A Country Affair

First held in 1958, for over sixty years The Game Fair has been a celebration of the countryside and its associated industries and activities. A unique shop window for rural life, its heritage, conservation, and people, the event is committed to educating and entertaining the present generation in order to help preserve a way of life for future generations to enjoy. By sticking to its rural roots it has always been cherished by the ‘real’ countryside, but in recent years has attracted a new and wider audience: in 2017, the last time the event was held as this year at Hatfield House, a third of those who visited were attending a game fair for the first time.

Under new management since 2015, when the CLA found itself struggling to maintain financial viability, The Game Fair is now organised by a dedicated management company and held alternately at Ragley Hall and Hatfield House. Hatfield in Hertfordshire, a short drive or train journey from London, brings proximity to the UK’s most important and diverse demographic, while Ragley in Warwickshire, located at the geographical heart of England, benefits from equally effective transport access. Which, together with the fair’s long track record, helps explain why influential brands and businesses such as Hunter, Aga, Bentley, Le Chameau, and Land Rover, alongside top gunmakers Rigby and Boss, are among the high quality exhibitors who chose to invest in the event again in 2019.

Something in the region of 120,000 people will attend the 2019 fair at Hatfield House, the biggest and best festival of its kind anywhere in the world, with each visitor bringing a shared passion for the countryside that can only be to the benefit of field sports. Over 70,000 of that number are shooting enthusiasts; what this means is an additional 50,000 people who can be introduced to shooting and to the values to which the shooting community subscribes. This publication is all about encouraging eating game, and The Game Fair has its roots and heritage in, in fact owes its existence to, this critical and intensely local food chain.

The first Game Fair emerged from a scientific conference studying game bird populations and considering best practice in rearing and managing the countryside for food production. Six decades later, The Game Fair’s Kitchen Theatre is now its most popular attraction, with demonstrations packed time and time again and its chefs celebrated like rock stars: a powerful element contributing to the critical mass of opinion and expertise that is attracting individuals and supermarket chains alike, drawn to game by the health and sustainability messages essential to its appeal. The Game Fair supports organisations including British Game Alliance, Country Food Trust, Countryside Alliance, and BASC, while Taste of Game are the official partner of the kitchen theatre.

As the business model for national events changes beyond recognition, The Game Fair adapts to respond to different tastes and demands in order to ensure its presence and influence 60 years from now. This year it’s adding the world’s largest show garden, in association with Capel Manor and sponsored by Charles Stanley Wealth Management, plus a night vision tunnel and observation platform for optics testing and consumer handling, sponsored by Thomas Jacks. Shooters will relish the challenge of a George Digweed designed clay shooting line in a new location alongside Gunmakers’ Row.

Today, there are more festivals than ever, and in a way this is a direct consequence of digital connection. Communities may communicate online, but nothing beats socialising and connecting face-to-face. The Game Fair is a vital resource not just as a showcase for products, but as a place where like-minded people can meet, celebrate, and help preserve what is most important to them and their way of life.

The 2020 Game Fair will be held at Ragley Hall, Warwickshire, 24-26 July.