: Animal Magic; Abigail Hughes Looks at the Annual Celebration of Welsh Farming

Article excerpt

PREENED ponies and glam goats. Welcome to a countryside catwalk where the farmyard meets the beauty contest.

It can only be the eminent Royal Welsh Agricultural Show, back in stunning style for its 98th year of celebrating the cream of rural life. And celebration will certainly be in the air at this summer's show, in full bloom once more after the dark days of foot-and-mouth disease meant it was unable to take place last year.

Among those presenting the televised coverage from the site at Builth Wells for S4C are Amanda Protheroe-Thomas, Sian Thomas and Sulwyn Thomas.

And Sulwyn, who has been making the annual pilgrimage to the show for over 30 years, is known as a veteran on the field.

``I first visited the Royal Welsh in 1968 and have been every year since except in 1969 when I got married,'' he says. ``The pattern of events has hardly altered overtime, although the animals and the machinery have changed. There used to be just half a dozen or so permanent buildings, but now there are many more.

``Whereas in the 1960s, it catered primarily for the farming community, its appeal has broadened greatly and now over 200,000 people visit each year. It had to attract more of a following just to sustain itself, but this has by no means compromised the show.

And what a show it is. Aside from being Britain's largest sheep exhibition, there will also be spectator sports like falconry displays and daredevil stunts from quad biker, Mr Kangaroo. Also, the King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery will return for the first time in half a century.''

The spotlight may be on the carefully reared livestock, with strictly judged classes for every breed of beast imaginable, but backstage conversation is more political.

``Something always happens just before the show that affects the industry as a whole,'' says Sulwyn. ``This year everyone will be discussing Common Agricultural Policy reforms and in the past it has been BSE.''

Despite spending so much time working with animals and television cameras, the only problems Sulwyn has faced have been technical.

``My voice went one year and another time I lost my earpiece meaning I lost all contact with the director during a live show. …