Celebrating our county
PUBLISHED: 12:00 21 September 2015
Andy Davison Photography
The importance of the agricultural show is underlined by Greg Smith, chief executive of the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association.
The county of Norfolk has much to celebrate – beautiful countryside, bountiful farming, successful businesses, exhilarating coastline and culturally vibrant centres.
The recently held Royal Norfolk Show reflects all these aspects in one event, showcasing them and providing the annual opportunity to recognise the very best of Norfolk in a single space.
Now the dust has settled on the 2015 Royal Norfolk Show, Greg Smith, chief executive of the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association (RNAA), reflects on this year’s show: “The agricultural show makes an invaluable contribution to the region as an annual celebration of the very best of Norfolk. It’s also a shop window for a wide range of businesses and organisations and for exhibitors, participants and visitors it’s a highlight of the annual calendar.”
The Royal Norfolk Show is the glue that unites agricultural and business communities. It showcases our heritage, celebrates food, farming and the countryside, inspires and influences the next generation and represents Norfolk, its people and places. There is nothing quite like the Royal Norfolk Show and while the character and feel of today’s show is different from its very first, it still retains its core purpose.
The origins of the agricultural show date back to the 18th century when farmers met at sheep shearings for a specific purpose. These gatherings offered the opportunity to exchange improvements and knowledge and ultimately for prizes to be given to the very best. Holkham Hall, home to the great agriculturalist Coke of Norfolk, was one of the forerunners of today’s agricultural show. As the business of farming became more scientific, clubs and societies were formed by landowners and farmers to encourage agricultural improvement, leading to the formation of the RNAA in 1847. As well as the usual prizes for livestock, long service awards for workers and prizes for the best inventions were also awarded.
Fast forward to today and we find that, while many of these traditions remain, there is also much more to the show as it seeks to inform, influence, inspire and, of course, entertain its visitors.
This year’s Royal Norfolk Show was the 153rd and yet again it was a success with around 80,000 visitors over the two days, bringing people together not just from within the county, but also nationally and overseas. Education received renewed emphasis at this year’s show.
With an enlarged Discovery Zone, plus a host of other educational experiences, it welcomed 10,000 schoolchildren with hands-on learning opportunities spanning science, technology, maths and the arts.
The two days of the show provided the region’s largest shop-window and the perfect location for local and national businesses to promote themselves, network, and, importantly, sell. More than £2m is spent by visitors at the show each year, before taking into account the major sales of machinery, vehicles and other services that take place. The show’s economic impact is far-reaching.
Innovation also received a new emphasis in 2015 with the launch of The Innovation Zone. Bringing together science, engineering and technology under “one roof”, the zone showcased the very latest developments that are helping farmers of today (and tomorrow) overcome the challenges of the modern world.
Food and drink, flowers and gardens, showjumping, equine competitions, marching bands and a wide range of vintage and modern machinery all added to the spectacle and enjoyment for the showgoer.
Greg adds: “Norfolk’s farmland is at the heart of our cultural identity so in our largely rural county, where farming makes such a significant contribution, it is a dangerous thing to become complacent about the value of the agri-food economy. Today, while attitudes to British farming and farmers are largely positive, there is still a need to reconnect with the consumer. Gaining their support and understanding is therefore at the heart of what we do.
“We also believe that the success of our show lies in its wide appeal. This is essential, as blending agriculture with the wider interests of learning and celebration are key ingredients of the show.”.