Fiona Eastman, who made a great success of the old CLA Game Fairs, talks to Tony Jackson about her plans for this year's new Field & Country Fair
The CLA Game Fair may be no more, but Time Inc (UK), publisher of leading country magazines Shooting Times, Shooting Gazette, Sporting Gun, The Field, Country Life and Horse & Hound, is launching the Field & Country Fair at Cornbury Park, in Oxfordshire, over three days this year from 10 to 12 June.
This new and exciting Fair, under the directorship of Fiona Eastman, will be focused on all fieldsports and will bring back country activities, such as stick-making, taxidermy, pigeon-plucking competitions and much more. These seem to have disappeared from so many shows but they were such fun.
A new, vibrant and different country occasion
The new Fair is in good hands. Fiona, in association with director David Hough, was responsible for marketing and show development for a highly successful 15-year spell at the CLA Game Fair. She will bring her expertise and enthusiasm to this new, vibrant and different country occasion. As far as the site is concerned, Cornbury Park is a good central point for people wishing to attend such an event.
“Over the years, I’ve seen countless estates but when I visited Cornbury Park, the home of the Rotherwick family, I was simply blown away by the site,” said Fiona. “Lord Rotherwick has injected outstanding infrastructure into the show area, including fibre optics for a broadband connection, which traders need.
“The major event held here is the Wilderness Festival, which brings in an audience of 30,000 in one day. We are looking to attract an audience of 10,000 on a daily basis over the three days, so we’re working to the same traffic plans as those used by the Wilderness Festival. We are determined that there will be no traffic jams nor queues.”
Good shopping experience for visitors
Fiona is also determined that the Field & Country Fair will provide a good shopping experience for visitors. “Overall, we’re looking for 300 stands,” she said. “I’ve broken them down to around 50 in Gunmakers’ Row, 20 to 30 in gamekeeping and estate management, about 40 dealing with sporting art and sculptures, and the same number for local food and produce. We want 20 to 25 stands covering aspects of angling and, of course, stands dealing with stalking and falconry. We are then left with around 100 stands, or one third maximum, covering general retail.”
Great importance is being placed on aspects of gamekeeping. As the Fair is being held in early June — well away from traditional country fair dates in July when gamefarmers are so busy — it is hoped that those dates will prove acceptable. It is significant that the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation has confirmed that it will be at the Fair, the only major event it will be attending this year. As far as gundogs are concerned, in this first year Fiona is focusing on the person who goes shooting with their dog or dogs, and who will want to enter scurries, scrambles and beat-the- clock competitions, or to get advice on aspects of gundog training. The gundog activities will focus on a sense of fun on the one hand and high-quality dog training advice and demonstrations on the other.
The Sporting Gun Shooting Line will feature a number of shooting grounds and gunmakers. The public will have the opportunity to meet some of the top instructors from grounds countrywide and can choose to have gun correction, try various firearms, enjoy a taster introductory lesson, have tips on shooting a variety of gamebirds or enjoy some fun challenges with their friends, such as the High Tower or a flush. It will all be very different and aimed at bringing together visitors, the shooting schools and gunmakers.
A 21st-century fieldsports and country event
Aspects of catering at a country fair have been criticised in the past and the easy option is to approach a catering company. “We don’t want that look or feel at the Field & Country Fair,” said Fiona. “We’re looking for pop-up restaurants, hog roasts, barbecues and some great game-eating experiences.”
What, I asked, is Fiona’s prime aim for the Field & Country Fair, and what is going to make it different?
“On average we anticipate visitors to the Field & Country Fair will be there
for about five hours,” she said. “We will ensure there is plenty of entertainment and want them to enjoy good shopping, find new products, learn something, watch some great demonstrations, participate and have a really good eating experience. As they walk back to their cars, we want them to reflect that they have enjoyed a thoroughly good day out. Our aim is to ensure that the Fair offers a great sense of fun and camaraderie. What we’re putting on is a new, vibrant 21st-century fieldsports and country event.”
About Fiona Eastman
The first exhibitions Fiona Eastman was involved with were the National Boat Shows. Then, in 1996, she joined the CLA Game Fair with David Hough, who had also been organising the London and Southampton Boat Shows. David was show director and Fiona looked after marketing and show development. Together they proved a formidable team and, after 15 years, both retired in 2011, the final show taking place at Blenheim.
Since then Fiona has been working in other market areas, including equestrianism and air sports.
“It’s been an interesting four years because it has broadened my experience in dealing with exhibitions,” she said. “I’m extremely excited to have been brought back into the world of country sports and activities.”