision to cancel as yet more rain is forecast.

The knock-on effect on local pubs, b & bs and contractors in rural Lincolnshire is likely to run into millions. When Badminton Horse Trials was cancelled in May, it was thought to have cost £8-10 million in local revenue. Many businesses depend on the Game Fair and will now struggle to survive – when Harewood was cancelled in 2007, the overall loss was estimated at £50 million.

Helen Woolley, CLA director-general, said: ‘The construction team worked tirelessly, battling the elements from dawn to dusk. They have really gone the extra mile but, sadly, you can’t always buck the weather and, with the exceptionally high level of rain, it has proved impossible to build the event and to run it safely.’

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All over Britain, outdoor opera, theatre and concerts, such as the blockbuster Kylie Minogue-Jason Donovan reunion in Hyde Park, are all suffering, but the worst-hit events are country shows, in particular equestrian events.

Badminton’s cancellation was followed by that of Chatsworth Horse Trials and, scheduled for this weekend, the Festival of British Eventing at Gatcombe Park. British Eventing has lost 70 days this season and numerous point-to-points, a major source of revenue to hunts, have been cancelled.

The Great Yorkshire Show was cancelled, after day one, for the first time in its 154-year history, and the Scottish Game Fair and Suffolk County Show were also curtailed, and the semi-finals of the Veuve Cliquot Gold Cup polo at Cowdray had to be relocated.

Lincolnshire – and numerous equestrian, country clothing and gift businesses – will now be pinning their hopes on the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials (August 30-September 2). Surely it will have stopped raining by then.

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