And so long Swansea as ‘Health & Safety’ sees off two favourite shows
THERE ARE three words which nowadays will bring about a feeling of deep foreboding to people of even the strongest constitutions. In a world already under assault by the forces of Political Correctness, those three little words strung together have the power to smash even the most venerable of institutions. The words are: Health and Safety.
By Nick Mays
And it’s precisely the issue of ‘health and safety’ which has been cited as the reason for the GCCF Executive Committee to vote against renewing the licence for the Bingley and City of Swansea Exemption Shows in 2008.
Bingley Exemption Show is one of the oldest cat shows in the UK, not just of its kind, but oldest period. Just over 50 years ago, the inimitable husband and wife team of Arthur and Enid Burrows set about staging the first cat section at the Airedale Agricultural Society’s show in Bingley. West Yorkshire. Arthur and Enid’s cat section proved to be a great hit, and was licensed by Governing Council as an Exemption Show. The couple continued to run it for many years, with many big name cat fanciers exhibiting their Champions, Premiers and Grands or trying out up and coming youngsters, happy to attend the show as much for Arthur and Enid as for the wider delights of the Bingley show itself.
After Arthur’s death, Enid carried on running the cat show for many years, until ill health forced her to retire in the mid-1990s. She was succeeded by the inimitable Royston Barraclough who added his own blunt charms to propelling the show onwards and upwards. After Roy’s death and a short hiatus in the first years of the new Millennium, Chris Bamford took over as Show Manager and continued the long tradition of Bingley Cat Shows into the 21st Century. Entries usually average around 50 to 55 cats and cover a wide range of breeds, including non-pedigrees.
Overall BIS at this year’s Bingley Show was Sheila Webb’s Tabby Point Balinese, UK GR PR APRIKAT SMARTCOOKIE.
See Bingley Show Feature...
Let us not forget that Bingley Show itself is a venerable institution, being the oldest one-day agricultural show in the country. Apart from missing a handful of shows due to the two world wars, and also shenanigans by the local authority and an outbreak of foot and mouth disease between 2000 and 2003, Bingley Show has been staged continuously for well over a century, this years show being the 127th to be staged.
No one who has exhibited in the past or in recent years expects any frills at the show. There are proper cat pens, and the usual rules relating to show white apply, but the show is staged in a marquee, which is open to the public for most of the day and sometimes, as you’d expect with any outdoor show held in the summer, it sometimes rains. But this doesn’t bother regular Bingley show goers – nor new ones who come along having been recommended by word of mouth. It’s always a happy atmosphere and everyone can expect to find at least one unique ‘special’ in his or her cat’s pen – a tradition started many years ago by Enid.
Meanwhile, the City of Swansea Exemption Show has been staged for the past 12 years by Jan Beaumont. The cat section, like Bingley, is staged as an Exemption event held under canvas as part of the huge Swansea Show, held on the sea-facing Singleton Park in Swansea. Apart from this year’s show being cancelled, due to Jan being ill, the show has been eagerly anticipated by cat fanciers and always attracts a decent entry, averaging 40 to 50 cats.
However, both Chris and Jan were taken aback by the news that the GCCF’s Executive Committee had decided not to renew the shows’ licences beyond 2007 and had only granted the 2007 licences on the basis that the Bingley and Swansea Shows had most likely incorporated plans to stage cat sections next year.
The GCCF’s official statement on the matter was sent to OUR CATS in late September and says:
“As a consequence of the rule amendments and re-ordering which were approved at the June Council meeting, Section 2, Rule 3a reads:
“The venue for a show must have suitable access for exhibitors, including disabled access, and must be sufficiently secure to prevent the escape/entrance of any cat.”
This rule was introduced to reflect current thinking about access, safety and welfare.
When show licence applications were considered at the September Executive Committee meeting, the holding of shows in marquees was questioned; it was decided that we could not consider marquees to be safe venues, since they offered a far greater chance of escape if a cat got loose, compared to most permanent buildings.
EC members who had been to the show stated that, although there was no question that the show was well run, they felt that if a cat escaped from someone’s hands it could escape from the marquee. Although the majority of cats handle easily at shows, there is no guarantee that a cat which is shown for the first time will do so and even the most experienced show cat can be frightened by a loud noise. As the authority requested to license this cat show, the Executive Committee felt that it had to consider the welfare of cats which might escape under these circumstances.
As it was likely that arrangements for the 2007 show were already under way, possibly with contracts signed, it was agreed that if this was the case, the licence would be granted for the 2007 show, but notice would be given that it would be the last one unless the show could be held in a safe venue.”
It seems that the ruling was made on the basis of “what if?”, which is often the primary basis for any ‘health and safety’ directives nowadays. It seemed to have escaped some of the Executive’s notice that the Bingley and Swansea Shows have already been scrutinised by their organisers for suitable access, and that in all the years each show has been staged, a cat has never escaped.
Chris Bamford commented: “We had a very good day at the Bingley Show this year with increased entries.
There were slight problems the day before and on the morning of the show but I don’t think anyone noticed. The day wasn’t too hot and the crowds, in their thousands, poured into the showground. I think most of them came to see the cats, as they are one of the most popular sections in the show. At the end of the day everyone had a word and said how much they had enjoyed the show and they looked forward to the 2007 show. I couldn’t believe it when I was told of the Executive’s decision and the grounds on which it had been taken.”
Jan Beaumont was equally taken aback – especially as she had still not been formally notified of the Executive’s decision but had heard it ‘second-hand’ from other sources. “Swansea and Bingley offer a unique opportunity for people who would never normally go to a cat show to actually see a cat show and what it’s about. We’ve recruited new members of the Cat Fancy in this way.
“It’s a very sad day when a show that is fun has its future threatened in this way, especially on the basis of ‘a cat might escape’.”
It is understood that the decision was reached by the Executive after a lot of discussion and was most likely not unanimous. Every reasonable cat fancier will appreciate that the Executive have a duty to protect the welfare of cats and their owners at shows, but when such a decision appears to have been made in an arbitrary way and without consultation with the parties concerned, it is hard to understand how such a decision was reached.
‘Health and Safety’ is not, on its own, a reason. It can, however, be an excuse.