Future looks bright for agricultural shows

THE future of Glendale Show, and others like it, looks reasonably bright, in spite of the stormy economic climate that threatens to rain off so many other events and enterprises.

That was the message from Raising the Baa, the annual conference of the Association of Shows and Agricultural Organisations (ASAO), hosted by Westmorland County Agricultural Society in Kendal.

Glendale Show secretary Rachael Smith was joined by more than 100 delegates from Cornwall to Edinburgh, representing over 60 shows throughout the UK.

Royal support was on hand from the Countess of Wessex, who gave an insightful and knowledgeable speech at the conference dinner, proving her commitment to what all shows are striving to do and their crucial role in bringing town and countryside into closer harmony and understanding.

Delegates were mindful of the current economic situation which is causing concern everywhere.

However, there was a positive feeling that the focused attention show societies are giving to attracting and giving added value to their exhibitors, on both the trade and the livestock side, will enable shows to weather the current storm better than other sectors.

Thorny issues such as health and safety and avoiding visitor ill health at shows were faced head-on, with detailed notes and guidance given by key advisors from government agencies and other external professional bodies.

Communication and promotion were also high on the agenda, with a number of workshops leading on advertising, social networking and talking to the press, topped off by a session on reaching the right audience.

As well as discussing key issues and hot topics, the delegates went through the rigours and challenges posed by an outdoor activity challenge, designed to promote communication and problem solving – key qualities of any show secretary.

The ASAO council meets three times a year and in the past 12 months the organisation has strengthened the support networks for all members considerably.

Twenty-seven shows joined ASAO in 2011, bringing its total strength to 130 shows covering an incredible marketplace of some eight million people who attend these pivotal annual events in the rural calendar.

The next event for ASAO is an intensive training day in February, aimed at all levels of show staff which will cover membership and social networking and marketing. Anyone interested should look on the website www.asao.co.uk

At the end of this conference delegates left buoyed up and reassured that far from being for the high jump, given the ‘safety harness’ support of ASAO, they could walk the high wire of show organising in 2012 and beyond with confidence.

Membership to the Glendale Agricultural Society is available for £15. For details, visit www.glendaleshow.com, ring Rachael on 01668 283868 or email info@glendaleshow.com