The county show that has been missing off the town’s calendar for three years has resurfaced, but in a slightly different format.

The Monmouthshire Show, a feature of the town’s heritage since the early beginnings of a ploughing match in the 1790s, returned to a different day and date, and a new ‘lite’ look.

Gone was the traditional grand parade of livestock and the popular horse and dog competitions, a feature that show chairman Michael Herbert hinted may return in the near future.

He explained that they have had to take some “difficult decisions” in order to restart this year, “due to the limited availability of both funds and volunteers”.

Many of the original show committee stepped down during the Covid years and meant the present committee were unable to hold the ever-popular horse section, or the highlight for many visitors, the livestock section.

“These both require an enormous amount of planning and experience, and we just do not have the capability to do them justice this year,” he added.

He continued by saying that their main priority is to get the show back up and running in a sustainable way that provides a stepping stone for bigger shows in the future.

Controversy has dogged the show committee with steps they have previously taken to improve the show and bring a vibrant and progressive one-day show to the county.

For many years the event was held on the Vauxhall fields, within walking distance of town itself, but that relied upon the co-operation of three landowners.

2007 marked the 150th anniversary of the Monmouthshire Show Society. That same year the show moved to a new site on the Redbrook Road in Monmouth.

It was a brave but logical decision to take when they purchased land along the river bank below Wyesham and, to begin with, the day remained as the last Thursday in August, chosen decades ago when the town’s shops closed half-day.

In 2017, the committee made the decision to move from a Thursday in August, to the first Saturday in July!

This was partly to accommodate the wishes of committee members but more importantly meant families would be able to attend as it was, mostly, a non-working day.

The reasoning behind a July Saturday was that there were so many other shows around the country that a clash could have been a problem. One of the casualties was the horticultural section as many flowers and vegetables were not ready for display.

Other factors which were considered responsible for the decline in attendance was not only the change in date from August to July, but some very wet weather, some very hot weather and clashes with other events, yet, as Michael admitted “other shows were seeing an increase”.

It didn’t help momentum when 2018 experienced one of the hottest days for a show day, enough to cancel the Grand Parade of show-winning animals and a World Cup quarter-final clash between English and Sweden on the same day meant that attendance was always going to be hit. 2019 saw attendance figures drop to 8,000 from a 2011 claimed high of 20,000.

As Michael Herbert explained: “The last 3 years turned out to be an opportunity to get under the hood of the finances, and rationalise the cost base. Alongside this, the Showground was increasingly hired out for events – ranging from car boot sales to medieval jousting, and even a base for national film crews. This meant we were finally able to announce another show this year, albeit a ‘lite-er’ version, without taking on additional loans we could ill-afford.”

Show Chairman Michael Herbert with cup winner Diane Pardoe
(Dres Pugh)

So now it’s back to the traditional month of August, albeit an earlier date and in its new format which seemed to work well.

Parking was all lower side the road, no headaches of organising vast numbers of people crossing the road. The park and ride worked seamlessly with 5 pick-up points in town.

The weather blessed the show’s return as a wet windy day could have been disastrous.

The committee had worked hard to ensure there were still animals for families to enjoy, from pigs to Llamas, some cattle, sheep, goats, Icelandic horses in the main ring and then at a stand for people to see.

Seamless wi-fi courtesy of Morgan Jones’ Countryside Connections meant cashless payments were made with ease.

Musical entertainment from the Town Band and the Rock Choir, plus a special screening of the womens’ cup final in Spain, the food and craft tents were as popular as ever, after all who could beat an artisan pork pie made in Melton Mowbray and brought down for the day.

The extreme mountain bike display drew a good crowd but probably the most popular draw of the day was a chance for the children to meet the hounds of the Monmouthshire Hunt.

Even the arrival of the hamster himself, Richard Hammond, along with some friends added a little murmur to the show’s buzz.

Yes it wasn’t the parade we have come to expect of some of the finest farm animals in the country, a parade that made Monmouthshire Show the envy of many, drawing participants and their families from all over.

But the show has battled Foot and Mouth and a Covid pandemic as well as everything mother nature can throw at it, and it still lives on, in some shape or form.

Show Chairman Michael Herbert added: “I sincerely hope this year’s Show can serve as a stepping stone back to an annual event we can all celebrate, and build on in the years to come. It’s easy to throw rocks from afar, but if you really want to change something then why not be part of changing it?”

He told the Beacon: “I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone involved in this year’s Monmouthshire Show Lite. The volunteers who worked all year to organise it, the gang of helpers that descended ahead of the Show to set things, the contractors without whose professional advice and guidance the Show couldn’t take place, and the stewards/gate staff/security who kept things running on the day.

“But most of all, to everyone who took a gamble and turned up to support us. I was genuinely delighted to meet so many traders who weren’t sure how popular it would be, but came along anyway. And the general public, who didn’t know what to expect, yet arrived in fantastic numbers (once we’d sadly lost the Football..)

“I know there are things we can do better, and we will be gathering all the feedback we can to make next year more of what you want. But I genuinely think we’ve got a platform to work from now, and a team who have learned a lot. The Show can’t be all things to everyone, but if you feel really strongly about something, please get in touch and be a part of making it happen. We are only limited by volunteers and finances, both of which are surmountable with enough support. There are so many things that made me smile yesterday, and unashamedly one of them was meeting Richard Hammond. But having complete strangers walk over and say how much they were enjoying the day was wonderful, and will live with me for a long time. Thank you, and I very much hope we can have that effect on even more people next year.

Show Management Secretary Cathy Tindell added: “For my own part I would like to thank everyone that came along to support the Show. There are plenty of things to be improved on for next year, but overall the feedback and comments we have received have been wonderful and any criticisms have been constructive. It is a huge achievement to bring Monmouthshire Show back after an extended break and with such a small committee. Huge thanks to everyone who worked tirelessly in the run up to the show to make it happen.”