David Jackson: Let’s include RHS show in Edinburgh Festival

The farming, food and rural life show would add a unique touch. Picture: Craig Stephen
The farming, food and rural life show would add a unique touch. Picture: Craig Stephen
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The RHS is a natural fit for Edinburgh’s summer shows, says David Jackson

Edinburgh’s festivals line-up is without doubt impressive – attracting over 4.3 million visitors and injecting an impressive £245 million into local city economy. Its 12 international festivals, ranging from the Edinburgh International Festival to the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, attract in excess of 4.3 million visitors: the opportunity for this figure to be boosted exists … not by creating another event, but by including a world-class show that already takes place each year within the city’s boundary.

The Royal Highland Show showcases the best in farming, food and rural life. In 2015 it attracted over 188,000 people; almost 40,000 of those visitors were from outside the UK, many international tourists making the trip to Scotland primarily for the show.

Independent research confirms that £42.6m was contributed to the economy as a direct result of the Royal Highland Show, including 7,260 bed nights, 55 full time equivalent jobs and at least £8m spent at the 1,100 trade stands, not including the food and drink outlets.

With statistics like these, my question is why does the Royal Highland Show not feature as part of Edinburgh’s festival line-up?

The ‘Highland’ appeals just as much to international as well as home audiences with visitors keen to experience rural Scotland and all that entails. The Royal Highland Show would, without doubt, add a unique element to existing programme of festival events: Agriculture is, by its very name, culture – it’s rural culture.

Being primary producers, a big part of rural culture is food. The show incorporates the country’s largest food festival, hosting over 100 food and drink producers at Scotland’s Larder Live! Along with Talks & Tastings and a Cookery Theatre, producers from Scotland and further afield get a unique chance to talk to consumers and the farmers who have provided the ingredients which helped get their product to market.

Of course the main part for the show, the reason it started 175 year ago, is to put on display the best livestock and horses and ponies in the country. Around 7,000 head of animals head to Ingliston every June, promising the finest examples of their breeds in Scotland, the UK and in some cases, the world.

With a diverse music line-up, the finest display of rural crafts, as well as an award-winning educational programme designed to inspire children to engage with food and food production, The Royal Highland Show would be a strong addition to an already great line-up.

It makes sense to leverage the show’s global appeal; not only for the Scottish economy but also for the spotlight it shines on the country’s world-class rural industries. The event is a vibrant showcase of Scotland’s rich food and rural heritage – and brings this to life in a way that no other event can.

• David Jackson is the Royal Highland Show manager

• The Royal Highland Show takes place at Royal Highland Centre on 23-26 June, www.royalhighlandshow.org