Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Royal Show

What a damp squib the Royal Show proved to be. Smaller it certainly was, and one has to question statements from the RASE that said the food hall was busy, especially as anytime I visited it was deserted over the first two days.
The showpiece event - and the one we were all directed to - was the renewable energy centre. If that's the best the RASE can do then I am shocked given that renewable energy is in vogue. To put it bluntly it was poor. If you want to see renewable energy then come to Aberdeen any May and visit the All-Energy Showcase that is organised by the wonderful Judith Patten. That's an event really worth visiting.
Also deserted on Thursday and Friday was the showfield itself. A crowd of 24,600 on Thursday and 25,000 by lunchtime on Friday is far removed from the attendance of previous years when you really had to struggle through the masses to get from one part of the show to another. The crowd must have grown over the weekend as the RASE claim attendance of about 100,000. But why can't they give us an accurate figure?
All in all a pretty poor event I would suggest. The RASE really needs to take a good, long hard look (navel gazing) at itself; it also needs to ditch the pompous stance it took at the opening press conference. Peter Hall of the Western Morning News was quite correct to raise the issue about the clash of press conferences between the NFU and RASE. The response he got was nothing short of appalling. I just can't believe the RASE didn't know about a press breakfast that the NFU has always held on the Royal's opening day since the year dot.
In any event the Guild party went well. We had a fantastic crowd and what an evening it proved to be as we looked out on the deserted concourse and members' area, both of which in years gone by would have been filled with showgoers.
James Cullimore was named the winner of the John Deere and Guild annual young journalist prize. Disastrous news has emerged this morning in that James was in a serious car accident over the weekend. He was hit by a car - driven by an alleged drunk driver - as he was getting out of a taxi near his home. His legs have suffered worst and yesterday he underwent a five hour operation. On behalf of everyone at the Guild I would like to wish James a very speedy recovery to full health.
The Netherthorpe Award was won by Bill Howatson. Bill is my predecessor at the Press and Journal. He left the P&J in 1996 has since embarked on a career in politics. He's now the Provost of Aberdeenshire.
And well done to Alistair MacDougall
It would be a disaster for British agriculture if the Royal Show were to disappear. The problem with the event is that it has alienated its core audience after diverting its course. Winning the support of farmers back is proving a hard task, and by the look of it much more difficult than anyone envisaged.
I really do despair at the state the Royal Show finds itself in, and all because of its own mistakes. Yes it was hit this year by bluetongue and yes that hit attendance. The fact remains is that this is a show that has lost its heart, lost its magic and still lost in its direction.
One has to hope that the RASE can pull the event out of the mire and rebuild it for the sake of everyone. If not, then it really has to ask if the show should continue.
The Royal remains the event promoted as the showcase for British agriculture. It simply isn't and international visitors would be better attending Britain's other Royal or regional shows – particularly the Royal Ulster, Royal Highland and Royal Welsh.

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