Far Forest Countryside Show

A Brief History of Far Forest Society Shows (1902 to 2010).                         by John Collett.   
Back in 1901 a seed of an idea was planted by Rider Haggard, a famous author of his day, when he visited the Reverend G Eyre, vicar of Far Forest, to talk about his project. R Haggard was on a national campaign to promote interest in horticulture. As a result of his visit, and with the help of the vicar, the local people were encouraged to form a society. And after much effort and hard work the ‘members’ held their first successful Flower, Vegetable and Poultry exhibition in September 1902. The exhibition was held in the Old School, Church Lane, Far Forest, and the adjacent field.
As early as 1908 the future Prime Minister Mr Stanley Baldwin and his family, were regular visitors to what the press called Far Forest Horticultural Societies ‘Annual Show’.
In August 1910 the show moved to ‘a meadow near the Green Dragon Inn Tenbury Road’. Perhaps a sign of things to come, but it would take another 36 years before the Horticultural Society took up more permanent residence near the Green Dragon. The show was destined to hold events at the Old School for a few more years yet. The last recorded show at Church Lane was 1914, when Mrs Stanley Baldwin opened the show accompanied by her Husband the MP. Besides flowers and vegetables displayed at the Old School, there was also an open tennis tournament in the grounds of the old Vicarage. Finishing with a concert and dancing in the meadow. All for the entrance fee of 6d ( 2½ p in today’s money).  
After a gap of several years, mostly due to the 1st World War, no doubt attracted by the chance to use the more ‘modern’ premises, the Far Forest & District Flower Show, moved from Church Lane to the new Lea Memorial School in New Road, with the first show there in 1926 using the field next to the school for the outside activities. The show was opened again by Mrs Stanley Baldwin, whose husband was by then Prime Minister of Great Britain.
In 1928 the Prime Minister himself, Mr Stanley Baldwin, opened the Far Forest Show. With the Cleobury Road and New Road, Far Forest, being festooned with streamers and bunting to decorate the approach to the school and the British Legion forming a guard of honour at the entrance.
During the speeches at the Flower Show in 1932, the secretary, Mr F H Carter said Far Forest Horticultural Society’s (as it was called by then) had worked for some years helping to provide a village hall for Far Forest. Ever since the Flower Show Committee had amalgamated with the village hall Building Committee they had donated their funds to the cause, it had been their joint wish to see some where provided for ‘all’ the people of the district. Mr Carter also said that half of that year’s profit from the show would go towards paying back the loan borrowed by the Village Hall committee to meet the building costs of the new hall. There was a community spirit in the village then that meant they all worked together for the benefit of each other.
The community spirit came to the fore again when during the opening speeches at the 1934 Horticultural Show the then Chairman confirmed they would be splitting the show profits equally between the Village Hall, the Church and their own funds. This financial support and co operation between the two main groups in Far Forest continued certainly up until, and no doubt well beyond the 2nd World War. The war however, unfortunately brought about the end of the flower show for a time.
By 1939 the show had grown to be a major local event. Still using the new school Far Forest for the day time activities, with 6 hours of none stop entertainment finishing off with a firework display, the happy crowd then move to the village hall to complete the occasion by dancing the night away. Unfortunately just 3 weeks after the show that year, the whole country became involved in yet another world war, which meant for the following 5 years the show was suspended once more.
However mid 1945 saw a new enthusiasm back on the Forest, and in no time at all the Horticultural Society was re established and an excellent show was put on in the village hall and adjoining field. The entertainment even included a trapeze act that had played the Royal Command Performance at the London Palladium. As the show was so successful it was very clear a larger site would be needed, and so August 1946 saw the first event take place on the present 18 acre site opposite the then Rock Garage. With the new added attraction of horse jumping for the first time in the main arena. 
It is said success breeds success and this was never truer than with Far Forest & District Horticultural Society’s Show, for as the show got better then the numbers attending got larger. The attendance in 1949 was 5,000 people, by 1951 it had doubled to 10,000, then in ‘52’ the numbers went to 15,000 people at the 50th Jubilee anniversary show, with the best ever record of visitors being August 1953, with a total of 18,000 people. By then there were special buses laid on by the Midland Red, bring people from all over the Midlands just to see our show.
