A devastating house fire and a horrendous holiday injury didn’t stop Devon County Show manager Lisa Moore from delivering a stand-out 2023 event. She’s back for more this year – and with no disasters in sight, as Sharon Goble discovers

Lisa Moore has the Devon County Show in her blood. As a child she would come with her father, who loved having a trade stand at the annual event and was adamant his family should also attend. The horses and livestock were always Lisa’s firm favourites. She loved watching the show jumping, all the livestock parades and visiting the National Farmers Union stand with its containers of newly hatched chicks. She recalls: ‘It was just such an exciting event for us to go to - the smells, the bustling business and the diversity of it all and seeing the livestock up close.’

Decades later, after travelling the globe working in a variety of equine roles including riding show jumpers and polo ponies, Lisa returned to join the team at Westpoint that delivers the county’s premier agricultural event. Twenty-two years on, she’s now worked her way up to the top job, but one thing remains unchanged - she still loves all aspects of the show. As if to underline that, throughout our interview in the boardroom a large bust of a handsome horse is positioned in my direct line of sight, above and behind Lisa’s head.

Lisa’s story is an inspiring one. Not only is she now at the helm of the show that mesmerised her year after year as a child, but she has triumphed over adversity to pull off an event that, in 2023, attracted its highest attendance in about 15 years: over 96,000 visitors.

Rewind to July 2022 when Lisa’s life was turned upside down. She had just finished working in her office and was with her daughter when her husband called to say their home - part of a thatched Devon longhouse - was on fire. The fire had started in a neighbour’s property but by the time Lisa and her daughter arrived it had already spread to their home. The firefighters struggled to get access to water for the first half an hour, and then it really took hold…

Lisa says: ‘We lived in a house of straw, cob and wood and there was a breeze! So, we watched our home burn down, and everything in it. No one was hurt and all our animals were safe, but it was 20 years of our life, the place where my children had grown up. We lost practically everything.

‘The fire brigade was awesome and salvaged what they could. They were literally scooping out our possessions. They managed to save framed photographs and my wedding album. My daughter is a dancer, and they saved her brand new pointe shoes, but you don’t realise the things that are most important to you until you no longer have them. My son was away on a camping trip, and I suddenly remembered that he has a little toy turtle that he’s had since he was two. Ironically, he had decided not to take it away with him in case it got lost. We tried to get Turtle out of his room, but it was never found. Of course, his first question when he came back from his trip was, “Did you get Turtle out?”’

Great British Life: Devon County Show manager Lisa MooreDevon County Show manager Lisa Moore (Image: Katie Mortimore Photography)

Lisa has nothing but praise for the Red Cross Disaster Unit that was set up in the field in front of their house and the 20 fire crews who tried in vain to save their home. However, she found it traumatic overhearing details of the fire’s progress through their walkie-talkies.

‘It was because we had no control over what was happening. Luckily, my husband and I have quite a dark sense of humour so that’s how we dealt with it. We don’t think it’s the first time our row of houses has been ravaged by fire because the address is Burnt House Cottages!’

She adds: ‘At the end of the day, what we lost was just stuff. We went to charity shops all that summer to replace clothes. Friends and colleagues also very kindly donated clothing, and my children claim they have better wardrobes now than they did before!’

Lisa looks very smart the day we meet, wearing a fitted, checked jacket which she confirms was bought as a discontinued item through her husband who sells equestrian clothing into the trade.

Her family is now renting a nearby barn conversion while waiting for their character cottage at Strete Ralegh to be rebuilt but NOT with a thatched roof! They’re hoping to get the build underway by this summer.

However, the house fire wasn’t the only recent misfortune to befall Lisa. In 2023, her family went on a much-needed break to Greece, where Lisa had worked for many years running a racing and show jumping yard. Their return flight from Mykonos coincided with an air traffic controllers’ strike.

The family was put up in a swanky five star hotel with their own private pool and couldn’t believe their luck, until... Lisa decided they should walk down a steep hill to buy food in the village to avoid paying high-end hotel prices. She lost her footing in her sandals and ruptured her patella tendon (knee).

