A decade of Royal Norfolk Show memories – shared by proud presidents
PUBLISHED: 11:50 01 July 2020 | UPDATED: 12:04 01 July 2020
Jamie Honeywood Archant Norwich Norfolk
While we’re all missing this year’s cancelled Royal Norfolk Show, we asked past presidents from the last 10 years – ranging from royalty and TV celebrities to business and church leaders – to tell us their most cherished memories from their time at the county’s much-loved summer showcase.
• 2019: Sophie, Countess of Wessex
“This time last year, I was among thousands of others across the country who were looking forward to visiting Norwich for the Royal Norfolk Show.
“As the 2019 president of the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association (RNAA) I was hugely impressed by all that I saw at the show, and the very warm welcome I received from every farmer, producer and member of the rural community. Agricultural and county shows play an enormous part in the fabric of the UK, bringing together the very best every county has to offer. The Royal Norfolk Show does just that, keeping agriculture firmly at its heart, whilst showcasing the breadth of Norfolk’s rural economy and food production capability.
“In the absence of this year’s show, I am delighted to hear that people are sharing their photos, videos and memories from previous years instead. I hope fans of the show will enjoy seeing these images and that it will encourage many more new and interested visitors for when the show hopefully returns in 2021. I thoroughly enjoyed being president for 2019 and look forward to remaining in touch with the association, and its show in the future. I wish everyone involved with the Royal Norfolk well during these difficult times.”
• 2018: Ben Turner, managing director of farm machinery firm Ben Burgess
“I am really going to miss attending the Royal Norfolk Show this year. All the planning of bringing the Ben Burgess stand to the showground leaves a big void in our year. Farming is all about the seasons; a time to plant, a time to grow, a time to harvest and going to the show is all part of it. The lack of such a large social gathering will have a big effect on our farming community who are often socially-isolated and that’s why we are supporting the YANA (You Are Not Alone) mental health charity this year.
“My year as show president was a wonderful experience. I visited parts of the show I never knew existed and a particular highlight was being invited to present long service awards to men I had grown up with.
“If I had to pick the two most memorable moments it would have been presenting a cup to the owner of a two tonne bull, who had decided to lay down – and so to get a photograph, I had to lay on the bull! Also, taking the salute in the centre of the main ring with a very professional Air Force Sergeant Major bellowing out instruction to his troops directly in front of me.”
• 2017: The Very Rev Jane Hedges, Dean of Norwich
“I was president in 2017, I think at the wettest show on record, but nevertheless those two days have been amongst my happiest while we have been here in Norfolk.
“As we changed in and out of wet weather gear and wellington boots in order to go round the show meeting exhibitors, the wonderful farm animals and horses and their owners, stall holders, those running special activities, and those offering food and drink, I was overwhelmed by the resilience and cheerfulness of people in the pouring rain and the way in which everyone pulled together to make the show a fantastic success.
“For me the Norfolk Show brings together so many things which are special about this county – it offers something for literally everyone.”
• 2016: Prof David Richardson, vice-chancellor of the UEA
“I must have shaken a thousand hands. One memory of the show is that my right hand was twice the size of my left hand by the end of the two days – truly a different world in these non-contact socially-distanced days.
“It was a great honour to be president of the Royal Norfolk Show in 2016, but the success of the show is most definitely not about the president. It’s about the people who run and support it – the people of the show. The two days were a whirlwind of (non-socially-distanced) interactions with so many fascinating and exciting people for Norfolk, the UK and across the world – the organisers, stewards, volunteers, exhibitors, members and visitors. The show brought together so many elements – the people, livestock, competitors, trade stands, a spectacular Grand Ring programme and, of course, that great unknown, the weather (and yes it did rain!). These elements combine to make this a unique annual celebration of Norfolk life that I was privileged to be a part of.
“From my perspective as the RNAA president, vice-Cchancellor of UEA and a member of the Norwich Research Park, I believed in 2016 that we needed education, enterprise and entrepreneurship together to stimulate a new generation of innovators for the agricultural sector. Four years on, I really do believe that we are doing that, and are well placed to continue to do that in the ‘new normal’ future that so many commentators now refer to.”
• 2015: Robert Carter, chairman of the RG Carter Group
“Words fail to express what a huge honour it was to represent the RNAA as president in 2015 and to help promote food, farming and the countryside.
“What I recall about the Royal Norfolk Show is the keen sense of anticipation in the build-up as the Norfolk Showground is transformed into a massive village of activity. There can be no greater concentration of communities coming together to celebrate the best of Norfolk. The eve of show dinner, with the volunteer stewards, was a particular highlight and demonstrated the commitment of all those responsible for organising the show.
