DEVON LIFE FEATURE: Royal Approval (April)
The Devon County Agricultural Association, which organises the Devon County Show every May, has a Royal President this year, and a Royal President, what is more, who will be much more than just a figurehead.
The President in question is Her Royal Highness The Countess of Wessex, the wife of Her Majesty the Queen’s third son, Prince Edward. HRH is very much a hands-on Patron of the Association of Show and Agricultural Organisations (ASAO), which represents agricultural shows across the whole of the UK.
And taking on the Presidency of the DCAA means that The Countess will be renewing her partnership with Ollie Allen, former Chairman of the ASAO and, of course, the Secretary of the Devon County Show.
At her installation as President of the Devon County Agricultural Association (DCAA) at the Westpoint Showground in January, The Countess’ genuine enthusiasm for both Devon, and its flagship event, was plain to see.
“I am honoured and delighted to be President of the DCAA this year,” The Countess said.
“Supporting our farmers and the industry is a priority for me in my work and I very much look forward to my role with this unique part of our country and its special agricultural show.
“I am really looking forward to getting to know all of you a lot better and recognise the very, very hard work you all put into this Show,” she told her audience of DCAA members.
“Shows like the Devon County don’t just happen; these things don’t just appear overnight. All of the visitors who come to this Show get to have a wonderful day out thanks to the time, effort, emotion and, yes, love, that you all put into creating what is a wonderful event.”
The Countess does have a strong Devon connection. HRH's paternal grandfather, Theophilus Rhys-Jones, was Headmaster of St Peter’s School in Exmouth, so that her father Christopher grew up in the county. The Countess herself spent many holidays in Devon as a child. Speaking at her installation in January The Countess said, “I have so many happy memories of this beautiful county. Devon has a very special place in my heart.”
The Countess has previously been President of the New Forest and Hampshire Show, the Royal Cornwall Show and the Royal Bath and West Show.
“The Countess of Wessex was quite simply one of the best Presidents we have had in recent years,” says former NFU Regional Director, Anthony Gibson, now a Trustee of the Royal Bath and West Show. “HRH took a real interest in every aspect of the show and especially in marketing and PR, where she gave us some brilliant advice. Devon is really lucky to have The Countess as President.”
The Countess of Wessex’s appointment means that the DCAA will, for the first time, have both a female President and a female Chairman, in renowned Devon farmhouse cheese-maker, Mary Quicke MBE.
“It is a great honour for us to have a Royal President” said Mary, “and especially one who is so genuinely enthusiastic about everything we do and the cause in which we do it, which is bringing town and country together, and having a lot of fun in the process.
“I can feel it in my bones that this is going to be a great year for the Devon County Show!”
Celebrity chefs in the County Show kitchen
In the ever-popular food cookery theatre Devon chefs will be demonstrating how to turn incredible local produce into even lovelier meals. The line-up includes the county’s very own super chef, Michael Caines, holder of two Michelin stars, along with The Pig at Coombe’s head chef Daniel Gavrilidis and a host of other talented culinary figures.
Elly Wentworth, who was runner-up in the BBC’s Masterchef: The Professionals last year, and is a former Torquay chef and currently junior sous chef at Lucknam Park in Wiltshire, is one of the judges in the Spring Sausage competition.
So popular has the Food and Drink section become that Show organisers are providing an even bigger and better marquee this year, which will include an even wider range of local produce, and give visitors more space and seating to enjoy it.