Pop idols and driverless tractors – meet Aylsham Show’s 2019 president

From interviewing Elton John to developing the Aylsham Show’s Food Hall – Clare Buxton’s story is diverse and fascinating.

Sheringham-born Clare, this year’s show president, left her native county as a little girl, had a successful early career writing for teen magazines, and then returned to Norfolk. She and her husband Andrew have been tenants on the Salle Park Estate, just outside Reepham, for over 20 years, running their sugar beet and grain haulage business.

And as a long-standing member of the Aylsham Show Council, Clare has rolled up her sleeves to help run the show for many years.

Seated in a traditional harvest wagon, with Andrew alongside, she will be presiding over the Grand Parade at this year’s 73rd show, on Bank Holiday Monday August 26, when some 15,000-17,000 visitors are expected to flock to the wonderful parkland of the National Trust’s Blickling Estate to enjoy an affordable family day celebrating the countryside, farming, and food.

The success of the 2018 show resulted in 46 good causes, mostly local, sharing Aylsham Show handouts totalling more than £31,000.

Clare will also sit in a driverless Ben Burgess tractor while it finds its way around the Main Ring controlled by GPS.

She grew up on the west coast of Scotland where her father ran a boatyard and later trained as a journalist in Dundee with publishers DC Thomson – perhaps best known for the Beano comic – writing about pop for best-selling teen magazine Jackie.

“I used to spend my days with people like the Bay City Rollers. I remember flying down to London with them on a private jet,” said Clare.

“I interviewed Elton John – himself wearing a quilted, banana-yellow jumpsuit – and David Essex, a really sweet guy and very, very kind, even when I had to ask silly questions like ‘What’s your favourite colour?’”

Clare moved to publishers IPC in London to help set up what became a best-selling teen magazine, My Guy, running its problem page and quizzes. Young wannabe actors and pop stars featuring in its pioneering photo-strip love stories included Hugh Grant and George Michael.

Keen to return north, Clare secured a place at Stirling University, achieving a first-class honours degree in English with Art History. Nowadays she works in the fine art auctions business, advising on pictures at mid-Suffolk auctioneers Bishop & Miller.

It was while working for Simon Gough, antiquarian bookseller in Holt, that she met her future husband, Andrew, one of four Buxton brothers then farming with their father at Heydon. Clare and Andrew, who have three sons, sold their haulage business about three years ago to concentrate on Norfolk Shepherd Huts, making and restoring traditional East Anglian huts.

Customers have included the late actor Sir John Hurt who ordered his after seeing a hut on display in the Craft Area at the Aylsham Show.

When Clare first became involved with the show, around 17 years ago, there was no Food Hall. “We started with a flapping tent and about six stalls, Swannington Farm to Fork were in that first effort and it is so pleasing to see the fantastic success of that business now,” she said.

“We grew with the help of a government grant and a very dynamic committee, full of energy and commitment: Jonathan Deane (president 2007), Tony Bambridge (president 2015), and Matt Miller from Aylsham’s Black Boys pub all played key roles in developing the Food and Farming area – I just did the paperwork!”

Nowadays thousands flock to buy local food and drink, watch cookery demonstrations, and applaud the crowning of Norfolk’s food heroes, nominated earlier in the year by the public. And visitors can also find out where our food comes from, with hands-on demonstrations.

“Thanks to the irreplaceable and irrepressible Corfield family we have run some terrific competitions.

It’s what the show is all about – promoting agriculture and the countryside, encouraging the public to be part of it and having fun!” said Clare.

“I feel hugely honoured and privileged to be this year’s president. I’m just a worker bee who has worked her way up so it is a truly great accolade; and it also means it could happen to anyone involved with the show.”

A long-time supporter of conservation charity the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, the farm animals are definitely a show highlight for Clare.

She said: “I’m really excited that I’ll get the chance to walk the livestock lines and see the cattle and sheep properly – it is such a privilege to see them. So much hard work and effort goes into bringing them to the show.

“It’s a lovely show to be involved with and the Blickling park setting is unsurpassed,” said Clare.

“I’d urge everyone to come to see the animals. They are such an immediate connection with the countryside.”
For more information visit the show website: theaylshamshow.co.uk  Facebook: @theaylshamshow Twitter: @aylshamshow  Admission is £15 for adults, under 16s and parking is free.

Clare Buxton

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