It’s been a Teesside institution for three quarters of a century – but this month’s Cleveland Show could be the last for an event that attracts up to 14,000 visitors.
The show’s volunteer organisers say rising costs, falling sponsorship and the weather have left the North East’s biggest agricultural show on the edge.
Now they’ve issued a rallying call to the public – and potential sponsors – to ensure this year’s Cleveland Show, taking place in Stewart Park on Saturday July 27, isn’t the last.
Each year, the show features an incredible range of agricultural activities and animals including competitions for sheep, goats, horses, cattle, dogs, poultry, ferrets and rabbits – with a fun fair, motorbike stunt show and children’s fun show adding to the family fun.
First held as the Stockton Show on the Recreation Ground on Durham Road in 1944, the show had temporary stops at Ropner Park and Wynyard Hall before moving to Stewart Park in 1963 where it’s been held every year ever since, with crowds of 30,000 regularly attending in its heyday.
But members of the volunteer committee who dedicate their time to planning the show say the show’s finances are now at crisis level – and another bad year could sound the death knell for the event.
Show director Barrie Robinson, who has been involved with the show since helping his grandad when he was just eight years old, wants to ensure the show goes out on a high if this is to be the last one.
“If it goes, the sense of failure I would feel would be immense,” said Barrie, whose late grandfather served as the event’s trade stand manager for many years. “It would be a tragedy.
“The show is a crown jewel in Teesside’s summer calendar. It’s one of the country’s biggest, best-known agricultural shows and it brings loads of people into the most beautiful park.
“So it’s something I really desperately don’t want to let go of because I think I’ll be letting down my grandfather if the show falls on my watch.
“It would be a crying shame for the people of Teesside, County Durham and North Yorkshire too. But I’m a realist, and if we don’t plug some of the financial gaps we’ve got it won’t be able to keep going.
“And I fear that people won’t know what they’ve got till it’s gone.”
The show’s general secretary, Val Thomson, whose farmer father Keith Beaumont was one of show’s original founders, said she’s also determined to save the show in memory of her parents, once show director and trade stand manager.
“I know my dad’s looking down watching me, so I would hate to think that I’d be one of those responsible for ending a show he helped start 76 years ago,” said Val, who attended her first Cleveland Show at the age of 10 months in 1955 and has been helping out since the age of five.
“I think and certainly hope people will be horrified to hear this could be the end of the Cleveland Show, so we need a great turnout – and hopefully a much-needed injection of cash via sponsorship.”
Barrie believes the show has suffered from an inaccurate belief that it’s a Middlesbrough Council event.
“There’s a perception from many that this is a council-run show, but this is a stand-alone event, run by volunteers,” he said. “We don’t receive any funding at all from the council, though we appreciate the free use of Stewart Park.
“The show is successful because of a small group of really committed people who each have an emotional attachment to the event as the result of a lifetime’s worth of involvement.
“None of us get paid for what can be an inordinate amount of physical and mental work but we have the energy and enthusiasm to keep it going, if it’s humanly possible.”
But he fears there’d be no coming back if the show stopped for even one year.
“If it fails this year, I can’t see it coming back,” he admitted. “It would be really difficult to breathe life back into the event if momentum falls away.
“And I don’t think you’d ever get anything like this again in our area, certainly not on this scale. It would be one thing less thing on Teesside to shout from the rooftops about.”
But he promised: “If it does fail, then it won’t be for the want of trying. If people do support us, I promise to strain every fibre to make sure we continue into 2020 and beyond.
“And if it is to be the last one ever, let’s make it the best one ever – with fantastic show, exhibitions and more visitors.”
• The Cleveland Show takes place at Stewart Park, Middlesbrough, on Saturday July 27, with entry priced £8 adults, £6 OAP, £4 children (under-3’s free), while family entry for two adults and two children are just £19, Free parking is available.
• Those interested in sponsoring part of the Cleveland Show can call 07930 314552 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.