16th May, 2016
When Michael Eavis said that he could rustle up a few bands for our Show, it was like the Duke of Wellington saying he would organise a re-enactment of the Battle of Waterloo or Artistotle saying he could provide some philosophers for our pub-quiz team. Mr Eavis is, of course, the man who founded the Glastonbury Festival, but, this year, he is also the President of the Royal Bath and West Show.
We have a different President each year and they all bring their special expertise to bear. The Countess of Wessex, who is now also our Vice Patron, used her PR background to advise on projecting our image to an ever wider audience. Julian Fellowes and his wife, Emma (our first joint Presidents), brought showmanship and joie de vivre.
As well as widening our musical offering, Mr Eavis has introduced sartorial diversity; he must be the first Society President to wear shorts to meetings, even during those dark days before the clocks went forward. He always wears his presidential brass badge, but his more informal attire contrasts delightfully with the traditional tweed suits of visiting Lords Lieutenant.
As is well documented, Mr Eavis is not just one of the world’s most renowned music-festival maestros, but he remains what he always was: a Somerset dairy farmer. It is appropriate that, for the first time at this year’s show, which takes place on the first four days of June, there will be a grand stock parade on the Saturday as well as on the weekdays. It’s a carnival of the finest animals in farming today. The rippling flanks of Red Ruby Devon bulls, the bouncy fleeces of Southdown sheep and the full-bodied gingery Tamworth pigs will be among the plethora of breeds represented.
It’s only when you see them all together, a kind of agricultural Trooping the Colour, that you fully appreciate the magnificence that still exists. Breeds have evolved to suit their particular regions and conditions, with some introductions from abroad to improve the home stock. The tradition of breeding animals to produce the best quality continues and it’s a wonder to behold.
Legend has it that Mr Eavis was inspired to start the Glastonbury Festival after witnessing a blues concert at the Bath & West Showground in the early 1970s. Now, he’s returning the favour. The ‘undiscovered’ bands playing at the Bath and West Show’s stage in the new food-festival area may turn out to be the music stars of the future, the rock equivalent of the dairy supreme champion.