By Debbie James

Fears that the long-term survival of the Pembrokeshire County Show is under threat after Covid-19 forced its cancellation for a second year have been quashed.

Financial pressure is growing on show societies that were struggling before the pandemic and there is concern for the future of some events.

But after what has been described as a “team effort’’ by everyone involved with the Pembrokeshire County Show, the event is secure, says the 2018 show president and board member Brian Harries.

“The show has gone from facing a serious debt to a situation today where we are solvent, clear of debt and in a stable financial position,’’ he says.

The board has had virtual weekly meetings for the last year.

Among the ideas being mooted to maintain a connection between the Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society and exhibitors, to prevent people drifting away and losing touch after a two-year absence, is the running of smaller events during the year.

The society’s equine group is running two events at the showground in April which will be strictly managed to comply with Covid regulations – the general public will not be encouraged to attend in large numbers.

Similar formats are being considered for livestock, food, horticulture, craft and others.

The events would need to be self-financing, says Mr Harries, but income is not the principal reason for planning them – it is about maintaining traditions and connection.

“We sense also there is pent up demand for social interaction throughout the rural community and we will certainly be responding to this when circumstances allow and this will undoubtedly include an element of fundraising,’’ he says.

There is also discussion around the cost of putting on the main event – it costs in the region of £800,000 to run the County Show.

“It may be that we have to have a much lower cost base to present the show,’’ says Mr Harries.

“We are not in a position to make firm decisions but we are looking at every possibility and the actions will depend on the circumstances we are faced with.

“We are ever mindful of the economic performance of the local economy and are tuned in enough to respond to that.’’

Across Wales, some societies make huge losses by putting on a show and rely heavily on fundraising and membership to balance their books.

In some respects, cancelling the show, with the breach bolstered by government support, has been a financial lifeline.

The future of many shows will depend on how traders view these events as a means of generating business as many have saved significant sums of money from their marketing budgets by not attending.

Another game-changer will be how people respond to attending large events once more, says Pembrokeshire farmer John Davies, who is closely associated with the Royal Welsh Show.

He believes the landscape for all agricultural shows will inevitably change in 2022.

“This is a crossroads for all shows,’’ he said. “Those that are in a reasonable financial position now will survive a second year but others that are not blessed with that will struggle.’’

For all, survival in 2022 and beyond will require adopting a robust approach to financial management and fiscal discipline, Mr Davies added.