The Annual Show

Just when I was fearing that I’d completely run out of ideas for a new post – blogger’s block? – I sat down this evening to watch Countryfile on BBC 1. Readers living in the UK will know what I mean. For people from faraway lands (as they used to say in fairy tales) it’s a weekly programme which goes out on a Sunday evening and covers all matters relating to the countryside. It’s been running for 33 years – yes, I Googled it! – and is a Sunday evening ritual for many people regardless of where they live. It can come from any part of the UK and might focus on farming, nature, tourism, environmental issues, weather, and many, many more countryside related subjects. Tonight’s episode came from a large annual agricultural show in Staffordshire called the Manifold Valley Agricultural Show. Ping! I suddenly had an idea for a blog post!

When I was a child living in a tiny village in a remote valley in mid-Wales the annual shows, which were held in the summer, were something to look forward to. The biggest one in Wales was, and still is, the Royal Welsh Show. We loved going to that one as it was almost like visiting a city to children from a small village. There were so many interesting tents, stands and displays. The ‘show’ bit comes in when farmers show their best livestock and prizes can be won. However, as children, we weren’t interested in that. We saw sheep and cows every day. We wanted to see ice-cream vans, rides, tents selling crafts and souvenirs, to just enjoy being in such a buzzing atmosphere amongst so many people. It was half an hour from where we lived so was rarely missed.

The Royal Welsh, 1950s.
The Royal Welsh 1963 – I was probably there! But I wouldn’t have been looking at the prize-winning pigs.
File:The Royal Welsh Agricultural Show at Bangor 1958 (7636807478).jpg -  Wikimedia Commons
A 1950s scene from the Royal Welsh. I think it might have been raining!

At the next tier down, every county had an annual show. Within those counties the rural towns had their own annual shows. But right at the bottom of the ladder – or the top for us as children – most farming villages also had a show in the summer. My village was tiny. It spread for miles as all the farms were so widely scattered but you could drive through it and miss it. To give you an idea, my village school which took all the village children from aged 4 to aged 11 had just under 30 pupils each year. Many of the villages in the area were as small, in some cases smaller. But there used to be some great shows to go to on a summer weekend.

A prize-winning Welsh Black.

Lleyn Sheep Society :: History of the Society upto 2020 by H Stoney-Grayshon

Another Royal Welsh prize winner,

The modern day Royal Welsh. Still a great day out.

I thought this was a good time to celebrate the world creeping back to normality – very slowly – after the pandemic nightmare of the last eighteen months. There were no shows last year. As open air events they have crawled back into place this year. Let’s hope next year is completely back to normal.

5 thoughts on “The Annual Show

  1. The Royal Melbourne Show was also about celebrating champion livestock, the toughest wood chopping axe men and women, and life on the farm. But I didn’t care about any of that; my Royal Melbourne show was about sideshow alley, show bags, and the Victoria Police exhibit. I was young, naive, and innocent and seduced by the sideshow alley tents; inside were sword swallowers, mermaids, bearded ladies, five-legged cows, two-headed calves, and magic shows; each tent cost only a couple of shillings. Show bag stalls lined a couple of halls, and you pushed past the prams and pushers to get to your favourite showbag stall. The show bag contents were displayed on the back wall or spilled out onto the front counter. My favourite bags were the Cherry Ripe, Lifesavers, Violet Crumble, and the Giant Licorice bag. The Victoria Police Exhibition was the magnet that pulled me away from sideshow alley and the show bags. The small exhibit shed was crammed with police memorabilia, the newest technologies for fingerprinting, photographing and communication, and dozens of faded sepia-coloured police mug shots, images of car accidents, and large grainy black and white photos of blood-stained carpet and crumbled bodies. It was easy to become Plain Clothes, Constable Smith.

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