Great Yorkshire Show goes global as more than 40 countries tune in for virtual event

A global audience tuned in to watch the first ever Great Yorkshire Virtual Show unfold this week, with the three-day tribute to England’s premier agricultural show attracting viewers from more than 40 countries.
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Over 130,000 people would have flocked to the Yorkshire Agricultural Society’s Great Yorkshire Showground in Harrogate for the real Great Yorkshire Show this week, but instead the annual flagship event went online to celebrate farming, food and the countryside in a different way.

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Supporters of the Great Yorkshire Show embraced its digital incarnation, as people of all ages and from as far away as Japan and New Zealand went online for their show fix.

Ben Atkinson, stunt rider for Atkinson Action Horses.Ben Atkinson, stunt rider for Atkinson Action Horses.
Ben Atkinson, stunt rider for Atkinson Action Horses.

Hundreds of schoolchildren usually attend the Show but instead some schools chose to broadcast the virtual event to pupils in classrooms, including at Chorley St James' Church of England Primary School in Chorley, Lancashire.

In total, more than 60 show supporters, from farmers to food businesses and rural craftspeople, contributed their own video footage to create a real, raw and unique experience.

During a packed three-day programme, from Tuesday, July 14 – Thursday, July 16, viewers were taken into the Yorkshire countryside virtually to see how livestock and crops are farmed, as well as going behind the scenes at rural workplaces to take a look at the arts of horse shoeing, sheep shearing, cheesemaking and much more.

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Headline acts included East Yorkshire-based Atkinson Action Horses, whose stunt rider Ben Atkinson filmed a battle stunts training session with one of his horses, while the stars of The Yorkshire Vet TV show, Peter Wright and Julian Norton featured on video to answer questions from the public.

Show Director Charles Mills.Show Director Charles Mills.
Show Director Charles Mills.

TV chef Rosemary Shrager and top Yorkshire Chef Consultant Stephanie Moon braved Zoom for a raw and frenetic barbecue style cook off using some of the finest Yorkshire ingredients from Fodder farm shop at the Great Yorkshire Showground. Harrogate’s Stephanie Moon was later declared the winner in a public vote.

There was a showcase of entries received for the Great Yorkshire Show’s School Vegetable Box Competition, which challenges children to grow plants and learn about where food comes from. Pupils at Diamond Wood Community Academy in Dewsbury were chosen as this year’s winners.

On the final day, a masterful performance was given live on Facebook by sporting soprano Lizzie Jones, who was due to sing in the show’s Main Ring. Her performance was viewed more than 2,200 times within 30 minutes of going live.

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Charles Mills, farmer and Show Director of the Great Yorkshire Show, said: “I am absolutely delighted by, and grateful for the support for our first ever virtual show.

“While it was always clear that we could not replicate the Great Yorkshire Show as everyone knows and loves, I hope that everyone who tuned in found something to smile about, something that entertained them and hopefully they learned something new about farming, food and the countryside.”

“We are incredibly proud of how supporters of the Show of all ages and from across the county went to such great efforts to help us celebrate the Show. Their contributions allowed us to seize the stage normally afforded to us by show week to shine the spotlight on so many aspects of agriculture and food production.

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“One important thing I do hope the virtual show has achieved is to have helped lift people’s spirits during what has been a tough time. I’m now looking forward to next year when we look forward to welcoming everybody back to the Great Yorkshire Show.”

The final day of the Show opened with a thank you message to farmers and farm retailers who have contributed to the Yorkshire Agricultural Society’s Farm To Fork social media campaign. The ongoing campaign has championed the role of local food and drink producers during the coronavirus pandemic.

In an exclusive video address, Defra Secretary of State George Eustice told of his hopes for a greater appreciation of farming as a result of the health crisis which has stopped events such as the Great Yorkshire Show from going ahead this year.

Mr Eustice said: “As we come out of this virus, I think there will be an increased appreciation of the importance of food production in this country and the value of our key workers working in the food sector.”

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A message was also given to farmers from the President of the National Farmers Union, Minette Batters, who said it was “such an important time for British agriculture”.

Looking ahead to the nation’s future outside of the European Union, Ms Batters said: “There has probably been no more important a time to build the British brand to make sure that you, our farmers and growers, stay the number one supplier of food to retail, for out-of-home and for export.”

The Great Yorkshire Show ordinarily provides England’s premier showcase of the very best livestock from across the UK, offering an important shop window for farmers who rear animals to some of the highest welfare and production standards in the world.

Cattle, sheep and pigs were all highlighted as part of the virtual show using video footage captured by farming families, who would otherwise have upheld long family traditions by exhibiting their livestock at the Showground this week.

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Amid the absence of big social occasions this summer, The Bishop of Ripon, Dr Helen-Ann Hartley, offered a message of togetherness during a virtual sermon.

Dr Hartley said she hoped the stories shared by farming families during the Show provided useful perspectives that furthered people’s understanding of each other.

“Perhaps this online Great Yorkshire Show might tell us a different kind of story about the way in which people’s lives matter.”

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The Great Yorkshire Show will be held next year, on Tuesday, July 13 – Thursday, July 15.

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