Royal Norfolk Show chiefs urged to take opportunity to promote farming

Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association AGM, retiring president David Lawrence. Photo: Bill Smith

Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association AGM, retiring president David Lawrence. Photo: Bill Smith - Credit: Archant © 2013

Show organisers could use the key event in the county's food and farming calendar to promote careers in a growing industry, said the retiring president of the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association yesterday.

David Lawrence, principal of Easton and Otley College, said that the Royal Norfolk Show should have 'a strong focus on promoting the excellent careers' in agricultural industry.

'The RNAA and the Royal Norfolk Show have a unique role and ability to do this. It is one of the few occasions on a big scale we have virtually the whole breadth of our industry represented in one place.'

'I feel that the role of the association in educating the general public has never been more important than it is now,' said Mr Lawrence, who was also praised for transforming Easton College over the past 20 years into one of the country's top land-based colleges.

Norwich auctioneer Mike Gamble, who was the former chairman of the college's governors, said: 'This transformation has in no little part been down to the enthusiasm, the vision and the drive of its principal.'

South Norfolk landowner Sir Nicholas Bacon, who is chairman of the RNAA's council, proposed television presenter Jake Humphrey as the president for 2013. He told about 100 members at the Norfolk showground: 'It is quite a historic day when the proposed president sends his father, Rex, to listen to what is said. This has never been able to happen before,' he added.

He said that Mr Humphrey, aged 34, who had received an honorary doctorate from the University of East Anglia last year, was an 'exceptional person with exceptional abilities.'

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Sir Nicholas had first worked with him on a youth project about 10 years ago. 'He has that great combination and ability to enliven and enlighten the youth and could communicate to a wider audience, genuinely, and with a humility that to me makes him one of the great Norfolk boys.'

He would be the second youngest president in history of the RNAA, which had been founded in 1847.

Show head steward and Broadland farmer Robert More said that the president might have been born in Cambridgeshire. However, his parents spotted the 'errors of their ways – and moved to Norfolk when he was nine.' After school at the Hewitt and Framingham Earl, he did work experience as Anglia TV. 'The seeds were sown for an explosively successful career in television journalism,' added Mr More.

It was also announced that two new honorary vice presidents had joined an elite band of about two dozen, who had rendered service to the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association – John Purling, chief executive, and show manager Sarah de Chair, who had retired last year.

Finance director, Grant Pilcher, who is vice-chairman of the RNAA, said that the association has made a modest surplus of about £15,000 in the previous 15 months. However, the Royal Norfolk Show had made a deficit of £179,000, partly because of lower attendance.

'We had an excellent show which suffered from poor attendance of just under 83,000,' he said.

The completion of the £1.4m investment in the Norfolk Showground Arena had been part-funded by a 15-year loan of £600,000 from Lloyds TSB. Members had also provided £65,000 in loan funding for the project.

The RNAA had been able to support education objectives by donating more than £22,000 including a £15,000 grant to the Norfolk Federation of Young Farmers' Clubs.