Lucy speaks to Holkham Country Fair organiser Sarah Green about what to expect from the 2019 event – and what makes it so special
inNorfolk: Before we get into the details about this year’s event, tell me how you got involved with Holkham Country Fair…
Sarah Green: I worked for a gentleman called Andrew Cuthbert, who started both Holkham and Chatsworth Country Fairs.
When he sold the business, I went with it a couple of times and I ended up running both [events]. I’ve been running them on my own for six years [this year] but I’ve been involved for 19 years. It’s a long time!
Have you always run events?
No, not at all. Before that, I was a marketeer.
I moved into event planning so long ago, though. I was at a point in my life where I knew I wanted to stay in Norfolk, but I had to be flexible about what I did if I stayed. I kind of fell into it, to be honest, and haven’t moved away.
Have you always lived in Norfolk?
I have. I grew up on a farm near Fakenham and I am an obsessive sailor, which means I can’t live very far from the sea!
Do you have a team working with you?
We are a team of two; just India and myself. But then we have a chap who does our site set up. He keeps things rolling and gets things ready for the next year.
Could you tell me about the origins of Holkham Country Fair? When was the first event?
The fair began in the mid-1970s. It started with something called The Sheep Shearing, which the late Lord Leicester wanted to do to celebrate farming in Norfolk.
At the time Andrew [Cuthbert] ran a country fair in Bayfield and Lord Leicester invited him to run one at Holkham. [The two were combined and] it’s been going every other year ever since.
What makes Holkham Country Fair so special?
That gets more and more difficult to answer every year!
The setting has a lot to do with it, as well as the atmosphere and the people. It is a really lovely place to spend the day.
We try and keep it close to its roots, but add new things every year. It’s a challenge.
What’s the star attraction for 2019?
This year, the stars in the Grand Ring are a freestyle motocross team called Broke FMX. They set up ramps and do a lot of aerial work, acrobatics and truck-jumping. They are absolutely incredible. That’s number one.
But we always have two headline acts. They are normally the same on both days but The Household Cavalry can only be with us for one day, so they’ll be with us on Sunday. We have them with us roughly every four years. We try to have the Kings Troop every now and again too. There are a lot of really good acts out there, so you do end up having people on rotation but the Household Cavalry is so popular that we’re always pleased to have them with us.
On Saturday [the second headline act will be] a trick riding and horse training group called Atkinson’s Action Horses. It’s the first time they’ve been with us and the first time that Broke has been with us.
Other displays include birds of prey in our Grand Ring, aerobatics and a parachute team, who jump into our opening and closing ceremonies. They’re pretty amazing. They’re totally nuts and jump out of a helicopter. It’s not for me!
Do you have livestock showing?
We don’t. It’s very difficult to move livestock unless you are a set-in-stone showground like the Royal Norfolk Show, because of animal movement licenses.
We are literally a family day out country fair. Although lots of people refer to us as a game fair, we’re actually a country fair. We are all about dogs and horses!
Although lots of people refer to us as a game fair, we’re actually a country fair. We are all about dogs and horses!
We’ve got Richard Savory and The Sheep Show with us, though. Seeing is believing with him. He is so talented, very funny and holds an audience. We’ve got him at the top of the hill and he does shows throughout the day.
Can visitors join in with activities?
Absolutely. We’ve got a family fun dog show, lurcher racing, terrier racing, dog agility and gun dog events. There are lots of things people can come and have a go at with their own dog. It’s definitely an event for the whole family.
We’ve got other things that people can have a go at too, such as clay pigeon shooting, archery, crossbows, catapults. They’re all suitable for children.
Our aim is to educate children about things that they can do in the countryside
The reason we are a fair that doesn’t charge children under 14 is that our aim is to educate children about things that they can do in the countryside and bring those interests to them. It brings things to life.
Can people stay over at Holkham Country Fair?
Yes. We’ve also got a camping and caravan area for people who want to come and stay for the whole weekend. We have some food stalls open on Saturday night and we have a band. It’s highly relaxed but it’s good fun.
Are there any attractions for foodies?
We’ve got a cookery demo theatre with all sorts of local chefs. It’s being organised by Norfolk Restaurant Week. [They’re] building a great running order for that. There’s a big food village which we’re really pleased about.
There’s a lot of gin around this year, too. It seems to be the nature of the beast. You find certain things are really popular one year, but they wax and wane. This year, it’s gin.
The majority of trade stands are there to sell what they make. It’s for sampling and for shopping.
And finally, if you had to describe Holkham Country Fair in one word, what would it be?
How would I describe it? I don’t know – I’m not really a one-word person!
There are so many different things involved.
How about charming?
You can come and sit and watch the Grand Ring all day. There’s always something going on, but you can walk away from there and you can shop and learn to do something new or you can watch experts doing their thing.
There’s something for everybody really.
Feeling inspired? General admission is £18 for over 14s, including parking. Get tickets online here.