Sheffield Shows of years gone by
Many of the great events I enjoyed as a young person no longer exist – or at least not in the same form as they used to.
The Lord Mayor’s parade, Whitsuntide Parade and the Sheffield Show were all memorable occasions.
I always enjoyed the Sheffield Show – what a great event with stalls and entertainment for all.
The ones I remember were held at Hillsborough Park and later Graves Park.
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I always thought of the Sheffield Show, which started in 1950, as our version of The Festival of Britain – even though that started in 1951.
So in a lot of ways Sheffield was ahead of the curve at that time.
One of the show's most popular attractions was The Star van, a Green Un, a Star, a bag of sweets, a bag of crisps and a drink, all for £1.
Everyone who had something to promote was there, the Army, Air Force and Navy recruiters always made strong appearances with marvellous displays, with military bands and elaborate stands with lots of information, and above all opportunities to handle real guns, which was always popular with young boys and fathers alike.
The police were also there with a wealth of information about crime, traffic issues, and with mock roads giving children demonstrations in road safety, however the police horses always stole the show.
The show, to me, was like a static Lord Mayor’s Parade.
In 1982 Sheffield city council declared that that year’s show would be a “demilitarised zone.”
Banning all things military, while still having a stand for world peace, pacifism, and anti-nuclear movement.
At the time Britain and the West was in the grip of the Cold War against the Soviet Union, and nuclear conflict seemed to be a real possibility.
However, that year Great Britain had just come through its most recent and successful military action, in decades.
In April 1982 the British armed forces went to war with the Argentinian Junta over the Falklands isles.
Our forces had successfully recaptured the Isles from Argentinas forces, after a vicious and costly war.
The popularity of our forces couldn’t have been higher in the vast majority of Sheffield and the UK.
Many wanted to show their appreciation and gratitude to our armed forces, and the council robbed them of this opportunity.
This, it’s said, was the main reason why the show flopped that year.
For the council to ban the military from the show was not well received by many at the time.
A headline of the time said: “Tory blast Labour chiefs for shows flop”
“The council’s ban on military bands helped turn this year’s Sheffield show into a disaster,” claimed Councillor Irvine Patnick.
This was proven in published accounts revealing the council spent £94,527 on staging the three day event, but only yielded an income of £64,123.
There was also an expectation of 80,000 visitors to the event but only 44,000 turned up – down from the 58,000 of the previous year.
Even an appearance from Coronation Street star Liz Dawn who performed a cabaret piece failed to bring in the crowds.
Of the drinking culture in the business she told the show-goers: “There’s an awful lot of alcoholism in this business, but recently I decided to give up my drop of dutch courage before going on stage.
“It’s great to be able to see your audience!”