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Norfolk farmer's 21st Sheep Show celebrations

PUBLISHED: 11:11 22 June 2013

Sheep shearing demonstrations on day  two of the Suffolk Show 2013.

Sheep shearing demonstrations on day two of the Suffolk Show 2013.

Archant

Farmer and shearer Richard Savory will be celebrating 21 years of presenting the Sheep Show at the Royal Norfolk Show next week.

From his mid-Norfolk base at Gateley, near Dereham, he runs three Sheep Shows which entertain about two million people a year.

His first full show was staged at the 1992 Asda Food and Farming Festival in Hyde Park, London, after Norfolk sheep farmer Jonathan Barber had encouraged him to take the plunge at a smaller event at Wymondham.

Mr Savory was at Edward Stanton’s deer farm at Snettisham, where he was staging a sheep show. The National Sheep Association wanted to a display in London to promote the industry, so he ended up in Hyde Park.

“A couple of years later, we went on our own. Now we do 120 shows throughout the country from the Orkney Isles to Cornwall. We’ve been working with the National Farmers’ Union’s farming delivers campaign as well,” said New Zealand-born Mr Savory.

There, the famous shearer, Godfrey Bowen, who held the world record in 1953 for shearing 453 sheep in nine hours, started a show – combining shearing and talking about sheep.

Mr Savory was inspired by him to set up his distinctive Sheep Show taking his nine super star sheep and their relatives, which are shorn as part of the half-hour display. About 800 sheep a year are needed each year.

But he returns to one of his favourites at Costessey next week, where he has a great following.

“I’m a member of the Association of Show and Agricultural Organisations. I’m in a huge industry and last year six million people visited agricultural shows – that’s six per cent of the population.”

The Sheep Show is back at Snettisham Park through the summer, twice a day, with colleague Stuart Barnes, who is doing the duck and sheep show in the countryside area. Another Warren Calitz, who is South African, looks after the third show.

While his nine stars stay for years, there are always new faces. One favourite, Terry the Texel has been replaced by another with the same name while the current Harry the Herdwick is also one to enjoy the limelight. It does take some patience to train a replacement but even a really wild Scottish Blackface eventually became quite as a lamb, he said.

“It does much longer to train them to dance. But the sheep have really good memories. Once they’ve done it a few times, they know what’s coming,” he added.

Mr Savory relishes the educational aspect, telling the story about wool and sheep. And of course, the sheep played a huge part in creating the wealth in East Anglia in former century – not least the wool churches and later the craft of weaving cloth like Worstead.

“Even farmers come up and admit they’re learned something, which is great. The proof is in the pudding and the people who keep coming back to see the show. And also being invited year after year to the same show, you know that you’ve done well.”

After the show, he has a little family celebration planned to mark his 50th anniversary as his brother, Phil, joins the party spirit coming from his home in Australia.

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