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'Regenerate Union' – Kilnsey Show: Victoria Benn At Skipton Library
Steve Whitaker, Literary Correspondent
Victoria Benn with her new book Studs & Crooks: The hidden history of Kilnsey Show
August Bank Holiday weekend ushers in a rash of frenetic activity across the Dales, culminating in an annual event that outstrips all of its local peers in size, scale and popularity. Following close on the heels of its Malham and Gargrave equivalents, Kilnsey Show usurps its own identity in unlikelihood: the village which gave the show its name is as winsomely tiny as the crag which overhangs it is dale-dominant.

And yet the show’s location is as fortuitous as any event set on a broad valley floor with good access to north and south. Kilnsey’s centrality must have had some bearing on its initial selection: drawing farmers and local folk from all corners of the Dales, the show has been a magnet to all-comers for 120 years.

Kilnsey Show was, and still is, agricultural in direction and flavour; the constituency of farmers who work the land from Malhamdale in the west and south, to Swaledale in the north and east, remain stalwart visitors. And it is no surprise to find that old habits endure: livestock competitions still abound, as do the familiar traditions of sheep-shearing and the now long-established fell race.

Times have moved on, of course. The drawing together of a great farming community, the chinwaggery and catching-up, is by no means exclusive. Day-trippers and holidaymakers are as likely to make up the throng on the Tuesday after bank holiday, and the visitor will now find a climbing wall alongside the show arena, a quad bike beside an antiquated David Brown tractor, or a cappuccino in lieu of a glass of stout. Almost needless to add, the capacious beer tent continues to yield a singular attraction, especially on wet days.

And not the least of writer Victoria Benn’s concerns when formulating her wonderfully engaging ‘biography’ – Studs & Crooks: The hidden history of Kilnsey Show – was to reflect and chart those changes. Viewing the show, and its polychromatic history, through the eyes of participants long-standing and relatively new, of the event’s movers, shakers and organisers, and of onlookers, she has given voice(s) to a tradition as ingrained in the local psyche as glacial striations in a limestone escarpment.

Along with co-author Jamie Roberts, Victoria will be giving a talk on the theme of the show’s history and enduring popularity at Skipton Library on 28th June. With anecdotes and stories taken from the book, she will underwrite Philip Larkin’s hope, of another show – ‘Let it always be there’.

‘The Show Must Go On!’ Skipton Library Coffee Plus
Thursday 28th June at 10.45am
Refreshments available
Telephone: 01609 534548
 Email: skipton.library@northyorks.gov.uk

Studs & Crooks: The hidden history of Kilnsey Show is published by Tickled Trout Press


'Regenerate Union' – Kilnsey Show: Victoria Benn At Skipton Library, 20th June 2018, 13:30 PM