Tradestand holders at the controversial Royal Festival of the Horse (9-11 July) are demanding compensation after many made substantial losses.
The show was run jointly by the Royal Agricultural Society of England (RASE) and Express Events (EE), who have since asked all stallholders and exhibitors for feedback.
Photographer Simon Palmer sent in a lengthy complaint. “The concept is brilliant, but everyone is left feeling very let down,” he said.
Among their gripes was low visitor attendance. Although organisers told H&H two weeks ago that 20,152 visitors passed through the gates, they have now admitted this was a “total attendance” figure that included exhibitors, competitors and staff.
Assistant director of RASE events Alice Bell told H&H: “We never intended to mislead people. The total visitor figure will be released after a board meeting later this week.”
Ema Odlin from The Horse Bits Shop said she was “disgusted” with the way the festival was organised and feels “ripped off”.
“The stand space cost was on a par with the likes of Burghley and Badminton,” she wrote in a letter to organisers.
Niall McGuiness from Equine Care travelled from Dublin to take a stall but took only £50 over the three days, making a loss of £2,000.
“This event was totally mismanaged from the very top,” he said. “Are the problems the Festival of the Horse faced the same as those that led to the Royal Show ceasing to exist?”
But RASE’s Alice Bell hit back at his claims, saying: “The management team is 100% different to that of the Royal Show, so personally I think it’s unfair to draw similarities.”
She said the board is due to meet this week, to consider all feedback and whether the show will go ahead next year.
This article was first published in Horse & Hound (29 July, ’10)