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Wayland Show cancelled for summer 2019 as organisers move date

PUBLISHED: 13:43 21 January 2019 | UPDATED: 13:54 21 January 2019

The Wayland Agricultural Show, pictured here in August 2018, will be moved to a date in May from 2020. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

The Wayland Agricultural Show, pictured here in August 2018, will be moved to a date in May from 2020. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2018

One of Norfolk’s longest-running summer events will be missing from this year’s calendar as organisers plan a spring relaunch to reinvigorate its visitor appeal.

The Wayland Agricultural Show, founded more than 140 years ago and one of the oldest one-day agricultural shows in the country, attracts up to 10,000 visitors each year to the showground outside Watton.

But its directors and committee have decided to move the volunteer-run show from its traditional August date to the early May Bank Holiday weekend from 2020, as they seek to modernise its attractions and maximise its potential attendance.

That means no show will take place in 2019 as organisers focus on launching a “new, family-orientated Spring Wayland Show” next year which will “reflect the heritage of the region and the countryside of the 21st century”.

Ian Whettingsteel, one of the show directors, said the event would not forget its rural heritage, and livestock, food and crafts would remain at the heart of its programme – but it needed to move with the times to ensure its continued longevity.

And he said disadvantages of holding the show in August include children being away on family holidays, farmers being engaged in harvest work – and the possibility of the heatwave weather which affected visitor numbers on the gate last summer.

“We thought long and hard since last year’s show, and agreed that the public were looking for a different offer from an agricultural show,” he said.

“It is obvious we need to appeal to families more, and the days of an agricultural show just having the normal draw of the animals and some main ring entertainment is long gone. What was good 10 or 20 years ago is probably not good now.

READ MORE: Thousands enjoy countryside fun in the sun at a sweltering 2018 Wayland Show

“One of the things that is being addressed is the need to entertain older children. There is a funfair and face-painting for the younger children, but next year there will be attractions and competitions that will appeal to older teenagers and families of all ages.

“As with every other agricultural show we are having to re-think the best use of our time in planning it and providing something that is entertaining, educational and enjoyable for the whole family.

“We don’t want what has happened to some of the larger shows, which is to fold altogether. To keep the show alive we need to get the public through the gates and if they enjoy it they will come back.

“I am sure it will be missed this year, but we want to make sure we re-evaluate it so we don’t lose it forever.”

Mr Whettingsteel said although the show was “not making huge losses”, attendances for the last couple of years were “not as good as we might have hoped”.

But while a May show date would be more appealing for many farming participants, he acknowledged it could have disadvantages for others.

“We are aware that moving the show earlier in the year might cause problems in other sections,” he said. “Some of the livestock may not be able to be here, because there is lambing and all sorts of other things going on. But we took the discussion that perhaps we didn’t need 300 sheep here.

“Some will find it easier and some will find it harder. But the key is to have as many people as possible here enjoying the show.”

SHOW PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE

Wayland Show president Kevin Bowes added: “The 146th Wayland Show in 2020 will build on the success of previous shows, but there will be new and exciting interactive events and competitions. We are keen to promote local participation to truly reflect the diverse cultural heritage of our local area.

“We are grateful to the many loyal sponsors who have supported the Wayland Show over the years and we look forward to welcoming them back to the new 2020 Show. We have raised funds and donated to numerous local charities in the past and we hope to continue to do so.”

• The next Wayland Show will take place on Sunday May 3, 2020. Anyone wishing to volunteer to get involved with the re-launch should contact Claire Bowes, secretary@waylandshow.com.

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