Aldborough And Boroughbridge Show

As Aldborough and Boroughbridge Show prepares to open on Dishforth Airfield for the first time, we speak to its chairman about the challenges of maintaining more than 100 years of tradition in a modern world.

With more than 100 years of history behind it, Aldborough and Boroughbridge Agricultural Show is certainly an established event in the region’s country diary. Yet unlike many shows of its kind, it has never had a permanent venue – every few years it moves to a new location after an agreement with one land owner ends and another begins.

For the 2014 show, not only did a new location have to be found after a decade at the previous site, but a new chairman took the reins. Although she is a farmer’s daughter and has been involved with the show for almost ten years, Catherine Park Peyton said leading the committee through such a significant change for this traditional show was a real challenge. “The previous farmer allowed us to use the field for nearly ten years, but he needed the land back. It was very hard to find somewhere new,” she said.
“We need between 35 and 50 acres of fairly flat grassland. You might think there’s lots of that about, but when you start going out and standing on some of the fields you suddenly find they’ve got a real tilt! On top of that, not everybody wants a show taking place on their field, and there are lots of restrictions about bringing animals on to land, so everything had to be just right.”

After extensive searches, Catherine and the committee began speaking to the Ministry of Defence and the Army Air Corps about the possibility of using part of Dishforth Airfield. Although not an agricultural field itself, the site did offer many of the things the show needed: it is flat and easily accessible, with plenty of space for the shows various events and attractions to take place.

“It’s good for them as well, because it helps them to integrate with the local community – it’s a modern approach to their role,” said Catherine. “A lot of children from Dishforth go to schools in Boroughbridge, so it is good to work together. We’re looking forward to embracing everything the new site will bring. We’re very fortunate that we’re allowed to use the airfield.”

In fact, the new collaboration with the Ministry of Defence and the Army Air Corps is typical of the community feel to Aldborough and Boroughbridge Show. The committee is keen to work with organisations of all shapes and sizes from around the area, to ensure as many people as possible are involved in keeping the show and its traditions alive. Catherine said: “A lot of our focus is on working with other parts of the community. We had a stand at Plot to Plate in May, and at the Aldborough May Day event. We always get a lot of interest at those kinds of events. It’s a good way to keep our name out there, and to encourage people of all ages to come along and play their part.

“We aim to showcase modern day agriculture alongside traditional activities”

“We’re trying to encourage more young people to join us and we’ve been working with the Young Farmers group to build up links there. We have a good core committee who do all the work – everybody fits into a slot somewhere and has their own area to look after – but we always welcome more help.”

One of the most important partnerships this year is with Boroughbridge Town Council, which has sponsored a shuttle bus to take people to the showground. It means residents in Boroughbridge, Minskip, Aldborough and Langthorpe can travel for free to Dishforth Airfield and back.

“The show has got bigger, and alongside that we need better traffic infrastructure because more and more people are driving to it,” said Catherine. “The bus is really important to help people to get there and reduce the amount of space we need for car parking.”

Once there, visitors can expect everything a traditional agricultural show should include – along with a good range of the more modern attractions.

“We aim to showcase modern day agriculture alongside traditional activities,” said Catherine. “We have everything from alpacas to donkeys, baking, dog agility classes, children on ponies, and a great display of vintage cars and agricultural machinery. It’s about getting all ages and interests together on one day.

“It’s a huge undertaking for a committee. We’ve got so many things to think about, like the fact that we’re on an airfield this year… I’ve sat in some interesting meetings there with some very low flying helicopters above me! But it’s all taken care of for 20 July – we’ll be having our quintessentially British show without interfering with the airfield’s work, and vice versa.

“Our tagline is ‘the small show with the big personality’ – we have a lot going on and we work hard to deliver a show for the whole community, from school children right up to retired farmers. We’re so grateful to all our supporters, old and new, for helping us to achieve that.”

The committee has secured the Stannage International Stunt Team as the show’s main attraction this year. The family group of stunt artists use motorbikes, buggies and fire to create a thrilling show for audience members of all ages.

On top of the stunt team’s demonstration, there will be numerous other attractions taking place at the show, including the ever-popular parade of hounds. This year, Boroughbridge Junior Football Club will also be performing for the first time, and there will be plenty of opportunities for members of the public to get involved during the day.

Catherine added: “There’s the WI tent, about 80 trade stands, cattle and sheep classes, equine classes including donkeys, dog agility classes at lunchtime – it’s all the different parts of the community coming together.

“We’ve also got a growing craft tent which started three or four years ago and we work hard to make sure there are good quality products in there. We put the catering out to tender and we like to be able to choose local businesses to be there on the day.

“We have a strong ethos of supporting the community, with an agricultural theme, and we do all we can to make sure everything ties in to that.
“There’s a mini food court and a sheltered picnic area, where people can bring their own food from home or enjoy what they’ve bought from local producers on the trade stands.
We want as many people as possible to be able to come along, so we have options to suit all budgets.”

Aldborough and Boroughbridge Agricultural Show takes place on Sunday 20 July at Dishforth Airfield.