May, June and July are some of the busiest months at the farm, as we have newborn animals that need close supervision, a rise in visitors to the farm all wanting to meet these newborn animals, a huge increase in school visits, corporate challenge days, room bookings, as well as running at least two off site events every week, often more. These three months are also when the team needs to prepare for the Lambeth Country Show.
The Lambeth Country Show is a hugely important event for the farm and blood, sweat, and tears go into it. Often literally. Planning for the show starts about two weeks after the last show has finished. With debriefings and volunteer surveys, finding out what worked and what didn’t and how we can change things next year, because we are always trying to improve the way we run this show.
In the two months leading up to the country show, we finish staff and volunteer rotas, go over packing list of necessary equipment, finalise animals going to the show and animals staying at the farm that need to be looked after in our absence, order volunteer uniform, order food, book vehicles, schedule drivers, brand donation buckets, print business cards, flyers, leaflets, posters, name badges… the list goes on. And on. And on.
Working at Vauxhall City Farm, especially during Spring and Summer, you quickly realise there simply aren’t enough hours in the day, or days in the week. Every year, the lead up to the Lambeth Country Show looms over the farm staff, and every year you worry about the fact that the To Do List never gets shorter, no matter how many things you tick off it each day. In the week leading up to the show everyone puts in long hours, and before you know it, it’s Friday, and everything that’s not nailed down at the farm gets loaded into a van, car or horsebox.
This year for pack up on Friday we had the support of three outstanding corporate teams, from Perrigo, Booking.com, and the Intercity team, Rail Infrastructure North, Department for Transport, as well as our regular Friday volunteers and work experience students and everything went unbelievably smoothly! All materials, equipment, staff, vehicles and of course the animals were at Brockwell Park by 6pm, ready and set up. The farm staff who camp on site – to ensure the animals are looked after and safe – decided to cook some dinner and get an early night, as the rainstorms that had been forecast had everyone a little worried about the quality of sleep they were likely to get in their tents in Brockwell Park.
After a slightly rough night and not as much sleep as really necessary, it was finally time for the show… or at least almost.
At 8 o’clock on Saturday morning staff got up, fed the animals, cooked their own breakfast and realised they had another four hours to put finishing touches on everything, and things looked good. Everyone had worked hard the day before, the week before, the month before. Sure there were still several dozen small things to do, but with 4 hours to go and 40 volunteers arriving in the next 30 minutes, everything was going to be fine.
And then suddenly it was 11:55 – five minutes until the show opened and we were going to find out if the work everyone had put into this event over the last months was going to pay off.
This was it.
Sink or swim.
The beginning of the Lambeth Country Show 2019.
And honestly, once 12 o’clock came around and the loudspeaker announcement confirmed that the show was now officially open, no one stopped until what felt like Sunday night when the loudspeaker announcement confirmed that the show was now officially over.
The public streamed through the gates all weekend and staff and volunteers greeted people, shared facts about the animals, painted faces, collected donations, groomed ponies, let visitors cuddle small animals, and advised people to wash their hands and thanked them for coming, on their way out. Everything ran smoothly. Of course, there were always 15 things that staff were checking on at all times to ensure there were no hiccups, and another 10 things staff were keeping an eye on, just in case they decided to suddenly go wrong. However we had to give huge thanks and credit to LoudSound, the productions company for the Lambeth Country Show this year, as things – certainly in our corner of the world – ran flawlessly.
Which meant that every now and again, we had time to take a moment to look around and watch members of the public enjoying themselves. We watched the smile on the face of a young girl after a goat licked her hand, and how she turned to her dad and brandished the wet palm, pointing at the culprit and laughing. We watched the solemn nod of a young boy, giving his approval for the Batman mask painted on his face, and heard the genuine thanks from his mum, who watched the difficult creation of said face paint on a very chatty, twitchy, moving target. We enjoyed the shouts of ‘Where’s Trevor? I’m only here to see Trevor!’ echoing across the field and watched volunteers at the entrance point visitors in the right direction to go and see their favourite animals. Moments like that were what carried us through the weekend whenever we got tired, and before we knew it was 8pm on Sunday, and we found ourselves thinking ‘Oh. Was that it? It’s over? I wish we could do another day…‘
No one means it of course because everyone’s exhausted and cannot wait to pack everything up, get the animals back to the farm and watch them enjoy their freshly cleaned and bedded up stables just as much as they are going to enjoy sleeping in their own bed tonight. And there’s still a full day of unpacking, reassembling the farm, returning vehicles, and cleaning the site at Brockwell Park on Monday – this year assisted by the fabulous team from Goldman Sachs as well as our regular Monday volunteers and work experience students, in the sweltering heat no less – and yet, you already kind of miss it.
Luckily, before the month is up, someone’s going to suggest sitting down to start planning for the Lambeth Country Show 2020 – and we sure hope we’ll see you all back at Brockwell Park when it is time! But for now, a huge thank you to our amazing volunteers for making the Lambeth Country Show a resounding success. It was wonderful to see so many volunteers, staff, trustees and family members over the weekend.
Thank you to every member of the public who came to see us over the weekend at Brockwell Park, who took part in our activities, who feed our goats and groomed our ponies, and who put money in our donation buckets. If you didn’t get a chance to donate on the day, you can of course still do so now, right here on our website. We are grateful for every donation. It’s what keeps the farm going.