The Royal Norfolk Show's new president has spoken of her deep personal connection with the event's history - and her hopes for its future.

Lady Philippa Dannatt, the Lord-Lieutenant of Norfolk, formally took over the reins as the figurehead of the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association (RNAA) during its AGM on Thursday.

She said it was "the most enormous privilege" to have been elected for "this historic and most wonderful appointment". 

But while recalling cherished childhood memories of the RNAA's flagship summer show, she said it was also vital to look to the future - and to champion the achievements of the county's young people.

"Farming in Norfolk and the Royal Norfolk Show have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember," she said. "As a child, the show was always the highlight of the year. 

"I was born and brought up in Keswick, not far from here, and it was with enormous pride that my grandparents hosted the Norfolk Show in Keswick Park, just after the war.

"The King and Queen came to visit and took tea at the Old Hall, Keswick. My grandfather even managed to spill tea down the King's trousers. Hopefully we can do better if we have a royal visitor this year.

"But my serious point is that it is amazing how the association and the show have grown over the years. The permanent showground at Costessey has gone from strength to strength, despite recessions, foot and mouth [disease] and the pandemic. Now the future, with the [planned] Norfolk Food Hall, looks very bright indeed.

"But we must never take anything for granted. If we want to see the Royal Norfolk Show continue to move forwards and to flourish, then we should all continue to play our part.

"We are fortunate enough to live in a county populated by a generation of hugely talented and inspirational young people, and I am delighted that this year we will be celebrating these young achievers in the Young Diamonds Tribute in the Grand Ring.

"It will be fantastic to recognise and to thank all those young people who do so much for our communities and the causes closest to their hearts.

"It is for them, that the RNAA and its jewel in the crown, the Royal Norfolk Show, must not only continue to exist, but to move forward, break boundaries, flourish, challenge and inspire Norfolk's people. The young, and the not-so-young, absolutely deserve nothing less."

Eastern Daily Press: Prince William at the 2023 Royal Norfolk Show, accompanied by the Lady Dannatt, Lord-Lieutenant of Norfolk, and RNAA chairman Robert AlstonPrince William at the 2023 Royal Norfolk Show, accompanied by the Lady Dannatt, Lord-Lieutenant of Norfolk, and RNAA chairman Robert Alston (Image: Sonya Duncan)

Lady Dannatt paid tribute to the "enormous contribution" of outgoing RNAA president, Thursford impresario John Cushing - who said he treasured his year of "precious moments, special people and happy faces."

The meeting also heard a report from RNAA chairman Robert Alston, who said 2023 saw the association "shake off the impacts of the Covid pandemic and take forward a busy programme of events and activities".

He said the Royal Norfolk Show "returned to its full splendour," attracting around 79,000 visitors - with a surprise appearance from the Prince of Wales being a "particular highlight".

Eastern Daily Press: Prince William mobbed by school children at the 2023 Royal Norfolk ShowPrince William mobbed by school children at the 2023 Royal Norfolk Show (Image: Sonya Duncan)

Finance director Charlie Savory said the RNAA made an overall surplus for the third consecutive year, of £36,511.

The association's total income of just over £3m was up 8.6pc compared to 2022, he said, of which £1.7m was raised by the Royal Norfolk Show.

"Consistency at a time of challenging disposable income levels, rising cost inflation and other economic pressures is something to be applauded," he said.

RNAA managing director Mark Nicholas added: "The financial report is a good one. This is not a loss-making business any more.

"It made a surplus of £36,000, but the year has included very significant expenditure on the site.

"For example, we spent £1m refurbishing and extending the Norfolk Events Centre, we have also made other investments within the organisation, and importantly we have been able to give back £250,000 of charitable benefit."