Royal Norfolk Show team faces ‘long road to recovery’ after coronavirus cancellations
PUBLISHED: 17:25 24 September 2020 | UPDATED: 17:25 24 September 2020
Jamie Honeywood Archant Norwich Norfolk
The charity behind the Royal Norfolk Show faces a “long and hard road to recovery” after the economic damage of the coronavirus lockdown, its members were told.
The Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association’s (RNAA’s) 173rd annual general meeting, held online for the first time, included financial reports for the “particularly strong year” ending December 2019 – before the coronavirus crisis struck, prompting the cancellation of this year’s Royal Norfolk Show and Spring Fling, as well as the majority of the showground business.
RNAA chairman Rob Alston said the effects of the global pandemic had been “deeply felt”, with the RNAA having furloughed most of its staff and “with regret, already made some redundancies”.
“The outlook remains very uncertain,” he said. “While the association is financially secure, the prospect of activity levels returning to anything like 2019 in the near term seem remote. As an organisation that thrives on major participation events we can only hope for the time when public health conditions change and we can conduct these safely; however, even when this point comes, the longer term effects of the pandemic on the economy, our sector and the social fabric of the country will be profound and wide reaching.
“We are determined that the RNAA will survive but we will need to significantly change the way we do things – now and in the future. We are working up plans for 2021 which we will share with council and our members shortly – and to set expectations, all I will say at this stage is that it is going to be a long and hard road to recovery.”
Finance trustee Charlie Savory said the success of the 2019 show – which attracted almost 86,000 visitors and took £1.487m in revenue compared to £1.43m the previous year – meant the association had headed into 2020 in an improved financial position, with total funds of £4.187m.
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“The financial strength of our balance sheet has been vital in allowing us to manage as best we can during recent months,” he said. “With no show this year and a significantly affected events programme, our results for 31 December 2020 will look very different.
READ MORE: The Royal Norfolk Show will return in 2021 – but perhaps not as we know it
“The association has had to make use of the government’s job retention scheme and is in advanced discussions with our bankers regarding further support should it be required. A considerable amount of work remains to be carried out over the forthcoming months as we seek to minimise as much as possible the financial risk to the association resulting from continued restrictions on social gatherings. Our intention will always be we will ensure we do all we can to safeguard the future of the RNAA and when we are next able to host a show or a comparable event we will where possible have the balance sheet to support this.”
The meeting also heard a supportive message from Sophie, Countess of Wessex, who was the president of the 2019 show and said such events were the “jewel in the crown of our country”.
“We desperately need our agricultural shows to come back, so that we may once again have the chance to learn more about our agriculture and food production, something I am so passionate about,” she said.
“On the plus side we have seen more consumers wanting to purchase British and locally-produced food. This is good news for UK farmers, however with the many other challenges that are currently faced of foreign imports, Brexit and of course the issues that Covid have brought – not least to the hard-hit hotel and hospitality trade – this good news is somewhat watered down. Therefore any and every opportunity to support pur farmers must be sought and I along with all of you will be hoping and praying that the Royal Norfolk Show 2021 will be back with a vengeance.
“Thank you again to all of our stewards, trustees, volunteers an staff who do so much to make the Royal Norfolk what it is, and what it will be once again.”
The meeting also thanked departing chief executive Greg Smith, who will stand down at the end of 2020 after eight years at the helm. In his place, former show director Mark Nicholas will return to the RNAA after being appointed to a new role of managing director.
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