For a traditional agricultural and horticultural show to clock up a centenary – as the North did this week – is something to be celebrated, particularly the industries which spawned and supported these shows have long been eroding.
There is still much to enjoy at all three of our traditional shows, but the reliance on volunteer help, tight finances and a vulnerability to poor weather makes each year a challenge.
There is evidence that the North particularly has benefitted from an influx of younger enthusiasts to take up committee or helper roles in recent years, but the cause for double celebration that was this landmark centenary, and the return after an enforced pandemic year off for show organisers, could also be an ideal opportunity for the shows to take stock, and consider how to meet the needs of modern audiences in a more sustainable way.
Let nobody underestimate the logistical feat of staging a country show in the first place. So many issues to consider in basic infrastructure before addressing what entertainment to stage and the tricky challenge of what to charge for admission and ensure that islanders consider it good value.
The shows have changed before. The Battle of Flowers lost its battle in the 1960s. Miss Guernsey disappeared from the South Show. The South Show moved inside and trimmed down significantly.
While the West Show has always maintained a traditional feel, the others became more glitzy affairs. A fall in visitor numbers has had an impact too, as show organisers have to rely more on attracting islanders through their gates.
Many islanders will want the tradition of the shows to continue as an integral part of island life. But as other summer events grow in stature – the Vintage Agricultural Show and the Torteval Scarecrow Weekend for example – the traditional shows may want to look again to find their niche and secure their futures for decades to come.