Wayland Show called off due to fire risk

One of Norfolk's oldest agricultural shows has been cancelled after the organisers felt they could not guarantee safety on the tinder-dry showground.

One of Norfolk's oldest agricultural shows has been cancelled after the organisers felt they could not guarantee safety on the tinder-dry showground.

The decision to scrap the Wayland Show at the 11th hour will leave organisers about £25,000 out-of-pocket, threatening future events and robbing local charities of the £6,000 the show raises for good causes each year.

Organisers pulled the plug on the August 6 event after an emergency meeting with fire safety officers who advised there was a serious risk of a blaze sweeping across the site in Brandon Road in Watton.

The only time the show has been called off in the past was during the second world war and the foot and mouth crisis in 2001 but it has never been cancelled so close to the event.

About 10,000 people from across East Anglia were expected to turn out to see the show's lively livestock and horticultural displays, historical re-enactments and art and craft stalls.

With the heatwave showing little sign of abating there are fears for other summer shows - no changes have been made to this weekend's Worstead Festival in North Norfolk but organisers are advising visitors to be sensible.

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The arid conditions of the past week have sparked more than 1,000 extra crop and grass fires across the county stretching Norfolk Fire Service to the limit.

Wayland Show committee member Dianne Sculfer said that organisers were devastated and appealed for the show's sponsors to rally round to safeguard next year's show.

She said that they were considering moving the date of future shows to avoid a repeat of this year's problems.

Mrs Sculfer said: “We are all absolutely gutted and are all in a state of shock.

“We went back and forth over every scenario to try and avoid this but we could just not get 10,000 people and the animals off the site if there was a fire, we just could not take the risk.

“Everything was in place, all the traders and exhibitors, we are contacting people trying to undo a year's work.

“We stand to lose in the region of £25,000. Everything we do is to raise money for charities and we are not going to be able to do that this year.

“We are still hoping to have an even bigger show next year but we will have to rely on our sponsors and members to rally round and help us put on a really good show for our 135th anniversary.”

The show was due to have been open by former agriculture minister Baroness Shephard who said it would be a massive blow to the county's farming community.

“It is a tragedy. Obviously safety has to come first but what a disappointment for the organisers and the exhibitors,” said Lady Shephard.

“It is a show that is still purely agricultural and has a special place in the diary of shows, it will be hugely missed.

“The show can ill-afford to lose this money and they will find it very, very hard.”

Mayor of Watton John Craigie said: “It is terribly disappointing. This is one of the town's few high festival days and is something that most people look forward to.”

Norfolk Fire Service fire safety area manager Chris Boulton, said: “Event organisers do contact the fire and rescue service for advice around risk, prevention and protection and we are happy to provide that advice.

“In certain circumstances we may undertake an audit of an event either in planning or during the event itself.”

The organisers will be contacting everyone involved with the show but anyone with queries should contact 01953 882125 or 01953 880484.

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