Rupert Cox: Past, present and future

Photo: Gannet77 / Thinkstockphotos

Photo: Gannet77 / Thinkstockphotos - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Our columnist Rupert Cox, CEO of the Royal Bath and West Society, looks at the history of one of the county’s biggest shows

I hope everyone in Somerset knows of the wonderful Royal Bath & West Show, which I am honoured to lead, but very few are aware of the work of the Society behind the Show and the history and heritage that embraces its existence.

Established in Bath on 8 September 1777, the Royal Bath & West of England Society’s aim was for the encouragement and improvement of agriculture, manufacture, commerce and fine art. However, it took until June 1852 for the Society to host its first agricultural show in Taunton. For the next 113 years the show travelled around the south of England in “the triangle of Ts”– namely Truro, Taunton, Tewkesbury and Twickenham – and many towns in between.

During the years before the Show, the Society’s membership focused on innovation and invention in agriculture, following in the footsteps of the famous agricultural pioneer Jethro Tull – he of the horse-drawn seed-drill invention, who passed away 36 years previously in 1741.

This period of time was vital for our Society and others like it around the country, in establishing a vehicle by which landowners could make their tenants more efficient and financially viable.

If you wind the clock forward nearly 250 years you will find agricultural societies continue to be at the hub of rural influence, but have not been great at promoting the fantastic work they do, over and above hosting excellent Shows – and the Royal Bath & West is no exception.

Our charitable objectives have changed little since 1777 but the way in which they are delivered has evolved over the centuries. In 2016 education and knowledge transfer are the key delivery mechanisms and here are some examples: At our Royal Bath & West Show we educate the public through great features such as Farming for the Family and Livestock Judging; We transfer knowledge to the farmer at the Dairy Show where we exhibit the very latest technologies such as robotic milking or automated feed systems, and at Grassland UK we do similar with grass management.

Away from the Shows we host an annual Field to Food learning day for over a 1,000 eight to 11-year-olds. We give bursaries to young people to travel or study agriculture and deliver environmental projects such as the very successful Hills to Levels project. This project helps and supports farmers to understand the challenges faced by unmanageable flooding and we organise the Environmental Youth Awards and the Prince of Wales Community Awards

The year 2017 will see a step-change for the Society as we start to develop an Agri-tech & Food Innovation & Training Centre that will reignite our innovation roots of 1777. So when you visit and enjoy our amazing Royal Bath & West Show (31 May until 3 June) remember the innovative work carried out behind the scenes at the Society and consider how our charitable activities impact on thousands, upon thousands, of people every year.

For more from Rupert, follow him on Twitter! @rupert_scoc

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