Orkney Show Week

Today is the County Show in Kirkwall, the County town of Orkney. It is the biggest event of the year, with more than 1 in 5 of the population making their way to the sports ground on the edge of the town. There will be hundreds of cattle, sheep and horses, along with smaller numbers of goats and dogs – and the occasional alpaca etc. There will be a marquee full of poultry of all kinds, and there will be others of produce. Add about a hundred trade stands and stalls, bagpipes, dancers etc etc and you get the picture.

It is the end of Show Week in Orkney. It started last Friday with the show on the island of Sanday, and Saturday with that on another island, Shapinsay. Tuesday was the East Mainland, Wednesday ours in the ‘Hope, Thursday was Dounby (the second biggest) and today the County.

Each show has what is called the Industrial Section. This is basically garden produce and handicrafts of all kinds, with plenty of classes specifically for children. On Wednesday I went up to the Industrial Section of the ‘Hope Show, held in the school hall. Rows and rows of fabulous veg, flowers, backing, jam, children’s handicrafts. And a small number of – let’s be kind – ‘uninspiring’ adult handicrafts…. The knitting classes were all very small. Best use of 100 g yarn went to a baby helmet and mitts in stocking stitch Regia sock yarn. The best scarf was a vile-coloured, acrylic, aran weight piece in razor shell. If I say that 3rd place was one in garter stitch eyelash yarn…. There was a lacy baby’s dress – well knitted but it hadn’t been blocked. That says it all.

I just hope that no visitors went and thought that was the standard of what was being produced on the island. There are a good number of fibre professionals who live here and work either here or in town. I must suggest they have an exhibition class for professionals next year….

At least the handicrafts were well judged. The same could not have been said for the photographs. I felt so sorry for the people who had entered. Every judge has different ideas on aesthetics, but ones which are, for example, out of focus should not be given prizes above the pin-sharp. The winning landscape had the horizon tilted at an angle of about 30 degrees – the sort of error which should have put it out of the running straight away…. There were some excellent shots – but they did not get placed. Such a shame, because if they were mine, I would not enter next year.

With the smaller shows, there is a circular problem. There are not many entries so substandard work gets a prize. People see what is getting prizes so don’t bother to enter good stuff….

The really good thing, though, was the standard of the children’s work. It put the adults’ to shame, both in concept and execution. There is hope for the ‘Hope!!

4 thoughts on “Orkney Show Week

  1. We have similar events here in Australia – and I could make similar comments about the standard of entries and the standard of judging! There are tiny country shows out in ‘the bush’ to huge ‘field days’ in major centres.
    Once a year the country descends on the city and we have the grandly named Royal Agricultural and Horticultural Society Show – a huge event. You would feel totally at home – we even have pipers!

  2. It is the same here in the USA too. The quilts might have a better standard but the knitting is, well, pathetic. I thought of entering when I moved here (just to get the word out and my name recognised) but in the end felt too embarrassed. I still love to go to County Fairs but the attitude has changed from “Oh goody, the hand crafts barn, let’s go!” to “Oh, the hand crafts… oh well, let’s see what won First Price this year and get back out in the sunshine”… lol
    No, no pipers here ;o(

  3. There have been better fairs in the US, but often the judging has been dismal. I heard of one woman who did extremely fine knitting who was accused of having entered a machine knit piece and her entry was disqualified. The next year she entered a full display including partly done pieces still on the needles and a historical panel indicating the gauges used routinely in the 14th century, and she sat there on the spot demonstrating her knitting. Most people wouldn’t have tried so hard to educate the judges.

    Another thought occurs to me: Did the usual method of display put the items at risk of damage and discourage entries that way?

    1. Damage wouldn’t be a problem here – only a small affair, and people here take care of things. There were stewards about, and if anyone had tried to touch anything other punters would have said something. So that isn’t an issue…

      In our case here, I suspect the main problem is that people don’t think their work is good enough – Orcadians are not ones to push themselves forward….. I suspect and ‘exhibition’ rather than a competition would gain more entries.


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