Getting the Newbury Show back on the road – 2 November 2022 update

2 November 2022 update

The following email has recently been sent to all NADAS members by the Chairman, Steve Ackrill, concerning the 2023 Newbury Show.

“As many of you will be aware members of the Board of Trustees have been involved in negotiations with SME London/BBC Countryfile with a view to putting on a joint show in September 2023. Much as we felt the joint event would have been an amazing opportunity for the Society, we have been unable to reach a financial agreement with SME / BBC that we, as Trustees, were comfortable with and that we felt was right for the Society.

“To this end a decision was taken at a meeting of the Trustees yesterday evening [1 November 2022] that negotiations will cease and that the Society will organise Newbury Show ourselves; this will be a two-day event that will take place over “our” weekend of 16 and 17 September 2023.

“An enormous amount of work towards the joint  event has already taken place behind the scenes. This groundwork can now be used towards “our” show which puts us in a very positive position going forward with the organisation of the show.

“Obviously there is a great deal still to be done and more details about the Show itself and the help that will be required will become available in due course but in the meantime please put the date in your diaries as Newbury Show will be back in 2023.”

27 October 2022 update

I spoke to two NADAS Trustees on 27 October and was told that the plans for the 2023 event were now all but settled. A board meeting of NADAS will be taking place in the next few days and an announcement is promised soon thereafter concerning the details of the Show, including its nature and scale. Depending on what’s decided, the Show may not run on all three of the dates previously mentioned below.

Once matter which still remains unresolved is the S106 agreement (see below). This won’t affect the Newbury Show, which doesn’t take place in this period, but it will affect NADAS’s finances. Unless this matter can be sorted fairly fast it’s going to be too late for the society to arrange or provide any events for this winter season. I’m not sure what the delay at WBC is, given that the organisation which had previously been so keen to see this restriction (Chieveley Parish Council) has now reversed its opinion. Perhaps revisions to S106 agreements don’t come up that often and the officer is unsure how to proceed. I imagine NADAS would say, “a bit more quickly would be good…”

The future of the Newbury Show

Over the last 18 months we’ve written several articles explaining the choices that the Newbury & District Agricultural Society (NADAS) faced as a result of its financial problems. The solution proposed by the then board in early 2021 would, were it to have been carried out, have been both dramatic and irreversible – the sale of the Showground. This was opposed by a number of members who, after a somewhat acrimonious struggle, gained control of the organisation late last year. The main work since then has been assessing the state of the finances and the options for the society. Inevitably, this has involved a consideration of the future of the Newbury Show.

For many people, NADAS is the Show and the former without the latter is unthinkable. NADAS does much other work, but the Show is certainly its most eye-catching event. It’s also certainly large: too large, perhaps. It has grown in size in recent years but has also become increasingly unprofitable. This is another matter the new trustees have been carefully considering.

The last Newbury Show took place in 2019. Those in 2020 and 2021 were lost to Covid; while, as we reported on 3 February, the change of management had not left enough time to organise the event properly for 2022, particularly after a two-year hiatus and as changes would need to be made to its scope and scale. Projects of this size take the best part of a year to plan: so, with any 2023 Show being just under a year away, one might expect an announcement pretty soon.

“That should indeed happen,” said one of the Trustees, Nick Wallis, when I spoke to him on 5 October. “Discussions between the main parties are at an advanced stage and we hope to make an official statement shortly. One thing I can confirm is that, assuming the final hurdles are crossed, the Show will take place on 15, 16 and 17 September. We’re really looking forward to being able to revive this major event, one that we know many people have missed over the last three difficult years.” This event will be organised jointly by HADAS and BBC’s Countryfile programme.

A related problem is the restriction, imposed as part of what’s known as a Section 106 agreement when planning permission for the cattle shed (which opened in 2016) was granted. Among other things, it prohibits any commercial events between 1 December and 26 March. The new trustees soon realised that, though not the root cause of the Society’s problems, this was depriving it of valuable income. Discussions with Chieveley Parish Council and others have led to widespread support for NADAS’s proposal to have these conditions amended.

The application to accomplish this is, however, still grinding through West Berkshire Council’s planning system. It remains to be seen if the restrictions will be lifted (assuming they are) in time for any such events in the winter of 2022-23 to be planned. Most people oppose the idea of turning the Showground into a distribution centre, as proposed by the previous board: however this is exactly what might happen if the society is unable to trade profitably. Amending the S106 will be a step towards securing the site for future generations. Even more so will be a successful and profitable Newbury Show in 2023. Further announcements on both these matters are thus awaited with interest.

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