Showcasing the county’s agriculture, food and farming, James Cox and a small dedicated team ensure that everything from sheep shearing to monster trucks runs smoothly at the Dorset County Show.

Procuring cars to be crushed by a monster truck or appointing a toilet contractor is all in a day’s work for James Cox.

As Organiser of the Dorset County Show, which takes place over the weekend of September 2 and 3 at its Dorchester showground, James works alongside board members of The Dorchester Agricultural Society, the Show Council committees, and more than 400 stewards during the two-day event.

There are displays to be booked, logistics to be sorted and steps to be taken to ensure the visiting public and agricultural community have the grandest time.

James took over the role last November, but his earliest involvement with this popular annual event was as a 10-year-old, when he helped his parents, who farm near Puddletown, during their show visits

 ‘Things change and move forward,’ says James, who was a volunteer at the show from the age of 13. ‘But what doesn’t alter is that this is a county-related get-together – it’s all about having a great day out in Dorset.’

Dorset Echo: James Cox, Organiser of Dorset County Show. (Photo: James Cox, Organiser of Dorset County Show. (Photo:

In practice this means a year-round commitment, starting off in a quiet show office in winter, to the hustle and bustle of summer, when he’s joined by an ever-expanding team of contractors and stewards as the showground is prepared for the event, which is always held on the first weekend in September.

Drawing on his previous experience of running the Gillingham & Shaftesbury Show, and events management on the Royal Bath & West Show, James says his job is to produce an event ‘for a post-Covid world’. In practice this means visitors will notice fewer trade stands: ‘A lot of exhibitors used to take lorries round doing shows, but they aren’t doing that anymore.’

This means there is an increase in food and drink (this year’s event has a huge new food hall) and agricultural-related start-ups and crafts businesses.

‘Initially we looked at having lots of roving performers, but then realised we wanted a visitor map that is bursting with attractions to visit across the site; our biggest social media post of the year is the one showing the public map of what is happening and where,’ he explains.

‘People expect to find things in fixed locations, and we are happy to oblige.’

Dorset Echo: The thrill of Scurry Racing. (Photo: The thrill of Scurry Racing. (Photo:

Choosing who and what to invite means a lot of website-reading, looking at showreels, and keeping an eye on what’s trending, which is why one of the new innovations will be a Craft Trade aisle.

The show has booked some thrilling new displays for 2023, including the Dorset Axemen and Big Pete, the world’s biggest monster truck (weighing in at 7.5 tonnes), for whom James has got to find the cars to crush.

There will also be Shetland pony racing, sheepdog displays, a Heavy Horses Village and plenty of enormous tractors and giant pieces of agricultural machinery for children and farming types to marvel over.

James’ job involves ‘lots of spreadsheets’, as well as meeting potential sponsors and farmers, to finesse the show’s layout so that it flows logically and doesn’t compromise safety.

Dorset Echo: Watch traditional skills in Crafters Avenue. (Photo: Watch traditional skills in Crafters Avenue. (Photo:

On any day he can be discussing livestock-proof fencing, or the quality of judges for an individual sheep class - judges must be accredited and understand the sometimes-endless lists of criteria on which they can and cannot assess entrants.

He also must have a dry-weather plan: ‘Last year’s heat would have required extra water tankers,’ he comments.

And, if it’s wet, they have protocols in place for that, too, including plenty of woodchip for the car parks.

Does he ever wake at night, worrying he’s forgotten something? ‘Frequently!’ he laughs. ‘One night I woke up thinking about safety barriers, so I sent myself a note on my phone to look into it in the morning.’

One thing that has influenced this year’s show has been the ‘Clarkson’s Farm effect’, a heightened interest and understanding of British agriculture and its myriad issues as highlighted by Jeremy Clarkson’s Amazon Prime hit TV series.

Dorset Echo: Elegant carriage display in the show ring. (Photo: Helen Jones)Elegant carriage display in the show ring. (Photo: Helen Jones)

Clarkson’s Farm has definitely brought British farming to a wider audience,’ says James. ‘People are intrigued and there’s more of an understanding, especially of the struggles faced by farmers.’

