‘Truly humbling’ teamwork keeps Suffolk Show on the road

Phillip Ainsworth, Stephen Fletcher, David Barker, Bruce Kerr, Simon Tucker and Bill Baker

Some of the 2022 Suffolk Show top team - Phillip Ainsworth, Stephen Fletcher, David Barker, Bruce Kerr, Simon Tucker and Bill Baker - Credit: SAA

Suffolk’s biggest farming bash has survived two tumultuous years intact – despite absorbing a heavy financial blow from the pandemic, farmers heard this week.

The Suffolk Show will be revived this year after two years on ice due to the coronavirus crisis – to the delight of Suffolk Agricultural Association (SAA) members who attended their annual general meeting on Tuesday (February 15).

The farm charity will also go into the event on May 31/June 1 this year in good financial shape due to the performance of its investments. An early cancellation decision last year and mitigation measures have also helped.

But with insurers unwilling to underwrite event organisers for human pandemics in the current climate, this year the show will once again be without a communicable diseases in humans cover, the SAA said.

Although the association was cushioned against losses incurred due to the cancellation of the show in 2020 by an insurance payout of near £691k, last year it was unable to secure the same cover.

However, the insurance for 2022 will cover disease in animals and - crucially - adverse weather, which did come into play in 2012 when one day of the show was cancelled due to high winds.

As a mainly seasonal and events-led business, the last two years have been very tough for the SAA - but its sound financial footing has meant it has been able to weather the financial storm.

Overall the charity recorded a £519k operating deficit – or loss – in 2021 compared to nearly £32k in 2020. Its consolidated surplus once investments are taken into account – the equivalent of profit for a non-profit - was nearly £167k in 2021 compared to £755k in 2020.

Suffolk Agricultural Association's AGM Phillip Ainsworth, David Barker, Peter Over and Stephen Fletcher

Suffolk Agricultural Association's AGM. L-R Phillip Ainsworth (Chief Executive of Suffolk Agricultural Association), David Barker, Peter Over, Stephen Fletcher. Picture: Sarah Lucy Brown - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Most Read

Due to the fallout from Covid it will be focusing on putting on a memorable event – but within tough limits, farmers heard.

Treasurer Simon Tucker said they were “quite pleased” with how the investment portfolio had performed last year. “Cash was much better than we had expected at the start of the pandemic, partly through Trinity Park Events Ltd (the SAA’s commercial events arm) which performance much better than we assumed,” he added.

“TPEL actually had a good year in 2021. They had some trading going through.”

Like many events businesses TPEL was badly hit by the pandemic but it rallied and managed an operating profit of nearly £44k in 2021 versus an operating loss of nearly £134k in 2020.

This was helped by initiatives such as setting up a large vaccination centre on site at the height of the coronavirus crisis and by creating camping opportunities for staycationers keen to escape the cares of the Covid crisis.

However, it did take a pre-Christmas hit during its vital festive period when 1,000 covers cancelled as Omicron advanced.

While the show was returning this year, it would not be a show of the size it was pre-pandemic, Mr Tucker added. 

“Our key aim for 2022 is to deliver a show we can be proud of – accepting the constraints we are working in,” he said.

David Barker thanked the treasurer and his team for steering the SAA through a difficult year.

Despite all the many challenges, the SAA pressed ahead with some major improvements on the showground – including two new toilet blocks – despite the adverse conditions, members were told.

“It has been an incredibly difficult time and we are very lucky to have a group of people with the expertise and enthusiasm and interests of the show at heart,” said Mr Barker.

Show president Bruce Kerr – who is about to preside over what will be his one and only show following the cancellation of the previous two – told members he felt a “sense of déjà vu” as he addressed them.

But he added: “I’m actually pleased to report that plans for the 2022 Suffolk Show are progressing well.”

The challenges they faced meant the team was approaching the big event with “an enhanced level of flexibility” to produce “as normal a show as possible”.

But they had “taken knocks along they way”, he admitted. These included contractors pulling out for a variety of reasons – including the loss of some who were sadly no longer operating post-pandemic, he said.

He praised the “commitment and drive” of the show committee in overcoming the problems.

“Their dedication to the show is truly humbling,” he said.

Tickets for 2022 Suffolk Show are now on sale. To take advantage of early bird online offers go to www.suffolkshow.co.uk. Children aged under 15 go free, and this year for the first time, parking will also be free.