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Agricultural Shows beating recession


Agricultural show societies across Britain are weathering the economic storm by adding value for their trade and livestock exhibitors, at the same time as maintaining total attendance at a remarkable eight million people. That was the very positive message which came out of the Association of Shows and Agricultural Organisations (ASAO) conference, hosted by Westmorland County Agricultural Society on November 12-13.

The ASAO represents some 130 shows nationwide, and the conference was attended by 100 delegates, from shows as far apart as Cornwall and Edinburgh. And although the current economic crisis is making it harder for show organisers to maintain attendance and trade stand numbers, most are managing to beat the recession, by a combination of innovation and adding value.

Devon County Show Secretary and Vice Chairman of the ASAO, Ollie Allen, said:

“Over eight million people attend agricultural Shows UK wide, and they provide a wonderful opportunity for promoting the rural economy, and connecting town and country.

‘Because we act as a bridge between urban and rural Britain, the ASAO is also becoming an increasingly influential voice with Government.

‘In Devon of course, food and farming has a major role in the county economy and, as such, we offer a huge shop window through the Devon County Show for farmers,food producers and those in the business and rural community to promote themselves to a huge and diverse audience.

“The Conference provided a fascinating opportunity to share ideas and experiences with other shows from up and down the country, and although times are undoubtedly very tough, the overall feeling that came through is that we are beating the recession.”

HRH The Countess of Wessex GCVO, Vice Patron of the Royal Bath and West of England Society, attended the Conference, giving an insightful, knowledgeable and very supportive speech at the dinner, proving her understanding and commitment to what all the shows are striving to do and their crucial role in bringing town and countryside into closer harmony and understanding

In particular, referring to the ever increasing need for education, forward thinking, development and working together to promote the Agricultural Societies as a conduit and shop window for agriculture the countryside.

Thorny issues such as Health and Safety and avoiding visitor ill health at shows were faced head on, with detailed notes and guidance given by key advisors from government agencies and other external professional bodies. Communication and promotion were also high on the agenda, with a number of excellent workshops leading on Advertising, Social Networking and Talking to the Press topped off by a session on Reaching the Right Audience by the end of which the tweets were flying, blowing the cobwebs away from the older fashioned perceptions of the industry.

The ASAO Council meets three times a year and in the past twelve months the organisation has strengthened the support networks for all members considerably. Twenty seven shows joined the ASAO in 2011, bringing its total strength to 130 shows covering an incredible marketplace of some eight million people who attend these pivotal annual events in the rural calendar. The next event for ASAO is an intensive training day in February 2012 aimed at all levels of show staff which will cover membership and social networking and marketing. Anyone interested should look on the website



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