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New Forest Show to return in 2022 after pop-up campsite 'saved event'

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THE future of the New Forest Show was probably saved by the decision to open New Park at Brockenhurst to campers last year, its chair has revealed.

Describing the popular agricultural show as a “£1.5m gamble”, Martin Stewart said preparations were well under way to bring the event back in July 2022, having been cancelled by the pandemic for two consecutive years – including on its centenary in 2020.

Speaking at the annual Beaulieu Estate dinner, Mr Stewart, who is managing director of Stewarts Garden Centres, said: “Opening the campsite on the showground when other campsites in the Forest remained closed probably saved the show society.

The New Forest Show is set to return in 2022 after a two-year hiatus
The New Forest Show is set to return in 2022 after a two-year hiatus

“We are, of course, grateful to the planning team at New Forest District Council for their advice throughout.”

He also said: “I am quite clear that this next show is crucial to the ongoing success of the society.

“It might be the first one back but that is not all. It needs to be the first one for the next 100 years. That is what I would like our legacy to be.”

Mr Stewart said the aim was to make the 2022 event as “near to normal as possible”, but he warned that in the last two years the Show Society had “examined everything and questioned everything”.

He said: “In my time on the board everything has been up for discussion – there has hardly been one aspect of the show that has not been discussed under the heading – if we were starting again tomorrow what would we do?”

Mr Stewart paid tribute to the show society staff and board members.

Show society chief executive Denis Dooley, who is chair of the Association of Shows and Agricultural Organisations, was described by Mr Stewart as “a rock throughout the difficult time”, learning how to avoid the “catastrophic decisions” of others.

Mr Stewart continued: “There is not, to my knowledge, a book to go to on how to save the county show in a pandemic.

Martin Stewart
Martin Stewart

“But we have clearly learnt, if we did not know before, that we cannot take the future of the New Forest Show for granted.”

Mr Stewart also praised the “tremendous support” from landlords Forestry England and from the national park authority, Hampshire County Council and NFDC.

He continued: “What I can promise all those organisations is their trust and support will come back to them through the show continuing to provide a vital function in the community.

“Going forwards I promise everyone one thing: absolute sincerity in our appreciation of what the show is about and why it’s important.

“It’s about the great outdoors, fresh air, education, competition, social interaction – everything that is good about the Forest.

“I’ve described the show in the past as a £1.5m gamble – we have to spend that money before the people turn up, before we know the final numbers of traders, visitors or competitors. We clearly don’t know what negative effect the weather might have – too wet or even recently too hot.”

Promising that the 2022 show would be the “best yet”, Mr Stewart read a statement on behalf of Denis Dooley which said: “The next show is going to be a wonderful celebration of the New Forest with a focus on interactive educational activities for the whole family.

“We have lots of new ideas and additions ready for you to get involved with.

“Yes, there will be extra safety measures and yes we have many challenges ahead in the planning, but the team of staff and stewards are experienced and super enthusiastic.”

The New Forest Show will return on 26th, 27th and 28th July 2022. Visit www.newforestshow.co.uk

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