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Coronavirus: ‘difficult’ decisions taken by 2021 county shows

Three more county shows have announced they will not run in 2021, and another will not host equestrian showing classes, owing to the pandemic.

Ayr County Show (8 May), Fife County Show (22 May) and Northumberland County Show (31 May) have cancelled, while the South of England (11-13 June) will go ahead with livestock classes and showjumping only. The shows usually host a number of affiliated showing classes, including Royal International Horse Show qualifiers.

In September last year it was announced that neither the 2021 Royal County of Berkshire Show nor the Suffolk Show would go ahead.

On 13 January the Tynesdale Agricultural Society, which organises the Northumberland County Show, said that after “months of deliberation” this year’s show would not go ahead.

“It is with a very heavy heart that we have taken this difficult decision, but with another lockdown in place and no sign of restrictions easing, we felt we could not take the risk to public health and the safety of our volunteers and staff,” said the show’s chairman Robert Raine.

In a statement on 19 January, the Ayrshire Agricultural Association said the show had been “reluctantly postponed” until 14 May 2022.

“The volunteer directors/committee responsible for putting on the Ayr County Show has met on several occasions to consider whether or not it would be possible to safely, and with confidence, put on a 2021 show. The conclusion reached, with so much uncertainty over the foreseeable future, reinforced by the introduction of new lockdown measures, it seems certain that restrictions for events will persist over the coming months,” read the statement.

“Putting on the show we all wish for, set against the risks of it being allowed to happen in the way we would intend, led to the decision to cancel the 2021 event with immediate effect.”

The organisers of the Fife Show said in a statement yesterday (20 January) that it was with “considerable regret” the show was off.

“We appreciate that having to cancel the show for a second year is deeply disappointing, and other options were considered, such as running some of the livestock/horse/showjumping sections individually as these could come under slightly different “sport” guidance, but ultimately the committee’s overriding aim was to safeguard the health, safety and wellbeing of exhibitors, competitors, staff, volunteers and visitors,” read the statement.

“It was felt that trying to organise any event where there would be a mass gathering of people from different households in May, would not be the best way forward, even with the vaccine rollout.”

A spokesman for the South of England Agricultural Society, which organises the South of England Show, told H&H that after “careful consideration and debate” it was with a “heavy heart” the decision was taken by the South of England Agricultural Society’s board of trustees not to hold equestrian showing classes owing to the uncertainty over Covid restrictions.

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“The 2021 show is still going ahead across three days, running for the first time from Friday to Sunday [instead of Thursday to Saturday],” said the spokesman.

“Showjumping will run across the three days as will livestock competition, although with reduced classes again due to Covid restrictions – more details on these will be released in due course. Visitors will still be able to enjoy a non-stop programme of displays and entertainment with rural crafts, and an abundance of food, drink and shopping opportunities.”

The spokesman added the decision to cancel showing classes had “not been taken lightly” and it is the intention of the society to return to the usual format for 2022.

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