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Latest News Beyond the Royal Norfolk Show: Protecting the Diverse Operations of the RNAA

Beyond the Royal Norfolk Show: Protecting the Diverse Operations of the RNAA

The Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association (RNAA), established in 1847, is a charitable organisation built around a desire to improve education and opportunities in agriculture and the countryside in general. Situated in the heart of Norfolk, the charity is well-placed to bring together the local community, sector leaders, and policymakers to foster positive change. Those in Norfolk will likely be familiar with the RNAA’s flagship event, The Royal Norfolk Show, the largest two-day agricultural show in the UK, and other popular events, including Sundown and Winter Wonderland.

But there’s much more to the operation than these standout events. We spoke to Richard Greenacre, Commercial Director, Jonathan Betts, Finance Controller, and Mike Parker, Site Delivery Manager, to get some insight into the diverse operations behind the RNAA, their ambitions for the future, and relationship with Alan Boswell Group (ABG).


The charity has been established for over 175 years, with royal patronage dating back over 100 years. How does the charity make an impact in Norfolk?

Jon Preston (L) and Richard Greenacre (R)
Jon Preston (L) and Richard Greenacre (R)

Richard: “The charity aims to educate people about agriculture and the countryside to bring together the local community, improve working practices, and foster prosperity. Farming can be a very lonely industry, and you’re at the mercy of the weather and the seasons, so we bring people together to talk about the challenges they face. We have conferences where we discuss the advancement of technology, for example, to try and find solutions to problems.

“We are, effectively, a grant-making organisation. For example, we provide bursaries to the Nuffield Farming Scholarships Trust, our sister charity, The Food & Farming Discover Trust, and Young Farmers’ Clubs. We take our responsibility very seriously; we’re a rural county, so we have an even bigger part to play than other similar organisations, and we’re still here after 175 years.”


County and agricultural shows are a familiar sight across the UK, with the earliest being held over 250 years ago. In Norfolk, the RNAA are responsible for the Royal Norfolk Show, the largest two-day agricultural show in the UK. But there is much more to the RNAA than that. What are some of the other activities?

Richard: “The show is our flagship event, responsible for about half our turnover. But we can’t rely on it for all our income – it’s very weather-dependent. As with everything these days, the costs keep increasing, and there comes a critical point where you can’t keep increasing your ticket prices as people won’t come.

“So, diversification has become key to the Association’s long-term sustainability, allowing us to invest in the future of our charitable aims.

“We’re in a great location with a lot of land here, so over the last four years we’ve been examining what else we can do to attract people to the site.

Richard Greenacre (L) and Dee Myhill (R)
Richard Greenacre (L) and Dee Myhill (R)

“On the events side, we have Sundown, Winter Wonderland and regular fun fairs. And we’ll also use the space for things like dog agility training, camping, medical training, balls, and galas. We also have six permanent tenants. There’s a lot going on; over the year, we have at least 100 different activities in the calendar. Of course, this comes with many risks and challenges, including managing all the people, equipment, and property on the site, which can change daily.

“The next stage for us is to open the Norfolk Food Hall, showcasing Norfolk food and drink with a 3000 sq. ft. shop and 120-seater restaurant. There isn’t one in the county, but there should be, so why wouldn’t it be here? The charity exists to promote food farming in the countryside, and our site is ideally located between John Innes Centre [an independent centre for research and training in plant and microbial science] and the Food Enterprise Park [a 100-acre development site dedicated to encouraging and supporting food production, processing, and agriculture].”

Jonathan: “Currently, we’re at the fundraising stage of the project, with about two-thirds raised. We’re predicting that the site would provide employment for 30+ people and more than 200 suppliers. So, it would provide investment and opportunity for the local community aligned with our charitable goals.”


“We’re aiming to change people’s perceptions of the RNAA and our site. There’s something for everyone happening here regularly, so we’re working hard to show people that.”


Diversification is a great way to mitigate financial risks; what other risks does the organisation faces?

Jonathan: “Cyber security has become a bigger risk for us over the last few years. It’s an ever-evolving area that we rely on our IT company to support us with, and we also have cyber insurance [through ABG].”

Richard: “The effect of a cyber hack can’t be underestimated given that everything runs from a computer these days. Even something as simple as our water supplier’s computer system being hacked could have a massive impact on the events we put on. For example, we pump water onto the site, but without water, the grass doesn’t grow, we can’t bring cattle for the show, and the show can’t take place. That would be a big chunk of our income that year gone. So, we’ve taken Jon’s advice and enhanced cyber security and taken out a cyber insurance policy should the worst happen.”

Jon Preston (L) and Jonathan Betts (R)
Jon Preston (L) and Jonathan Betts (R)

Jonathan: “People are another big risk for us. With so many events and activities taking place, we have a lot of people using the site at any given time. We also have about £27m of property assets here, so there are the standard risks like fire and flood to consider, too.”

Richard: “And then we have the Show itself, where we’ll have 300+ stewards, 3000+ animals, and over 80,000 visitors, including Royals, across the two-day event – plus all the services and amenities that come with running the event.”


How do you manage all those risks?

Mike: “Mike [Farrow, Risk Management Adviser] acts as a consultant safety adviser to us for the Show, supporting us with our planning, including fire management plans, risk assessments and contractor and exhibitor due diligence. He is also on site during the Show week, carrying out safety inspections, exhibitor checks and providing incident response support. We’ve also taken on health and safety support in other business areas for the whole year. So for example, while a business using the site will be responsible for making sure the activity they’re doing has been risk assessed, we still need to make sure the site as a whole is safe, so Mike helps us with assessing those risks overall.

“In addition to this, ABRM also do our engineering inspections for the pressure and lifting equipment on site, ensuring that we’re on top of our statutory inspections and providing a safe working environment.”

As I’m the only person within the Association responsible for the H&S, it’s really useful to have the external support, knowledge, and expertise from Mike that I can draw on when I need it.


Given our rural location, agricultural insurance has been a fundamental aspect of our services for over 40 years. ABG has been providing the Association with commercial insurance since 2010, and employee benefits since 2023. Can you tell us a bit about that?

Jonathan: “Jon has been managing our insurance for a long time now, and we value his advice. We have a great relationship with him and the wider team, and I feel you always have time for me if I have a question or want some advice on an unusual risk.

Without being overdramatic, if we didn’t have your support for the Show, it probably wouldn’t go ahead. Your support is invaluable, and it is one of the reasons we moved to you for our pension advice and employee benefits.

Richard: “Dee [Myhill, Senior Employee Benefits Consultant] supports us with the pensions and employee benefits. On the private healthcare side of things [supported by Alex Mhandu, Head of Healthcare], we all recognise that the NHS is struggling, so being able to provide another route for our employees to access healthcare is beneficial to them and us.

“Forming partnerships with other local, like-minded businesses is important to us because we have an amazing ability to bring people together. Having ABG’s expertise and knowledge at our disposal allows us to concentrate on the day-to-day running of the site and further our charitable aims.”


What next for the RNAA?

Richard: “It is really about continuing to do what we’ve done for 170-odd years. As we face the challenges of diversification, so do our membership, so we’ll continue pushing harder on the educational parts of the business.”

Click here to find out more about the RNAA and how you can support the charity.