Great Yorkshire Show director warns of need to protect agricultural shows as tickets go on sale for 161st event

Agricultural shows are the best way for farmers to connect with the public, despite the rise of social media, and the industry cannot afford to lose them, according to the show director of the Yorkshire Agricultural Society.

Tickets are now on sale for the 161st Great Yorkshire Show in Harrogate this July and at a launch event on Southfield Farm in Drighlington near Bradford, show director Charles Mills said annual countryside shows remain the best environment for farmers to engage with the public.

Charles Mills, show director at the Yorkshire Agricultural Society, watches on as sporting soprano Lizzie Jones poses with Longhorn on the Blockley family's farm in Drighlington, near Bradford, at the launch of the 161st Great Yorkshire Show. Picture by Tony Johnson.

Charles Mills, show director at the Yorkshire Agricultural Society, watches on as sporting soprano Lizzie Jones poses with Longhorn on the Blockley family's farm in Drighlington, near Bradford, at the launch of the 161st Great Yorkshire Show. Picture by Tony Johnson.

His comments follow recent warnings by officials of one-day shows in the Yorkshire Dales, who said they feared an exodus of younger generations from small rural communities could affect their events in the future.

Mr Mills, who farms near York, said: “It has become increasingly difficult to get people to steward, even at the Great Yorkshire, but these local shows are the lifeblood and centre of the area for that day. If they disappear it won’t just affect people who live and work there, it is the connection with the public that will be lost.”

Social media has opened up channels of direct communication between farms and the public, but it has also provided a platform for misinformation about British farming to circulate.

Mr Mills said nothing can rival show season for engagement between those working in the industry and those on the outside.

The show director added: “I encourage any exhibitor at the Great Yorkshire Show to explain what their stock is about. It’s a totally safe environment for farmers to meet the public and we mustn’t miss the opportunity to offer those explanations.”

Among hundreds of exhibitors at the three-day show – on Tuesday, July 9 to Thursday, July 11 – will be farmers Angela and David Blockley, who hosted the ticket launch earlier today.

The couple have been exhibiting their Longhorns at the Great Yorkshire Show since 1994, winning 11 beef breed championships to date. They are set to compete in the Longhorn Cattle Society’s National Show, which will be held at the Great Yorkshire Show for the first time in the event’s history this summer.

Founded in 1878, the Longhorn is among England’s oldest native breeds. Its origins are disputed, with the breed claimed to have been started in North Yorkshire’s Craven district.

Mrs Blockley, who runs 60 Longhorns with her husband on their 75-acre farm, said exhibiting at the Great Yorkshire Show is hard to beat.

“The amount of people round the rings is a little daunting. We go to other shows and it’s not the same,” she said. “To win there, it’s fantastic, unbelievable.”

She added that it was an honour to host the ticket launch, welcoming it as a chance to promote the Longhorn breed.

Other prestigious cattle contests at this year’s Great Yorkshire Show include the UK Beef Shorthorn Championships and the National Charolais Show.

SOPRANO’S RETURN

Yorkshire sporting soprano Lizzie Jones will return to the Great Yorkshire Show to perform in the main ring, the Yorkshire Agricultural Society has confirmed.

The Halifax vocalist made her show debut last summer, becoming the first singer to take centre stage at the event since it was first held in 1838.

“It was absolutely amazing... such a privilege,” she said of her 2018 appearance. “The show itself is wonderful. I was just in awe of the animals and the production of it, and how there was so much of it to offer to people. I’m used to stepping out onto a pitch but it felt epic. It is a soprano singer’s dream.”

Mrs Jones will perform on each day of the 2019 show. Her song list has been decided but remains a secret ahead of the event. Asked what visitors can expect, she said: “Some big songs, with the military band but also just me.

“I can’t give too much away, but (it will be) bigger and better.”