With high hopes and a touch of trepidation, the Irish Shows Association (ISA) looks forward to reviving its affiliated country shows during 2022. The two-year hiatus caused by COVID-19 will not be easy to overcome, but ISA national secretary Jim Harrison still says: “We are rearing to go with all guns blazing. Of course, there will be certain precautions like one-way systems, handwashing etc, but our outdoor events should go ahead.”
Jim was heartened when spending three days at Balmoral Show last September, which he felt “worked well”. He also takes comfort in the fact that the Dublin Horse Show is set to return fully international on 17-21 August 2022.
Yet there has to be concern that some grand old agricultural events may not return, having lost two years of continuity. In the very first issue of its guidebook published back in 1980, the ISA wisely pointed out: “Shows can only prosper through the sweet substance of human co-operation.”
Two years of COVID-19 has undoubtedly impacted the ability of show committees to maintain volunteer motivation. Only a concerted effort at reviving their enthusiasm, commitment and pride of place can restore this fragile spark that keeps shows alive.
Hope of youthful Input
For many years now, there has been the worry that retiring volunteers and show committee members might not be replaced by a more youthful cohort. In this regard, Jim Harrison had a very promising piece of news to share. It concerns the formation of a youth group whose aim is to bring new blood into the 20 agricultural shows in the midland region and beyond.
The brainchild of Paula Loughran of Tydavnet Show and Ray Brady of Arva Show, this enthusiastic group now holds monthly meetings that aim to “encourage, embrace and engage” young enthusiasts to become active in helping local shows to prosper. We will hear more from them in 2022.
Despite recent problems with insurance for some equestrian activities, Jim Harrison says that insurance will be available to all ISA-affiliated shows in 2022. I recall that back in the 1960s, insurance was simply a matter of the show secretary getting in touch with the local agent and signing up for a fee of £25 to £50. But as premiums shot up, a national ISA scheme had to be put in place. This inspired encouragement with a recent annual Government grant of €450 from the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and has helped shows afford adequate cover.
So, it is on with the show for 2022.