As a direct result of this they are introducing a Careers in Agriculture section to the Fabulous Food and Farming part of the show ground. This is where visitors can learn about jobs like those undertaken by Kaleb Cooper and Charlie Ireland, the contractor and land agent on Clarkson’s Farm.

‘People may not know about careers like these, or they may not come from a farming background,’ adds James. ‘So, we hope they’ll be able to find out more and speak to people actually doing these jobs.’

Dorset County Show, which was first held in 1840 - the year Thomas Hardy was born, is all about showcasing the county’s agriculture, food and farming, a tradition that James is keen to continue. ‘We want to promote and celebrate our county and the food we produce, as well as provide a great day out for everyone.’

Dorset Echo: Lillie training Claudia for her moment in the showring. (Photo: Morgan Smith)Lillie training Claudia for her moment in the showring. (Photo: Morgan Smith)

Lillie Smith & Claudia: Dorset County Show first timers... 

Shillingstone pig farmer Lillie Smith will be taking the plunge at this year’s Dorset County Show and parading her beloved sow, Claudia, for perusal by the judges.

‘I’ve exhibited Claudia before, but this will be the first time showing for both of us at the County Show,’ says the 27-year-old. Lillie’s passion for pigs started with a Gloucester Old Spot she met when she was a student mucking out horses as a weekend job.

Eight years ago, Lillie bought a pair of Oxford Sandy and Black (OSB) weaners, a traditional British pig breed that is rarer than giant pandas. ‘OSBs are delightful animals with a lovely temperament and beautiful lop ears,’ she says.

From the seven-acre smallholding of Ham Farm, where Lillie lives with farmer husband Morgan and their four children, this Dorset farmer is helping to champion one of Britain’s oldest pig breeds, nicknamed Plum Puddings due to their spotty markings.

In preparation for her moment in the spotlight, Lillie started training Claudia earlier this year for the show, in the traditional manner. ‘You use a stick and board to gently get them to walk along. She’s used to going round her pen and is doing well with her training.’

This potential porcine showstopper will be travelling to Dorchester in a straw-filled trailer with all her piglets – due for delivery in August. Before her appearance in the showring, Claudia will enjoy a pampering session featuring a thorough wash and scrub with a floor brush which she loves, according to Lillie. ‘Her trotters will be trimmed, her ears wiped out and, on the day, she’ll be massaged with baby oil, to make her look glossy and bring out all her lovely colours.’

Whether Claudia leaves with a prize, is down to what the section judge thinks when they see her in action. ‘They will assess her first on stance and gait, and then on her breed characteristics,’ Lillie explains. A win will not only mean a rosette, proudly displayed back at Ham Farm, but it would also bring recognition for Lillie as a registered breeder of OSBs, from an impartial judge.

Certainly, she is looking forward to the challenge and believes Claudia will enjoy it, too. ‘My pigs are always curious about new people; they seem to like social interaction and they’ll get plenty of that at the Dorset County Show.’

Tickets pre-booked before August 26 £19, up until September 1 £21, on the show weekend £23. Under 16s go free. Book at

Dorset Echo: Big Pete in action crushing cars. (Photo: Big Pete in action crushing cars. (Photo:

Dorset County Show: Did you know? 

- 1,200 sheep will be bleating and competing, along with 300 cattle including many rare breeds, and 740 horses – from mighty Shires to little Shetlands

- From sewing to cooking over 2,200 homecraft exhibits will be on display

- Trade stand frontage will reach a staggering two miles long, and if all the marquees were lined up they would stretch more than 1,180 metres.

- It takes two weeks to transform the show’s greenfield site, on the edge of Dorchester, into a rural ‘city’, complete with running water, electricity, toilets, stables, animal pens and a huge campsite.

- The Sheep Show introduces the public to a huge range of different breeds of sheep including dancing ones!

- The only events that have stopped the show in its 183-year history are two World Wars, Foot and Mouth Disease (2001) and the coronavirus pandemic (2020/2021)