“In glorious weather, I remember with great fondness chatting with cattle farmers preparing their livestock for competition. Somehow this traditional spectacle is the epitome of a modern county show. Those very special days will remain with me forever and we can all be justifiably proud that ours is one of the greatest shows in the land.”
• 2014: Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex
The 2014 Royal Norfolk Show welcomed the Earl of Wessex as its president – the first time a member of the Royal Family had spent two full days at the show in its 60 years at the Norfolk Showground.
In an address to open the show, Prince Edward said: “Although the Royal Norfolk Show is not the is not the oldest, the decision to move to a permanent showground was pretty revolutionary. It is the role of this show to demonstrate the best of what Norfolk produces.”
On his tour of the event, he met countless standholders and livestock exhibitors, spoke to Norfolk schoolchildren in the Discovery Zone, and visited members of Norfolk Young Farmers who told him about their experiences of completing the Duke of Edinburgh award – and he revealed the Eastern Daily Press to be his newspaper of choice when staying in Norfolk during a visit to the EDP’s Tea Tent.
• 2013: Jake Humphrey, TV sports presenter
“I will forever remember being asked to be president of the Royal Norfolk Show. Since I can remember, the show has formed part of my summer. Initially on school trips, frantically collecting stickers, and eating ice cream with friends. To getting older and taking my niece and nephew for the day. For me, the show is a family event... and so it proved when the 2013 show rolled around.
“I know I had the honour of being president, but the real star of that show seven years ago was my wife Harriet. Just a few weeks before the show, she gave birth to our first daughter, Florence. We were proud, excited new parents, finding our way, learning as we went, but determined to still do the show justice. And so, after all the years that the show was a family event for me, it was quite fitting that my presidency also became a family affair, with Harriet being amazing. Whilst I was able to tour the exhibits, meet the stall holders and chat to fans. Harriet was shooting back and forth across the showground, fulfilling commitments as Lady President, not missing an appointment, whilst still breast-feeding Florence, and keeping our rather demanding newborn happy. Both the ladies in my life were stars over those two days.
“The weather was wonderful, the showground was buzzing, and after a long time away from home, it was also a much-needed reminder to us just how special this county truly is. Both Harriet and I had been living in London for over a decade at this point, yet it was that week at the show, seeing old friends, immersing ourselves in Norfolk life, and reconnecting with the counties farming roots, that we decided it was time to come home. And now, seven years later, that hot, busy, wonderful week is a treasured, distant memory. However, I’m writing this from my study, at our home in Norfolk, and I am certain it was the magic of the show that finally brought us home. For us, the show is Norfolk.”
• 2012: David Lawrence, principal of Easton and Otley College
“For most of the lead-up to the 2012 show we were not sure it was going to happen. It was a very wet year and most other shows earlier in the year including the Suffolk Show had been cancelled due to the poor weather.
“However it all came good for the show and we had virtually no rain on the two days.
“It was a very poignant show as John Purling and Sarah De Chair [the RNAA’s chief executive and show manager] both retired at the end of the show, their final exit being driven round the Grand Ring during the closing ceremony by Graham Dacre in his vintage Mercedes cabriolet.”
• 2011: Sir Richard Jewson, Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk
“The Royal Norfolk Show is one of the iconic events in Norfolk. It has built its reputation for over 150 years and can fairly claim to be the finest and most successful agricultural show in Britain.
“I have been attending the show all my life. It was the first event I took my wife Sarah to, in 1965, when we got engaged, and she has frequently taken part in the equestrian events. It was a huge privilege to be president in 2011. I loved meeting the judges stewards and participants, learning from them and sharing their enthusiasms.
“We are all sad that this jewel in Norfolk’s crown will not sparkle this year, and we look forward to its successful return in 2021.”
• 2010: Sir Jeremy Bagge
“2010 was blessed with wonderful weather – in fact too hot, but loved by all.
“The honour of president gives access to many treats: The evening dinner for judges and stewards, and a late visit to the stockman’s bar. The early morning visit to the stock lines and salon preparation before stock judging by national judges. The association organisation, the ADC briefing, and the chauffeured Range Rover whistled us around the displays and stands to minute precision between returning to the pavilion for heavy horses, military tattoos and the Grand Parades.
“Everything was just perfection from the bishop’s luncheon grace to the stock, rabbits, chickens, bees, the flower pavilion and the displays. Sarah and I felt privileged and loved it all, and the closing ceremony was a very moving and wonderful finale to two days of a lifetime.”
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