Monday, 22 June 2009

A More-than Village Show

It is in the New Year that the work really starts on the next Show. The first advert goes in the Newcastle Journal to 'kind of' book the date. It does not stop other people using the same date but it might help. The marquee is booked formally - they were told immediately after the last Show. The same number of tables and chairs are also booked.

The Insurance Brokers have to be contacted, though as they want to see the schedule, it cannot be finalised until shortly before the Show. Insurance is what is causing some country shows to fold. It can be a real battle to keep the premium to a reasonable level. A risk assessment has to be done. Bouncy castles have to have their own insurance. Horse riders/owners have to sign an assurance that they have their own comprehensive insurance.

Loos have to booked and there has to be a disabled toilet included. (The men have a canvas-enclosed hole in the ground for most of their requirements - that is how it was in 1945 and that is how it still is in 2009)

The schedule is a nightmare. A small group gets together to go through the horse classes. Another group sorts out the Industrial (home crafts) and Children's classes. Then there are all the other bits and pieces - Lawn Mower racing, Dog Agility, Fox Hounds, Cumberland and Westmorland Wrestling, the Dog Show and the Terrier Racing, and quoits. All have to be in the Schedule.
We have the use of a long field which is called the Show Field, - with parking for horse vehicles on the Village Green and some trailers and most of the cars in another field. The Show Field seems quite big when you drive past it, but it rapidly shrinks when you have to fit 3 rings, a long marquee, Dog ring, Wrestling ring, room for stalls and childrens attractions etc etc into the space. All this has to be worked out before the event. A young lass of 17 took on the task of getting the stall holders, this year and very well she did it. Her Grandfather was one of the 3 soldiers from the hamlet who fought in WW2 and who were the reason for the very first show - to raise money to greet them home. Another person does the publicity - a thankless task which I did for many years. Someone else gets the sponsorship - another horrid job! And so it goes on. G organises a gentleman who provides slides, mini roundabouts etc.

About 4 weeks before the Show, posters are put up and schedules are put in shops etc. I alone do a round of about 50 miles, putting posters in pubs, the Country Store, on village notice boards in Libraries, shops etc. And schedules in three local post offices. One of these gets rid of about 200, so has to be kept topped up.

The three days before the Show are very busy, though the Secretary had been kept hard at it (in amongst working on her parent's farm and that of her husband) taking in the horse/pony entries for a week or two. The Treasurer and his assistant (G and Withy) have also had their work to do. Withy has all the floats and prizes on a spread sheet, with all the different values of notes and coins, so a fortnight or so before the show, G goes off to the Bank to collect a very heavy bag. A number of old biscuit tins are brought down from the attic. Withy sorts all the floats into the respective tins and finally we settle down with small envelopes, copies of the schedule, a pen and the money. G writes the number and name of the class and 1st 2nd or 3rd on and I put in the money. Horses and dogs only get rosettes but all the Industrial and Children's classes have prizes, as do the Wrestling, Hounds, Lawnmowers, etc. We do about 200.

On Wednesday or Thursday morning the marquee arrives plus the Secretaries tent. The marquee is very long and is divided into 3 - the Industrial section, the WI Refreshment tent and the Bar. On Wednesday evening, a band of helpers arrives to drive in stakes and the layout begins to take shape. On Thursday, the ropes go on, the cable is let into the ground for the speaker system and the lights etc fitted in the marquee. The tables are sorted and the chairs put in place. Table cloths are put on the Refreshment tables.

On Friday, at various times, china, drinks, boilers etc etc arrive in the Refreshment tent. The industrial tent is prepared for all the produce etc that will arrive next day. The bar is set up. The buns, sliced ham and pork have to be collected. All over the place, people are cooking for the WI Refreshments or getting it out of the freezer, having cooked it earlier. Sometime in amongst all this, the jumps arrived and were set up. Signs were put up around the neighbourhood. The gazebos, that belong to the Show are got ready to go up. This year it was very windy, so they were not put up until the morning of the Show, which meant stall-holders had to wait a bit.

At last the day arrives. My alarm goes off at 6.15 and I fall out of bed and get dressed with my eyes closed. (My early rising days are long gone!) I have myself to feed, the birds to feed and lots of plants to water before I make my way down to the Show Field. This year, I went down at 8.00 and there was only one horse box on the Green, but they soon started to pour in. In the tent, I was surprised to find several people already hard at work - young and old. The tasks are: Halve buns and butter them, butter cut loaves, butter cheese and fruit scones. Put fillings in the buns and the bread - ham, pork and stuffing, egg, cheese, and salad. The first hungry/thirsty people started to pop their heads in about 9.00 though 9.30 is our official time. We are always ready to give them something because horsey people get up very early to polish the ponies and then arrive here early to polish again!! They fail to feed themselves. They have to be early as the Show/Turnout classes start at 9.00. We finished all that part of the preparations remarkably early this year, not sure why. I popped out to enter my marmalade and photos in the next door bit of the tent, waited in a queue and when I got back the tables had been cleared and wiped down and were ready and waiting for the hungry hords.


Some time was then spent getting the stuff laid out in a sensible manner - removing luscious chocolate cake from amongst quiches and sausage rolls! I was very busy for what seemed a very long time, cutting up quiches and cakes. After that, it was a matter of standing by, helping people to things if they didn't want to help themselves, removing empty dishes and filling up the gaps. I skived off a number of times to see what was going on outside and once to deal with a photographer from a local paper. Once the Industrial Tent re-opened after the judging, I had to go and see whether the judges were good or not. The marmalade judge certainly knew what she was doing - I got 1st. The photo person was not so discerning. I only got one 3rd out of 3 classes. I have to admit that the standard of photos goes up every year - there were some impressive pictures.
This account is written from the point of view of a member of the WI who spends most of the day in the tent. I used to run the Dog Show (which was founded by G, before I came up here.) In those days, although I was tied to the horsebox, taking entries, and then running the actual event, I was able to see what was going on. Now there is much more going on, but I see very little of it.
Once the Show is over there is a great clearing up and the field is empty of all but the tents by the time the dance happens in the evening. Any left-over buns and cheese scones go to the bar for people to help themselves, un-cut cakes are mostly sold, the quiches have all gone. This year, my old legs gave me orders to stay at home in the evening, so I just went to bed to the thump thump of the band coming up the length of the Green.

To give some idea of the scale of the Show, the best year to date was 2005, when we made a profit of £3,236, and we gave £3,200 to local charities. £1,500 went to the Northumbria Air Ambulance and 8 smaller charities received the remainder. It looks as if we will be able togive the odd thousand away this year, but we won't know exactly for some time. One thing is for certain - despite the showers earlier and the fairly heavy rain later - many people had a great time, which makes it worth all the hard work.
PS. The photos do not give a good idea of the Show. I have taken much better ones in previous years, but I was not out and about so much this year. Also one or two better ones show people, so can not be included.

2 comments:

ChrisH said...

Don't tell me; it's the same people who organise the event every year, too (staring hard at you). Congratulations to all of you unsung heroes who work so hard to make these events a success. Very pleased to read about the discerning judge in charge of marmalade! Hope you and G got a 'first' for all the hard work too. Well done!

Cait O'Connor said...

What a lot of work Withy, you deserve a medal!