Suffolk Country Shows
October 11, 2019

It was only quite recently that the number of people around the world living in cities exceeded the number of people living in the country. The picture is quite different in the UK where 90% of people live in urban areas and have done for a long time!

Fettling a Ploughmate at Brampton Plough Day, 2019

Any perception we have of ourselves as a rural race is perhaps some difficult-to-shift, pre-industrial hangover; or possibly our long urban tradition has created a nation of rural fantasists. It could be argued that, culturally, rural life is disproportionately represented, in painting and writing particularly, at least until very recently.

Huntmaster at The Suffolk Show, 2019

But the mechanisation of farming has meant there are few jobs left in the countryside. Even those of us who do still live in the country are now more likely to travel to town for work, and of course we shop in Aldi and watch Strictly in the evening the same as everyone else. Our rustic lifestyles generally extend no further than our daily dog walk.

'Take-me-home-eyes' class at Heveningham Country Fair, 2019

And yet, country shows appear to be booming. I’ve attended several this summer and they were all packed (the weather has mostly been favourable!). Their themes have been varied: arable and livestock farming, produce and food, art, dogs, horses, vintage machinery and transport, and hunting. I met people who are passionate about working horses, landscape painting, turtle dove conservation and steam-powered mini flour-mills, to name just a few. Amongst the attendees there is a strong sense of appreciation and engagement with our rural environment and traditions.

Traction engine rides at Henham Steam Rally, 2019

There is something fundamentally comforting about the notion of a productive countryside. It originates in some of our most base instincts, as well as more specific contemporary concerns like the food security issues of the world wars. The popularity of country shows indicates growing support and enthusiasm for local produce in preference to imported and over-processed foods. We want to know where our food comes from and the welfare of the countryside and livestock from which it came, and we want to minimise travel miles.

Young Handler class at The Suffolk Show, 2019

But more than that, the country shows celebrate the richness and diversity, and downright wonderful eccentricity, of our rural culture, and they demonstrate that it is, undeniably, alive and kicking. I'm dedicating this to the young woman above who still wants to spend a summer weekend struggling with a young Hereford in the hope of winning a rosette for her bedroom wall! Please try again next year, we think you're wonderful!

Privacy Policy
© 2020 Richard Allenby-Pratt.
Site by Mustard