In a bonus Random 19, we spoke to James Cox who leads the G&S Show team ahead fo the G&S Show. James loves dunking Rich Tea biscuits, listening to country music … and the Joules website?
James Cox took over as Show secretary and organiser for the Gillingham and Shaftesbury Show in 2019 when he was 23, making him the country’s youngest ever show organiser. However, he was uniquely well-qualified for the role. Brought up on his parents’ farm near Dorchester, he has an innate understanding of the agricultural industry. He had also spent the previous five years as a trade stand manager and a sponsorship and marketing officer at the Bath & West Showground, responsible for the Bath & West Show, the Dairy Show and Grassland UK.
For most of the year James can be found sitting alone, in the show office in an empty field. But in the months running up to the show he switches gear to manage a team which steadily swells into hundreds as he organises the set-up, the traders and the sponsors, doing everything he can to ensure the anticipated 30,000 visitors have a great day.
James leads a new young team working on a show that has traditions running back more than 150 years. He’s determined it retains its agricultural roots and heritage, but admits some things need to be brought up to date. He’s proud of the changes that have happened over the last few years: ‘We’ve welcomed new attractions like the steam engines and the heavy horse ring. We’ve also brought the show into the digital age – we even have a show logo at last!’
We managed to pin James down and get his answers to 19 random questions – it’s an interesting insight into the man who pulls the day together, and it reveals a love of dunking Rich Tea biscuits, listening to country music radio and for the Joules website
1. What’s your relationship with Gillingham and Shaftesbury (the area not the show!)?
I’m born and bred in Dorset, growing up near Dorchester. But specifically to North Dorset – my mum went to school in Shaftesbury and my parents got married there too.
2. What was the last film you watched?
Ha ha ha ha ha. I like that you think I have time to watch a film. What I wouldn’t do to be at home watching Netflix right now! I honestly cannot remember … I haven’t had a night or day off from the show ground in so long …
3. Favourite crisps flavour?
Roast Chicken – obviously.
4. And the best biscuit for dunking?
5. On average, how many coffees is a bad day?
(a quick call to one of James’ team – who shall remain nameless – suggests this is a shocking fabrication, and that a six-coffee day is actually a good day)
6. What was the last song you sang out loud in your car?
Probably something on Absolute Radio Country – since a big road trip across America last year, country music is my guilty pleasure. In my defence it’s very fitting when driving into an agricultural show …
7. What’s the most difficult part of your job?
Actually pulling it all together. It takes an unbelievable number of meetings and planning for the show to be created. From crowd barriers arriving at the right time on the right day for the Grounds Team to the tables dropping into the Horticulture Marquee, also at the right time on the right day – my life is a lot of spreadsheets.
8. Favourite animal at the show?
You can take a boy off the
9. What’s your most annoying trait?
Apparently it’s how ‘sassy’ I am without my morning coffee
(this was the prompt answer from one of my colleagues when I asked them. I’m not sure this is correct).
10. What are your top three most-visited, favourite websites (excluding social media and BBC News!)?
11. What’s your earliest G&S Show memory?
Getting a bucket of freebies from the agricultural dealerships!
12. What’s your secret superpower?
According to my colleagues, it’s buying the same shirt in every single colour available – I disagree.
13. And your best show memory?
I know it’s not the most exciting answer, but honestly … it’s simply pulling off the 2021 show. Against all the odds, we spent months planning during the pandemic when we had no idea what the rules would be at the time of the show. It was a logistical nightmare.
But we made it happen!
14. What is your comfort meal?
A double cheeseburger from McDonalds.
15. How many people are on the showground getting it ready in the week leading up to the show?
As I write this we’re two weeks out, and there are currently around 30 to 40 people a day. This increases to around 350 team members on the show day itself.
16. What in life is frankly a mystery to you?
How people function without coffee.
17. What’s the best part of your job?
The switch from a solitary portacabin in an empty field to the hustle and bustle of a marquee city. It is so lovely when the team starts to build up, and all the work begins to materialise before my eyes.
18. You have the ability to book one act tomorrow, money no object and they have to say yes, for the main ring. Who are you going to book?
19. If you weren’t organising an agricultural show, you’d like to be …
… a tractor driver.