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Memories, milestones and miracles: 70 years of Moreton Show

As we approach September, we can’t help but think about Moreton Show, which for the last 70 years has showcased everything that is great about farming and the countryside.

Sadly, the 2020 event has been cancelled due to COVID-19, so instead, we try to fill the Moreton Show-shaped gap by sharing the article published in Issue 6 of Lodders Life, which celebrates 70 fabulous years of the Show.

The beginning 

From its beginnings in 1949, the Moreton Show has embraced the evolving world of British farming and countryside, overcoming some major challenges and key moments in UK farming and history along the way.

The first-ever Moreton Show was held on the same site it occupies today – the Batsford Estate, adjacent to its namesake and the quintessentially Cotswold town, Moreton-in-Marsh.

In its inaugural year, Moreton Show took up just over 21 acres, and was hailed as Gloucestershire’s biggest event.

Fast-forward to 2019 and the Moreton Show is firmly established as one of the UK’s best countryside events.

Undergoing a major transformation since it began, particularly in recent years, Moreton Show’s transition reflects farming and agriculture through the years.

Held on the first Saturday in September – with one or two exceptions over the years – Moreton Show today attracts thousands of visitors, with hundreds of competitors and exhibitors returning year after year – including Lodders, which has attended the Show since 1996.

Combining livestock competitions, horse events – Moreton Show is a qualifying event for the Horse of the Year Show – farming features, livestock shows, attractions, and trade stands, the Show has grown to seven times its original size, and nowadays covers around 150 acres, including the showground and car parks.

Memory lane

Georgina Attwood, aka Babs, went to the first ever Moreton Show as a young girl, and has an important place in the Show’s history, as a member of its Attractions Committee, and then Show Secretary from 1970 to 1995.Babs remained involved until 2010, working closely with her successor and friend Tim Gardner throughout his tenure

Together, Tim and Babs have some amazing stories to tell, but amongst their most poignant memories are three separate years that were milestones for Moreton Show, British farming and the UK.

1997

On Sunday 31 August 1997, Diana Princess of Wales, died following a car accident in Paris. The date of the funeral wasn’t announced immediately, but Moreton Show’s team recognised it was vital to legislate for this being the following Saturday, when the 1997 Show was taking place.

The team agreed an action plan, beginning with the important decision to move the Show to Sunday.
As this was a time before everyone had email, advising sponsors, competitors, trade stands and support services, had to be done by phone or letter.

The team worked through the night printing labels and letters, and stuffing envelopes to be posted the next morning.

“It was important to give as much notice as possible of the new date,” said Babs and Tim. “It was a real Dunkirk spirit.”

Local media were contacted with the new date, press advertisements booked, and a sign posted at Moreton Show’s Gate 3.Diana’s funeral did take place on the Saturday, and the Show went ahead the day after.

Crisis for UK Agriculture

The outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in 2001 was the first in the UK for more than 30 years. Over 2000 cases were confirmed, and millions of livestock slaughtered. Tim was the Show’s Secretary at the time and explains: “It was critical the decision to cancel Moreton Show was made no later than three months before the event’s date, when entries open and main bookings are made. “In May, the decision to cancel was made: “In many ways, the decision to cancel was an obvious one,” says Tim. It wasn’t until late November that year that DEFRA downgraded the risk of foot-and-mouth, after the final case was reported on 30 September.

The flood

Ninety-seven flood warnings were issued in the days leading up to the 2008 Moreton Show, and water levels in Moreton were so high that water was spewing out of ditches and the showground was a sea of mud.

Like many outdoor events that year, the Moreton team was forced to cancel the Show and telephoned every trade stand exhibitor, business and competitor with the decision.

Teamwork

Moreton-in-Marsh and District Agricultural & Horse Show Society organises Moreton Show, and celebrates its 70th Anniversary this year. The Society’s team and committees are focused on the event’s underlying purpose that rings as true today as it did in 1949 – to improve the standard of farming and farm crafts locally and showcase all that is great about British farming and rural enterprises.

Lodders’ Rod Bird, the firm’s managing partner from 2001 to 2018, has been involved with Moreton Show for over 30 years, and been both Chairman and President of the Moreton Show Society. Moving with the times.

Much of Moreton Show’s success is down to its ability to move with the times. Over the years it has enhanced many of its core themes and created entire new features that reflect the changing and future face of farming.

Typifying this is ‘Farmtastic’. Introduced in 2018 and highlighting the animals and skills developed at Old Farm, which hosts Moreton Show, the area incorporates a dry-stone wall, butterfly garden and areas with insects, moles, rabbits, hens, farriers, sheep and pigs – all examples of Moreton Show’s commitment to promoting and educating the general public about the countryside and environment, and how it is constantly changing.

Moreton Show at a glance

• 25,000 visitors in 2018
• 2,000 rosettes each year
• 350 trade stands and exhibitors
• 200 volunteers
• Over 1,000 horses entered in the showing and jumping classes, and HOYS qualifiers
• 40 food stalls
• 200 dogs take part in demonstrations and shows

Regular features

• Livestock section and Grand Parade – led by the supreme cattle and sheep champions.
• Horse section
• Home & Gardens – showcasing prize-winning produce, including children’s competitions.
• Food Halls – with a cookery demonstration area, a showcase of a host of local and national producers, from cider, wine and artisan gin distillers, to cheese and pie makers, cake and pudding bakers.
• Grand Arena – one of the Show’s main focal points, with dozens of horse classes, including the flagship heavy horse parade, vehicle and farm machinery shows and demonstrations.
• Dog Ring – with competitions and demonstrations of companion, assistance and working dogs.
• New attractions Farmtastic.
• Longest running feature – Equestrian showing and show jumping, and Ridden Hunter Classes have been part of Moreton Show since 1949.

This article was first published in 2019 in Issue 6 of Lodders Life. Read the complete magazine here.

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