Plans unveiled to bring Norfolk Showground 'back to life'

Mark Nicholas, the new managing director of the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association

Mark Nicholas, the new managing director of the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association, has announced a series of summer 2021 events at the Norfolk Showground - Credit: Danielle Booden

A new Summer Fayre has been announced at the Norfolk Showground as part of a renewed drive to bring the venue "back to life" following the loss of two Royal Norfolk Shows.

As the Covid lockdown continues to ease, the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association (RNAA) has launched a series of events, both physical and virtual, to pave the way for the return of its flagship showcase "in all its glory" next year.

Managing director Mark Nicholas said the cancellations of the 2020 and 2021 Royal Norfolk Shows had cost the RNAA 75pc of its turnover last year - but the enforced hiatus had created an opportunity to reassess the role of the organisation, and the use of its showground asset at Costessey.

He said last month's award of more than £500,000 from the government's Culture Recovery Fund has bolstered the RNAA's financial resilience, and given it the confidence to stage a line-up of events which include:

  • A Summer Fayre on July 3, featuring Norfolk food and drink producers, musical entertainment and heritage displays. Tickets are due to go on sale in early May.
  • The Norfolk Equestrian Show on July 28, featuring Horse of the Year Show qualifiers with 150 classes of competition, usually hosted at the Royal Norfolk Show.
  • The return of the Sundown Festival on September 3-5.
  • The Norfolk Harfest on October 2, previously held at Norwich Cathedral, will be coming to the showground.

Mr Nicholas also wants to inspire greater commercial and social use of the showground all year round - and has urged people to get in touch with ideas for new ventures to help the venue "come back stronger" from Covid-19.

"We really want the Norfolk Showground humming," he said. "We want to reconnect the Norfolk Showground with the people of Norfolk. We want people up here every day, doing really interesting things.

"Particularly coming out of Covid, we've got the most fantastic open space here, and a huge range of buildings, so the opportunities are endless. What we are saying is if you want to come and use Norfolk Showground for something, get in touch, lets have a discussion. Because we want to bring this place back to life.

"The Summer Fayre on July 3 will be really great opportunity for food and drink producers to reconnect with the public, and there will also be a great cultural atmosphere and we will be demonstrating some of our rich heritage.

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"Some of the new events we have introduced this year, virtual and physical, will endure. Because there is much more to the RNAA than just the Royal Norfolk Show. We want to be the go-to organisation for people with an interest in food, farming and the countryside. It is now or never to do that, after all we've been through."

Mr Nicholas said other diverse uses of the showground included the Norwich Philharmonic orchestra resuming rehearsals in May, a company doing trials of new lawnmower technology, and the arrival of Farmyard Frozen, a frozen meals venture launched by Norwich's Farmyard restaurant.

The RNAA is also developing a year-round schedule of events including farm tours and online webinars for members and a virtual Innovation Hub to showcase new farming technologies and science.

The food hall at the Royal Norfolk Show 2011

The new Summer Fayre at the Norfolk Showground will showcase Norfolk's food and drink producers, pictured here at the Royal Norfolk Show food hall. - Credit: Archant

All of this is building up to the much-anticipated return of the Royal Norfolk Show next summer.

"We are hugely confident that we will be putting on the Royal Norfolk Show next year," said Mr Nicholas. "We expect to launch the 2022 Royal Norfolk Show in July of this year.  

"Next year is the Queen's platinum jubilee. It is also the 175th anniversary of the RNAA and I think what Norfolk expects is a great revival of the Royal Norfolk Show.

"We will take a closer look at how we can make the visitor experience more attractive, but fundamentally it is the same Royal Norfolk Show returning in all its glory and splendour.

"A Royal Norfolk Show will generate £20m for the local economy and that is exactly what the local economy needs."

Equestrian competitions at the Norfolk showground

Equestrian competitions will return to the showground in 2021 at the Norfolk Equestrian Show on July 28 - Credit: Matthew Usher