Getting ready for Balmoral Show 2013. The launch was at the King’s Hall complex, where it has been held since 1896. But this year the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society’s premier event is moving to a new 65 acre complex at the former high security Maze prison site near Lisburn. The space is more than double the size of the Balmoral showgrounds in South Belfast. The move which Society members approved last June is quite historic and it’s going to be a phenomenal success, according to the RUAS President, John Bamber.
It’s Ireland’s largest agri-food show and attracts exhibitors and visitors from throughout the island. The organisers are hoping to surpass the 70,000 crowd they had last year. The new showgrounds is called Balmoral Park and will have most of the usual attractions as well as a funfair for the first time. They say it will be bigger and better than previous shows.
Balmoral Park, designed by the London architects Studio Egret West, with its well laid out walkways and paths (many bearing street names with a respectful nod to the past), green spaces and landscaped areas, allows a greater space for trade exhibitors, larger facilities and warm up/practice areas for competitors. The arena increases in size by 25%. Adjacent to this is an area of tiered seating and landscaped banks allowing spectators to view show jumping, pony club games, the inter hunt chase as well as the headline attraction – The Kangaroo Kid. The cattle lawn, sheep, horse and pig & goat rings also boast larger exhibiting areas.
The Show (map here) can now accommodate further livestock, making room for a number of other breeds including cattle with European Angus, Beef Shorthorns, Dexters and Irish Moiled, horses with Coloured Horses and Connemara Working Hunter and sheep with the addition of Swaledale and Lanark Type Blackface.
Greater acreage has led to a greater number, size and range of exhibits, as RUAS Chief Executive, Colin McDonald explained, “We are very excited about the new Showgrounds and the amazing opportunities it presents to expand and enhance the Show. The move has allowed us not only to safeguard the future of this event and the Society but also to build upon our century long track record of showcasing food and farming excellence.” There will now be room to bring back plant machinery exhibits. Two of the most popular attractions – the Garden Village and the NI Food Pavilion have both expanded.
Food, a key component of the Balmoral Show, will be available in abundance throughout the Showgrounds and in the NI Food Pavilion which will offer more local variety than ever before. The Garden village will be the location of the Womens’ Institute tea rooms, where you can enjoy a relaxing break while enjoying their new home industries section. The new feature show garden will be a combination of contemporary gardens, an elegant classical garden, a Japanese garden and an open countryside.
There will be four official car parks around the Showgrounds, in addition to dedicated exhibitor car parks and disabled facilities. Provision has been made for up to 10,000 cars. Public transport will be available and more details will be released later by Translink. Balmoral Show will take place at Balmoral Park at the Maze near Lisburn on Wednesday 15th to Friday 17th May 2013. The Show runs from 9.30am to 8.30pm on the first two days and until 8pm on the final day. Further details can be found here.
The question now is what will happen to the King’s Hall complex, where some of the older pavilions used by the RUAS and the grandstand have been demolished. There was planning permission a few years ago for around 140 houses on a section of the site. The Hall itself which was opened in 1934 is a grade B1 listed building. It remains the largest exhibition area in Northern Ireland. It was also a famous boxing venue. Rinty Monaghan boxed several times in the hall. A blue plaque was unveiled in his memory at the hall in 2007. In 1985 the Clones Cyclone Barry McGuigan made his first title defence against Bernard Taylor at the Hall, having fought there on six previous occasions.