OPINION: Royal Norfolk Show chairman says there is “still much to do” despite double cancellation

Rob Alston is chairman of the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association, which organises the Royal Norf

Rob Alston is chairman of the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association, which organises the Royal Norfolk Show. Picture: RNAA - Credit: RNAA

The “extremely tough decisions” to cancel two Royal Norfolk Shows due to the coronavirus crisis has proven the value of a diverse and robust business strategy says ROB ALSTON, chairman of the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association (RNAA).

To say this has been an exceptional year feels like an enormous understatement. The global pandemic has had a significant impact on all parts of our lives, from business to pleasure and everything in between we have all had to adapt the way we do things.

I must confess on taking over as the RNAA’s chairman last year I never imagined that we would find ourselves cancelling the first two shows of my tenure – something that has not happened since the Second World War. So very quickly we’ve adjusted to the new normal and, along the way, made some extremely tough decisions.

READ MORE: Royal Norfolk Show cancelled again for 2021 due to ongoing coronavirus concerns

While the immediate ones revolved around the Royal Norfolk Show, it’s the long-term economic viability of the association that is of greatest importance. Throughout our existence the show has been the centrepiece of our year, not only as a showcase for agriculture, but also as an economic driver for the charity. However, an event of this size and complexity carries risk, in all forms, particularly financial. Like farming, one example of this is the weather. If the sun shines and the show is successful, then so is the charity.

Even before this year’s crisis we recognised the need to diversify the charity’s interests. We have grown the wider business of the Norfolk Showground, progressively developing our facilities, making it one of the region’s largest and most successful venues.

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Despite cancelling the 2020 show, and this week announcing the disappointing decision to do the same in 2021, we are in a much better place to reduce risk to the association, and to plan a brighter future. At the heart of this is a five-year strategy that places the organisation on a stronger and more diversified financial footing, ensuring we fulfil our wider charitable objectives – either directly or through support to others. Of course, there is always more to do, and I am pleased to see significant opportunities ahead and confident that the association will continue to be successful.

We know we still have an essential role to play in promoting food, farming, and the countryside. We want to showcase the very best of the county at an annual event, but we also want to reach more people throughout the year, helping them connect with, and understand better, agriculture and the vital role that it plays. Our strategy creates exciting new opportunities to rethink what we do, how and why we do it.

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As custodians of the RNAA we are here to help guide the charity safely through the next chapter in its long history. So, while we might be in fallow years for the Royal Norfolk Show – and it is our firm intention to be back in 2022 to celebrate our 175th anniversary – there is still much to do.

We will be here to ensure that 21st century agriculture is well supported, relevant and remains in people’s hearts and minds – wherever they are.

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