Suffolk Show Part 2: How we coped with rain – and a major foot-and-mouth outbreak
The cancellation of this year’s Suffolk Show amid the coronavirus crisis was inevitable – but a devastating blow for the county and the event’s organisers. Following on from the month the show would have taken place, we look back fondly on shows from the late 1990s into the early 2000s with the help of former show directors Mike Hollingsworth, John Wall and Stephen Miles – and on another show cancellation.
Mike Hollingsworth: 1998-2000
The only way I am allowed to remember my show days as a director is the amount of rain we had over the six days. 1998 was the first show since 1946 when there was two wet show days.
We had to resort to using six foot fencing posts to hold the flower show up as the ground was saturated due to the torrential rain which fell the weekend before the show. Many stand holders had to improvise when erecting their stands.
A new product that became invaluable was woodchip, our local timber supplier said he had an ample supply, this was short-lived but very much appreciated on the showground and car parks, helping keep everything moving. In 1999 we made major changes to the vice presidents’, members’ and especially the sponsors’ areas, who were able to have their own ringside area giving them a much larger eating and lounge area.
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These changes were very well received especially by the sponsors whose support is so important to the show. Once again we had to cope with the rain on both days which was testing but had to be overcome. Luckily, our showground has light land. In 2000, we completed the refurbishment of the old stockman’s area which became known as the Trinity Rooms, giving a new kitchen area plus toilets and showers for our stockmen on show days. Their animals are such an important part of the show and a great attraction for our visitors. My lasting memories after three years as director was the wonderful support and enthusiasm, especially during the difficult times we faced, from our stewards, committee members, staff and your friends. Everybody came together as a team each year to put on the show for our then 75,000 to 80,000 loyal members of the public who support the show whatever the weather – all hugely rewarding.
John Wall: 2001-2004
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Having been deputy to three wet shows under Mike Hollingsworth, I thought I was prepared for anything. How wrong I was. Having to cancel the 2001 show because of the foot-and-mouth outbreak was devastating for all my team. At least I shall be remembered for being the first show director to cancel our county show in peace time. No time to dwell, we were able to move the showground east as we know it today. We also created the sports area, rearranged the flower show and the new conservation area. Our present president Bill Kemball’s late father Jack will always be remembered for cutting the first sod for that area. Successive show directors have continued to develop these areas as we know them today. HRH Princess Alexandra graced us with her presence at my first show in 2002 and I was given the enviable task of escorting her around some of the showground. We set off walking in among the crowd. I was just in front. We were chatting when I realised I had ‘lost’ her. Panic! Five minutes later, I noticed her protection officer pointing in the direction of HRH. She had stopped to talk to some of the crowd. What a charming lady and a delight to have at the show. Looking back in the 2003 show archives I noticed a photo of our president Dennis Dyball presenting a trophy to Paul Tuckwell and his son James for the most attractive farm machinery stand at the show (no grey hairs or grandchildren then Paul!). I was fortunate in having three excellent deputies, Peter Over, Bruce Kerr and Stephen Miles. I take no credit, but they have all become show directors. Sadly for Bruce, he had to cancel this year’s show, but am absolutely convinced that he and his team will produce a fantastic 2021 show and beyond. Cancelling the 2001 show allowed us to start the Children’s Farm Fair, an annual event, helping 4,500 children understand where and how this county produces such wonderful food, giving them a better understanding of the countryside. During my time as director I have made some great friends and met some wonderful people. Although hard work, it was all very satisfying and still is.
Stephen Miles: 2005-2007
It was a time of change during these three years, with the re-branding of the association, the building of the events centre along with the new entrance incorporating the Suffolk Trinity plus layout changes and the building of a new workshop. The events centre enabled us to start the Lifestyle Pavilion. This year’s honorary director Bruce Kerr was then senior steward of Farming Anglia. The theme in 2005 was “Made in Suffolk” with cookery demonstrations promoting Suffolk produce. I remember the first day of the 2006 show being so cold that we had to get the family to bring in extra layers of clothes for my wife Petrina. In 2007 we had three inches of rain on the Sunday, causing flooding on the site, with a mass clear up by senior stewards, stewards, and showground staff. Thankfully with such team work and free draining land the site was in good order for the Show. It was a huge privilege to be show director and a lasting memory for me is all the support one receives from senior stewards and how hard they work, 300 plus stewards and all the show staff. It really is great teamwork. I am so pleased that all my deputy directors Robert Baker, David Nunn and Peter Over went on to become show directors.