A look ahead to the 2018 Royal Lancashire Show

Royal Lancs Show

Royal Lancs Show - Credit: Archant

Make a date for this year’s Royal Lancashire Show – all the signs are that it’s going to be one to remember. Roger Borrell reports.

Royal Lancs Show

Royal Lancs Show - Credit: Archant

Colin Mustoe and his colleagues have a message for anyone who thinks the Royal Lancashire Show is a thing of the past.

‘We are all determined to prove it’s not just back up and running but is very much alive and kicking,’ he said. ‘We are all very excited – progress for this year has been fantastic.’

It’s a remarkable turnaround. In years past, a series of problems – mainly caused by bad weather – put a question mark over the show’s future.

However, Colin, a businessman who lives in the Ribble Valley, felt this important countryside event was too important to be allowed to die. He decided to get involved and ended up as the show chairman, allowing free use of his 150-acre site at Salesbury Hall near Ribchester.

Royal Lancs Show

Royal Lancs Show - Credit: Archant

‘We took over in April last year with a mainly fresh team on the committee – people prepared to give up their time,’ he added. ‘Because of all the problems, the society owed quite a bit of money. But we had a very successful three day show last summer and we have managed to pay off our debts. We now even have a modest war chest.’

Committee members are very confident the 2018 show will be the biggest and best for years. Colin said last year had around 15,000 visitors and exhibitors.

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That was a far cry from the society’s heyday in the 1920s when well over 120,000 attended. A thick, bound book, a show guide from the 1970s, sits on Colin’s desk as a reminder of just how popular the event used to be with page after page of exhibitors. But the relatively small beginning last year has provided a firm foundation for growth.

It is clear from talking to Colin that the Royal Lancs is returning to its original ethos of showcasing all that’s best in the county’s countryside – although what they’d have made of the Red Devils’ opening day skydiving display back is the 1920s is anyone’s guess!

Royal Lancs Show

Royal Lancs Show - Credit: Archant

Timing is also important. ‘As soon as last year’s show finished, we started planning for this year and one of the first decisions was to move it to its traditional date over the weekend of July 20, 21 and 22,’ said Colin. ‘This fits more naturally with other shows in the region and it no longer clashes with the Clitheroe Food Festival.’

Before last year’s revival, one of the major criticisms was that there were very few traditional features such as livestock and show jumping.

‘I’m pleased to say the event now has the support of the British Show Jumping Association and that means we will have £20,000 of prize money,’ said Colin, whose wife and daughter are keen on the sport. ‘We will be able to attract a range of riders of all abilities from novices to the very best.

‘It was always meant to be an agricultural show but livestock dwindled and there were hardy any horses. We have changed all that and this year there will be a strong contingent.’

Major progress has been made attracting cattle and sheep exhibitors plus a poultry section. Lancashire Young Farmers have also thrown their weight behind the show.

There will also be new features. One is the Ladies’ Marquee, sponsored by north west jewellers, Boodles, and featuring fashion shows. Another will be a children’s’ village designed to entertain younger visitors.

There will also be a vibrant Food Hall, organised by Amanda Dowson and Katie Bancroft, with demonstrations free of charge by top chefs such as Tom Parker, Steven Smith, Victor Yu, the Cartford Inn, Leagram Organic and Batch Gin.

Another positive aspect is that there are no hidden costs – a family ticket, for instance, costs £27 admits two adults and two children and that’s it. If you want to go into the ladies’ marquee, the food hall or the children’s village there are no extra charges.

Country pursuits will be much in evidence with fishing demonstrations and gun dog scurries. There will also be a dog ring, an Army assault course, displays by the Vander Wheel of Death daredevils, trade stands and displays of classic cars.

Colin is founder of the Senator Group, the Accrington-based office furniture business which does business worldwide and employs around 1,400 people. Surprisingly, he’s not from Lancashire.

‘I’m from the south of England but we made our home here and this is one way of putting something back,’ he said. ‘It has given me a lot of pleasure, working with the committee involved in the show. You get a real kick out of helping to create something that’s successful.’

* The Royal Lancashire Show runs from July 20-22 at Salesbury Hall near Ribchester. Tickets can be bought on line at www.royallancashireshow.co.uk or via 01254 814712.