1956 saw the latest technology being used on the field, for they had closed circuit TV of the events in the main arena being shown on TV sets in the marquee. This trend carried on until 1959 with the quality of the show continuing to improve. With acts like the Brighouse & Rastrick Band, the Dagenham Girl Pipers, a military display from the other side of the world by the Australian Highlanders, the Royal Signals Corp display with 14 men on one motor bike and ‘Percy Thrower’ judging the floral section. Even the MEB attended with a trade stand showing TV’s, Radios and household appliances, plus the editor of the ‘Archers’ saying he was using material from the show to put in the script of the famous radio programme.
By then the Society was having 3 major functions a year, with the main show in August followed by a dance on the evening. Then a Bonfire and firework display in November often with a Deer or Stag roast thrown in. Finally followed by the annual dinner in December when the show winners were presented with the trophies they had won at the August show.
Over the years the shows can claim a fine record of dignitaries having opened the events, including a Prime Minister, at least 3 Members of Parliament, various town Mayors, plus titled ‘Sirs and Ladies’ in abundance. Even an Admiral and a Major officiated on a couple of occasions.
However by the 1960’s with changes in national holidays, the high cost of international acts and the growth of private motor cars, people’s way of life changed considerably meaning changes to the show were inevitable. So with a more affordable budget for expenditure, the show gradually re developed over the next 5 years, becoming a more realistic event to suit the new and changing world. Developing into as it still is today, a more local event, supporting local acts, and attended by local people.  
       However the committee never ceased to support Far Forest Village Hall and had a dance there after every show and held its annual meeting in the hall for over 50 years. This is a connection that goes back to before the hall was built, when the Flower Show committee amalgamated with the Village Hall committee to plan its building back in 1928.
The 1960’s were unsettled times, with many changes, however despite everything the show continued to pull in the crowds, all be it well below the 10,000 plus of the ‘Wonder’ years. With so much change 1965 saw a lull in the spirits of many of the organisers, to such a degree there were no shows at all held for the following nine years. But you cannot keep the British enthusiasm locked up for ever, and with the help of Ernie Hughes, the man said to have been the main power behind the ‘Wonder Years’ a show was put on in 1974 to everyone’s delight. The shows then carried on through out the 70’s and into the early 1980’s, usually rounding up with the traditional dance at Far Forest Village Hall.      
The 1980’s and early 1990’s were the quiet years for Far Forest Society, with few shows. Never the less as the pendulum swings back so it also swings forward and 1995 saw the re emergence of Far Forest Horticultural Society with plans afoot for a new future of successes at the show ground.  It is said nothing is ever new, just re invented. Over recent years we have seen a familiar pattern beginning to appear. The quiet start that year by year grows from a little seed of enthusiasm into something good. No one believes those Wonder Shows will ever be repeated, because the whole way of life is now different. But if we can continue to improve the quality and extent of what is offered year on year, and give those that do attend a warm memory to take them through the winter nights, then they will be back for more.  
2010 sees us with a new history of 10 or 15 years where each year has been an improvement on the last, thanks to a very keen team of committee members and the support and help of some very willing friends. Not forgetting of course those many happy smiling people who came through the gate to see the show. We seem to be developing a show that despite other attractions, people are prepared to brave the weather and come and try real live face to face entertainment. Built on a history of community spirit and great success that the present committee are as proud to be part of today, as all of the changing committee members of past years must have been.
       The future is very exciting, the committee has an extremely well designed new pavilion which provides up to date changing and showering facilities for the sporting club members, 1st class toilets for all and an up to date kitchen and refreshment area that releases space in the marquee to extend existing, and put on new events that need to be under cover on show days. The pavilion also has a smart open veranda, from where we can sit with our cream teas and watch people having fun and a relaxing time.                                                                   
     In every history story there is always one man who stands out head and shoulders above the rest, and for the last 50 years in our story that man was John Simmonds, to whom we dedicated the 2010 show.

Great Entertainment, Great Fun, Great Family Memories, Great Food, Great Experiences, Great Tradition, Great Value, Great Show

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