What followed is another tale of disaster relief for Lisa. The short version of the story: a flight to Athens for emergency surgery, with her family following behind, complicated arrangements for them all to fly home, a month on a Zimmer Frame and then months on crutches.

They say bad things happen in threes. Third-up, the Friday before the county show, her husband was travelling home in the middle of the night, and his car caught fire and burnt out.

Seriously, what are the chances of that run of bad luck?

Fortunately, Lisa has the kind of personality to cope. ‘I know that I’m a person who can deal with difficult situations, and my husband’s the same,’ she says. ‘We’re matter of fact. We don’t panic. We just get on with it.’

Good qualities for someone in a job like Lisa’s, where you never know what will crop up throughout the show’s planning period and during the event itself.

‘We really are a team here, the staff in the office and the stewards,’ she says. ‘I’ve known many of the stewards for a very long time. They know me and my family, so it’s a lovely supportive environment to work in. You have a plan and sometimes it all comes together, with the support of the weather, and that was the case in 2023.’

Fingers crossed for similar success this year!

Devon County Show is at Westpoint, Exeter from May 16 to 18.


A chequered recent history

Devon County Show is one of the first big agricultural shows of the year and a well-oiled machine, but sometimes unforeseen circumstances put a spanner in the works:

2014: the show was cancelled on the Saturday due to intense rain affecting the parking.

2020: it was cancelled because of Covid.

2021-22: the show moved to summer dates instead of the traditional May weekend.

2023: a deluge of rain once again threatened the show. But then the sun came out, and it ended up being the busiest show in 15 years.

Great British Life: This year's show president, Michael Caines, is passionate about food and farming. This year's show president, Michael Caines, is passionate about food and farming. (Image: Katie Mortimore Photography)


This year’s show president is Michael Caines MBE the chef and owner of Lympstone Manor in Exmouth.

He says: ‘Food and farming are of course at the very heart of the show. The two are inextricably linked – as there can be no food future without farming.

‘Farmers are the caretakers of the land and providers of our regional larder. Chefs are storytellers, as are our suppliers, and they connect this unique tapestry of our woven landscape to the very communities that live, work and thrive within this wonderful county.

‘We must therefore protect and champion our indigenous and heritage breeds, celebrate our biodiversity, protect our ancient woodlands, orchards, wetlands and grasslands and as stewards of the countryside, embrace the need for the adoption of regenerative farming techniques – a need that becomes ever more urgent as we face a climate emergency. It’s by working together at events such as the show, where communities with a truly diverse audience come together and are prime for getting the conversation started and forging partnerships, that will help create a better future for Devon, Food and Farming.’

Great British Life: Headline act Ben Atkinson has been performing with horses since the age of 11. Headline act Ben Atkinson has been performing with horses since the age of 11. (Image: ejlazenby.com / Ben Atkinson)


This year’s headline act at the show is Ben Atkinson and his Action Horses. Ben has been performing with horses since the age of 11 when he made his first display of Roman riding (riding two horses at once). The act prepared for the show will showcase some of the most advanced equestrian techniques including Liberty, Classical Dressage, Airs Above the Ground (a classical dressage movement in which the horse leaves the ground) and Cossack Trick Riding.

Patrick the Shetland pony was voted in as mayor of Cockington by the community following the exceptional contribution he made in and around his home turf in South Devon as a therapy pony. Patrick will be officially opening the Crafts and Horticulture marquee on the first day, complete with his specially tailored mayoral costume. A key theme of this year’s show is accessibility and inclusivity and organisers are working with the charity Devon In Sight to build a sensory garden. It will feature planting and accessories designed to evoke all the senses, with a focus on touch, smell and sound.

After a successful appearance last year, the Festival of Heavy Horses is returning. Different breeds, many of which are on the endangered list, include Shires, Clydesdales, Suffolks, Percherons and Canadian Belgians - the world’s largest breed of draught horse