Hodder Valley Show

A traditional agricultural show where the centrepiece remains the livestock itself.

Tracing its history back to 1864, the Hodder Valley Show prides itself on being a traditional agricultural and horticultural event and a perfect family day out. Held on the second Saturday of September each year, the Show offers a slice of rural life in the community. Mark Blakey (Committee Chair) and Julie Harrison (Committee Secretary) describe the event to Open Air Business.


Describe your event and how many visitors it attracts
Hodder Valley is a traditional agricultural show; our centrepiece remains livestock. ‘Traditional’ is the highlight word: we don’t want a car boot sale kind of vibe! There are about 100 cattle and 380 sheep and some shire horses every year. Uniquely, the show site moves every year between three villages – Dunsop Bridge, Newton-in-Bowland and Slaidburn. It’s the kind of event where people catch up once a year. We aim to bring the community together.

Each show’s content, other than the livestock, changes every year. It’s hard to continuously reinvent but worth the trouble. We rely on the generosity of the local farmers and landowners for the site. The show is pulled together by the Show Committee, a non-profit making charity, of enthusiastic, hard-working rural people and friends who look to provide visitors with an insight into how the community works, coupled with a day out to remember. Different people are join us all the time while the chairman stands for one cycle, so three years (one show in each village). Attendance is very much dependent on the weather but it averages out at about 3,000.

What are the challenges of moving location so often?
As said, every show is different so every plan varies. We need to consider how large is the ring, how many trade stands will we have, what is the layout going to be. We haven’t cancelled recently but severe rain would make us reconsider, for health and safety reasons. The whole field just becomes a quagmire. Since the land is theirs we have to consider the farmers’ and landowners’ thoughts on how the ground will hold out. We always take their advice on whether the show should go ahead or not.

Hodder-Valley-Marquee Tell us more about working with trade stands
We attract many agricultural trade stands of farm machinery dealers, vets, auction markets and so on. We also have trade stands for food and children’s activities, like bouncy castles, and a craft tent for locals to demonstrate their skills and sell their wares. Last year, in the handicraft and horticultural classes, we received 1,400 entries – from floral decorations to knitted items and cakes. It’s competitive but in a friendly fashion. There’s also a farmers’ market. To offer suppliers a good bite of the cherry we don’t have five burger stands, for example, and we try to be different by offering hog roasts and Indian food, with no two stands the same. We tend to stick to those traders who have worked with us for a long time and provide a good service.

How does permission to run the event work?
Most farms are tenanted in this area but we’ve found that landowners (there are three different estates in the valley) and farmers are very sympathetic towards the show. Since the foot and mouth outbreak in 2001 any event with livestock has to have a foot and mouth licence. The land has to be livestock free for 28 days before the event and the site has to be inspected. This is quite a commitment for the farmers whose land we use. Cattle need animal passports and farmers must register the movement of the animals. Then we have to verify the presence of the animals at the show. New movement rules have just been announced regarding Bovine TB. This is all to ensure traceability in case of a disease outbreak.

How do you plan the layout?
We have a chap who does that: he creates the layout with the aid of computer software taking into account the size of the ring, the quantity and size of stands, the routes of egress and exit for livestock and people, etc. It’s quite a responsibility! He tries to change the layout every year, not least because of the different locations. Where larger shows have avenues and straight lines, we place stands in groups around the ring; it’s not so formal. We want everyone to have a chance to do good business so we place different people in the prime positions on different years. We make sure the food hall is placed near the exit so people may purchase on the way home.

Tell us about the marquees you use
The marquees are our biggest outlay so any provider has to be competitive. Although a national operator, our marquee supplier is based locally so we benefit from smaller transport costs. He’s someone we use year on year although he’s not a given; his price is always compared to others’.  Having said that, we’ve built up a good relationship over time; we trust him and his structures.


What entertainment do you offer?
Sheep shearing features every year, for the local farm lads. Judging is based on quality of work as much as it is speed. For up to 21 year olds we hold sheep and cattle handling competitions. It’s an art form really: how to wash the animals, trim them, polish their hooves and so on, as well as learning how to present themselvesshowmanship can make a huge difference. The young people love it. If they don’t have an animal but want to get involved they can borrow one from farmers at the event. We hold two or three forms of entertainment so that the ring is never empty and our visitors get good value for money. Last year we had motorcycle displays and dog agility both of which proved popular. A vintage tractor show is held every year, with many demonstrating their machines’ capabilities in the ring.

How do you manage admissions and visitor safety?
We employ a security company to marshal the public and the car park, run admissions and sort out any problems. The show committee also assists with these duties: it’s all hands on deck! Hodder Valley is not a wealthy show, its success is reliant on people giving their time freely. We live in a community where people like to be involved but don’t push themselves forward. However, they’re happy to give their time when we ask.

How do you publicise the event?
Hodder Valley is on Facebook and Twitter, has a dedicated website and is advertised in the local newspapers as well as on posters. However, word of mouth seems to work best. Keeping the show traditionally agricultural is important; that’s why people love it and return every year.


What challenges have you faced?
Our main challenge is financial. One or two big banks sponsor the show as does the NFU and local companies are a great help. We like to keep the admission price low, provide something of interest for everybody and offer value for money so visitors come again and again, year after year. Higher admission costs might deter visitors from spending at the stands which would be counter productive. While it’s not driven by making a profit, the show has to make up for the inevitable losses such as when the weather is wet. Usually we hold a function, like a dance on a farm or a fund-raising event in the village, to generate more funds in advance of the event.

What’s the secret of the show’s success?
Without the enthusiasm, dedication and time given so freely by our committee, and the support from the community, the show just wouldn’t happen. A driven, active, friendly team is the essential component to our success.

Address Book

Date: 10 September
Address: Boarsden Farm, Dunsop Road, Newton-in-Bowland, Lancashire, BB7 3ED
Contacts: Mark Blakey (Chairman) 01200 447671 / 077110827, Julie Harrison (Secretary) 01200 446698
www.hoddervalleyshow.co.uk / harrophall@sky.com

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