Planning still underway for August Balmoral Show

Organisers have confirmed planning will continue for the postponed 2020 Balmoral Show in August, despite a ban on large public events until September in the Republic of Ireland.

The latest figures (published on April 21) show a total of 216 people have died of Covid-19 so far in Northern Ireland – nine more than on April 20.

The figures show signs that infection rates have fallen since lockdown measures were implemented four weeks ago. However, without a vaccine, the Government has warned an early return to normal life could reignite transmission.

The Northern Ireland Shows Association (NISA) confirmed that 12 of Northern Ireland’s agricultural shows have cancelled for 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Shows that have been cancelled include:

  • Killyleagh;
  • Ballymoney;
  • Lurgan;
  • Armagh;
  • Newry;
  • Ballymena;
  • Omagh;
  • Castlewellan;
  • Londonderry/Limavady;
  • Antrim;
  • Clogher Valley; and
  • Fermanagh.

Saintfield Show organisers indicated they hope to run the event in September with a revised schedule.

The Royal Ulster Agricultural Society, organisers of the Balmoral Show, also decided to postpone the 2020 event until August 19-22, 2020.

The show, which was set to take place from May 13-16, 2020, hosted record crowds of 120,000 in 2019.

In a statement issued to AgriLand today (April 22), RUAS confirmed plans were still in place for the August event despite news south of the border that gatherings of more than 5,000 people would be banned until the end of August.

A similar ban has not yet been put in place in Northern Ireland. However, it would not be unexpected given that First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill announced the region’s three-week lockdown would be extended for a further three weeks just days after the same decision was made in the Republic of Ireland.

A spokeswoman for RUAS added: “We will continue to carefully monitor the situation and follow UK Government Guidance.”

In the Republic of Ireland, the National Ploughing Association’s annual show, which hosts upwards of 300,000 people each year is also still planned to proceed on September 15-17.

‘A difficult situation’

Ann Orr, chairman of NISA said shows faced a difficult situation weighing up the decision to cancel.

“The health and safety of all those who come together to put on the individual local shows are our priority,” she said.

“It is a difficult situation we all find ourselves in this year and each of the individual show committees has had to look seriously at their position; taking into account the months of preparation beforehand, the expense of pre-planning which may not be used – and against that, the loss to the agri-food Industry of the valuable contribution the shows make to the Northern Ireland economy.

“A major feature of the agricultural shows are the five NISA Championships run each year to culminate in the series championships at the end of the season.

“Thankfully, our sponsors have all been supportive of the committee’s decisions, and we will be back in 2021 stronger than ever.

Orr continued: “I know I speak on behalf of all the shows in thanking the organisers, volunteers, exhibitors, suppliers, sponsors, partners, and loyal visitors for their understanding and support during these unprecedented times.

“The loss of the local shows over the summer months will be a great disappointment not only to the show organisers but to all of those involved.”