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Two 2021 county shows cancelled already as Covid-19 pandemic continues

Two 2021 county shows have already been cancelled owing to the coronavirus — one a full year in advance.

The Newbury & District Agricultural Society (NDAS) wrote to members this month to tell them next September’s Royal County of Berkshire Show would not run. Today (30 September) the Suffolk Agricultural Association (SAA) announced that the Suffolk Show would not run on 2 and 3 June 2021 as planned.

The SAA said that its “highly experienced” volunteer committee had met several times to consider whether it would be possible to put on a safe show.

“The conclusion reached, with so much uncertainty over the coming months, reinforced by the latest Government guidelines, was that 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 show,” the association said.

“This has been an extraordinarily difficult decision but we felt it right at this particular time.

“While recognising that this is hugely disappointing for so many, we do feel that over the course of 2021, we can put on activities central to our core purpose, and to this end are planning a series of smaller focused events, such as equine and livestock shows.

“All our efforts will now be focused on navigating ourselves through the next year, and planning for a fantastic show in 2022.”

The NDAS told members it has reduced its staff numbers, will not yet seek to replace its CEO who left in July, and that its finances “were not in good shape before the pandemic made things much worse”.

“Losses from the 2018 and 2019 shows, a lack of growth in showground lettings income, a large bank loan and the reduction in free cash reserves resulting from the decision to proceed with the cattle building meant that we entered 2020 with already very limited flexibility,” the letter states.

“Since then, almost all 2020 showground rental income has dried up and there remains considerable uncertainty about future trading prospects for 2021. There is an understandable reluctance on the society’s behalf and on the part of trade stand, show and event organisers to make any binding commitments for 2021.”

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The letter adds that “for all the reasons outlined above”, the board decided there would be no Royal County of Berkshire Show in 2021.

“The Society’s reserves are already, and on present probabilities still will be, inadequate to shoulder the large financial risks associated with such a venture,” it states.

“Weather is one factor that can make the difference between success and failure; the potential loss of some key stand-holders, sponsors and participants are others; and the uncertainties about consumer and visitor appetites in a (hopefully) post-pandemic Berkshire in a year’s time are all factors we have had to consider.

“If the society succeeds in our strategy to survive and thrive, then we hope there will be shows in the future. They may be quite different, almost certainly smaller, and hopefully better as the society focuses on the most important aspects of its activities.”

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