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‘The real effect is inestimable’ – Royal Norfolk Show cancelled amid coronavirus crisis

The 2020 Royal Norfolk Show has been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

The 2020 Royal Norfolk Show has been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2018

The Royal Norfolk Show has been cancelled for only the second time in its peacetime history due to the coronavirus pandemic – striking an “inestimable” blow to the county’s rural business community.

Greg Smith was due to oversee his final Royal Norfolk Show this year before standing down as chief executive of the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association. Picture RNAAGreg Smith was due to oversee his final Royal Norfolk Show this year before standing down as chief executive of the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association. Picture RNAA

The county’s biggest summer spectacle, and the largest two-day county show in the UK, usually attracts around 85,000 visitors and contributes around £20m a year to Norfolk’s economy.

But in light of the “unprecedented public health emergency”, organisers at the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association (RNAA) have confirmed this year’s event on July 1 and 2 will not go ahead.

Greg Smith, who was due to oversee his final show as RNAA chief executive before stepping down later this year, said he was “immensely sad” at the decision, but there was no other option to ensure the health and welfare of visitors, exhibitors, competitors, volunteers and staff.

He said the widespread cancellation of outdoor events, country fairs and agricultural shows across the country would have a lasting effect on the farming industry, and the many small food and drinks retailers who rely on them to sell their produce.

“I am extremely sorry to have to announce this news and know that many people will share our disappointment,” he said.

“At a personal level I feel very, very sad that 2020 is not going to happen. But of course I am immensely sad for all those impacted by what is going on, and the longer term effects will continue to roll on over the next weeks and months as this terrible situation unfolds.

“The Royal Norfolk Show is one of those hardy annuals in everyone’s diaries. It is steeped in tradition and heritage and, I think, has universally happy memories. The fact that it is not going to be there in 2020 is deeply sad. I am somewhat lost for words in being able to describe the impact.

“We must not forget that part of that tradition and heritage is about showing the hard work of the county’s farmers and, as I speak now, there will be farmers across the nation who have been working very hard to prepare their livestock for show season, which is a vital part of the pattern of farming life.

“We need to be mindful of them at this particularly difficult time. We have gone through all the uncertainties of the last three years and a really difficult winter and, after all that, farmers who produce the food we rely on are going to be hit particularly hard by this.

READ MORE: Coronavirus in Norfolk

“There are all those smaller food and drinks producers who rely on shows like this as a platform for their retail existence. People’s lives and livelihoods depend on them, and this is now not going to happen. I feel for those people and the predicament they are now confronting – the enormity of the issues is impossible to understand. The real effect is inestimable.”

Mr Smith said the effect of the coronavirus restrictions has thrown the agricultural show sector and the outdoor events industry into “crisis” – but he said it was too early to say what the financial impact would be on the RNAA.

“It would be wrong to predict that at this stage,” he said. “The positive thing is that we are on a sound financial position but what is going on at the moment will impact us significantly in the short-term.

“It is not just about the show, but about the wider showground business that the RNAA represents. Like many thousands of others we are very concerned for the health of our business and will be taking a long hard look at what that means, and taking steps to ensure we come out of this as strongly as we can.”

READ MORE: Wayland Show cancelled due to coronavirus

Mr Smith said the cancellation – the first since the Foot and Mouth crisis in 2001 – was particularly disappointing in a “doubly important” year for the RNAA, with the show also due to host delegates from the Commonwealth Agricultural Conference, which was cancelled by the Royal Agricultural Society of the Commonwealth (RASC) earlier this week.

The coronavirus pandemic has also forced the RNAA to cancel its popular Spring Fling event for children on April 16.

• The RNAA says it will contact ticket holders, trade stands, exhibitors and suppliers as soon as possible. In the meantime, visit the RNAA website for regular updates.


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