Relevant and Innovative Winter Fair

6 November 2015

Remaining relevant and continuing to innovate is a key challenge as organisers seek to future proof the internationally successful Royal Welsh Winter Fair. The event that began modestly in 1990 is now widely acclaimed as the finest primestock show in Europe, but with the livestock industry in crisis nobody is complacent.

RWAS Assistant Chief Executive, Aled Jones, stresses the importance of evolving to meet the challenges of changing times. The Society strives in the face of ‘the perfect storm’ to sell the story of Welsh agriculture to the public and to the consumer.

He said: “One of the things we’re doing this year is to focus on the food chain and the educational component. We are trying to attract more school visits.

“We’ve got everything in one location, from the live exhibits to the carcass exhibits to the dressed poultry and the cooking of the meat products, to the food hall where the food is on display and on sale.”

David Morgan, RWAS President 2015, joins Will Hanks, Honorary Winter Fair Director and Emyr Lewis, Chairman of the Winter Fair Committee in the basket of one of the hot air balloons destined to be part of the eagerly anticipated Nightglow display which will form part of the entertainment on the Monday night of the fair.

RWAS Chief Executive, Steve Hughson, is keen to tie in the rural community at a local, Welsh and UK level.  The delight of local primary schoolchildren invited to a preview of the hot air balloons featuring at this year’s Winter Fair was clearly a successful aspect of that campaign.

He says: “For us as a big business based in Mid Wales, it’s about supporting the local community. There is a lot more to this Society than the shows and we’ve got a huge responsibility to local industries and to develop children’s understanding.

“The Royal Welsh Agricultural Society contributes £50 million to the finances of Wales each year.  We have a responsibility to support local industries and to use our facilities for the benefit of everyone, supporting rural enterprise, Wales, and education.”          

A key aspect of the Winter Fair, which attracted 33,000 visitors to its 25th anniversary event last year, is its reputation as a place to do business and to update in a convivial atmosphere. The world class produce attracts exhibitors, buyers, and visitors from across the UK and beyond.

Quality is the hallmark in challenging times, according to Carlisle butcher, Jimmy Mulholland, who praises ‘one of the best shows in the UK’ for the quality of the stock, the passion of the Welsh farmer, and its role as a great flagship for UK farming. He was Supreme Cattle Champion judge at last year’s Royal Welsh Winter Fair, and backed his own judgement by buying the pedigree 622kg Limousin heifer, for £5,100.

Winter Fair Honorary Director, Will Hanks, is as aware as anyone of the very grave difficulties facing farming. He operates a milk delivery business in the Vale of Glamorgan and, with low milk prices posing a challenge, says it’s ‘head down and keep going’ to stay in business.

Similarly, RWAS President David Morgan is heavily involved in farming and diversified businesses. He’s confident that the industry will pick up, albeit following another difficult season, and that the Winter Fair thrives on the enduring national love of showmanship and Wales’s wonderful stock.