Verdict: Society delight at Countryside Live's evolution
Countryside Live celebrated its 14th year this weekend and the two-day autumn show of all things food and farming showed all the hallmarks of going from strength to strength.
The addition of the showground’s £11m exhibition hall - which was completed in time for this summer’s Great Yorkshire Show - continues to look like money well spent by the Yorkshire Agricultural Society.
It may only be a piece of architecture, but it is hard not to explain its addition in words less emphatic than transformative. For an event where 90 per cent of the action is indoors, the 4,320 sq metre space came into its own, offering a big, bright, impressive setting for 12,074 visitors and an array of food producers and chefs who transformed the hall into a bustling food hub for two days.
The Society is keen to keep this event, first held in 2003, fresh and relevant for visitors, whilst harnessing the interest of younger generation. And if proof was needed of enthusiasm for the event, then compelling evidence was the overall entry figure across all competitions which was at a record high of 3,206, while 2,385 sq m of space was sold to trade stands.
Show director Charles Mills declared the weekend a big success: “It’s been a fantastic show with great entries. We’ve had a lot of new additions such as the alpacas and I’ve been incredibly pleased to see young handlers in the rare breeds sheep section. I’m very keen to see young people involved in everything we do here.
Mr Mills said a highlight for him was the Create and Explore children friendly activity area which benefited from the extra space and prominence afforded by its location in the new hall.
He said: “People have been extremely positive about what we have put on. To put it in a nutshell, I’m absolutely delighted.”
Nigel Pulling, chief executive of the Yorkshire Agricultural Society, said he was pleased with the show’s evolution: “I think the food hub and cookery theatre were great additions and really got our point across - the journey from farmers’ fields to the food on our plates. People have been very interested and it’s something we can develop further next year.”
The Society wants to build on its investment in the showground and had a planning application for an on-site 98-room, apartment-style hotel rejected by Harrogate Council earlier in the year.
Mr Pulling said: “Appeal papers are going to be submitted this month and we are very much hoping that they will be successful, but it could be some months before we find out.”
The appearance of Gregg Wallace as VIP guest proved an attraction for many visitors and Mr Pulling said the Society would explore inviting other personalities in future to be a central figure at the show in the same way.
“It’s something we will review if we can get the right guest, which is what we got with Gregg and his background in food. It is certainly something we will consider.”