Rupert Cox: Park, pee and a cup of tea
- Credit: Archant
Our columnist reflects on the thousands of visitors who come each to the showground
While walking around the Bath & West Showground during my lunch break, I considered the number of hobbies or pastimes that this region’s premier outdoor venue hosts throughout the year.
It is no exaggeration to suggest that nearly every rural or outdoor hobby mentionable, with the exception of sport, can be experienced at some time or other. From antique collectors’ fairs to specialist model train events; from all night music raves to the National Adventure Sports Show for younger visitors; there are religious camping rallies, vintage tractor exhibitions, car auctions, motorbike events and then the petrolheads’ TruckFest. For the more sedate, earthy visitor there are motor home, camping and caravanning shows; for retail therapy we have shopping with Boden and the wedding showcase events; then there are specialist events like the Angling Show, FitFest, Homebuild & Renovation Show and Super Groom (dogs, not people!).
With this variety taking place on nearly every weekend throughout the year, it is not surprising that together with the Royal Bath & West Show and The Dairy Show, over 800,000 people a year come through our gates. The value to the Somerset economy is worth tens of millions of pounds, not just from turnover at the event itself, but the accommodation in nearby bed and breakfasts and pubs, the local butchers and bakers as well as the employment generated from organising such events.
Our job as the host, if not event organiser, is to make sure that visitors to the showground have a safe and comfortable experience with us. We use a rather coarse phrase of ‘park, pee and a cup of tea’ to describe the very basic expectation of our visitors. So the pressure of keeping our car parks clean, tidy and pot-hole free is an endless (and thankless) task; the need to keep our toilets clean and fresh is of paramount importance and the desire by us to keep the quality and variety of the food and drink offering unique and fresh, while recognising that many of our visitors can’t go wrong with a bacon and egg roll!
Looking back in time, the showground hosted Prince Naseem and Frank Bruno in televised boxing events and great bands of the 80s such as Dire Straits and ABC appeared in the Showering Pavilion. Our greatest claim to fame, however, was hosting of the 1969 Bath Blues Festival with The Kinks headlining, that attracted over 200,000 people. This led in 1970 to Michael Eavis starting to organise what is now the Glastonbury Festival – the largest such festival in Europe. Watch this space for a resurgence of music and comedy in the next year, as we strive to bring live performance back to the showground.
Long standing residents of Somerset can sometimes forget the invaluable jewels of this county and I would suggest that the Royal Bath & West Show and the Bath & West Showground are among them. For the newcomer to the county these assets of which I am most proud are part of the plethora of attractions and events that make Somerset a wonderful county in which to live, work, raise a family and while-away our twilight years.