The joys of a classic country show.
THE PRESENTER GOES BEHIND THE SCENES ON HIS SHOWS AND FAMILY FARM NO BUSINESS LIKE COUNTRY-SHOW BUSINESS
Watch Matt and the team on Countryfile every Sunday evening on BBC One. Growing up, every year without fail we would head to the Great Yorkshire Show. It was a highlight of the year and that feeling of excitement has stayed with me all my life.
GREEN MAN, RED ROSETTE
My first memory of a country show, however, is not agricultural at all. It’s of sitting on the kitchen table, being painted green for my appearance as the Incredible Hulk in the fancy-dress contest. I remember feeling on top of the world as I wandered around the show with my first-place red rosette proudly pinned to my torn shirt.
Country shows are something we often visit as a family. I love the buzz of the live demonstrations of the exhibitors’ year of hard work and preparation, the sight of all the coloured flags blowing in the breeze, the sound of the muffled tinny tannoy and the rows of saddlery stalls – not to mention the opportunity to sit in the latest farm machinery and work out what new implement is for what job.
Country shows have certainly evolved over time. Their original purpose was simply to let the farmers and growers show each other what they are capable of in the farming year by displaying their produce – while having a well-earned day off. These days the shows are all about ‘the country lifestyle’, breaking down the barriers between town and country Fantastic fury: little Matt in his Incredible Hulk costume, for which he won first prize. folk and acting as a magnet to welcome everyone into the green stuff. This is where I see similarities between the shows and Countryfile – both offer an eclectic mix of all sorts going on, brought together in one place.
LUMBERJACK OF ALL TRADES
Over the years, both on and away from Countryfile, I’ve been involved in many facets of country shows and my experiences are a good example of what will be on offer this summer. In my time, I have halter trained rams to show in the ring, raced to the top of a tree trunk in a lumberjack tree-climbing competition, taken the reins carriage-racing and driven vintage steam engines. I’ve flown birds of prey in falconry displays and judged sheep and cattle at the Royal Welsh Show.
But in front of this entertaining backdrop, don’t underestimate the importance of those red first-prize cards and rosettes, displayed in the animal section, and what they mean to the pride and – crucially – businesses of the top breeders in the county. A country show is like a farmer’s shop window, where they are honoured for their skill. This recognition of what they have produced within their breed is a big deal. For me, these days I have empathy with the livestock on show. Because by being “that bloke off the telly”, I know what it feels like to be one of the exhibits!
DON’T MISS ON