Young Farmers are heading back to Blackpool – despite their annual convention in the resort being cancelled after trouble flared at last year’s event.
Almost 5,000 people are understood to have registered their interest in an unofficial ‘DIY weekender’ to take place across the early May Bank Holiday, which for decades up to and including last year was the regular date for the convention based at the Winter Gardens.
The group, led by 20-year-old Yorkshire farmer John Houseman, is keen to restore the young farmers’ tarnished reputation after the National Federation of Young Farmers Clubs’ (NFYFC) axed the popular event following intimidating antisocial behaviour of some of its members on the streets of Blackpool.
READ MORE: Future of Young Farmers event in doubt
Those planning to attend next month’s bank holiday weekender have been asked to give a £5 minimum donation to both the National Air Ambulance and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI).
Mr Houseman told the Farmers Guardian newspaper: “Following the incidents which put our reputation in jeopardy last year, it is important we show what most Young Farmers are really like.
“As a way of giving back this year and due to there being no attendance fee, we are going to raise money for the National Air Ambulance and Blackpool RNLI.”
Young Farmers who have booked their hotels for the weekend have also arranged club t-shirts and there is talk of a fancy dress night.
On the event’s Facebook page, one town centre bar said it had an ‘amazing trouble-free time last year with a great bunch’ while another said it was looking forward to welcoming revellers.
And Claire Smith, president of Stay Blackpool, said it was important to keep last year’s events in perspective.
“I think we have to welcome the young people who are keen to restore their reputation,” she said.
“It is always very sad when a small element of a group tarnishes the situation for the majority and for years, the young farmers have been coming here and the vast majority have been well behaved and helped boost our local economy.
“I know a lot of hoteliers over the years have been delighted to welcome the young farmers and they have been no bother at all.
“It was important that a stand was made after last year’s events but you worry about discriminating against those who were well behaved and we have to be positive about any effort to restored their reputation.
“Blackpool is good at dealing with large groups of people, we have been doing it for years, and I would hope this unofficial return is a trouble-free success.”
Prominent Blackpool licensee Robert Wynne, owner of the West Coast Rock Cafe, the Rose and Crown and the Brew Room, said: “For years, the Young Farmers’ Convention was a very welcome feature of the calendar in Blackpool, providing a very welcome boost to trade for many businesses.
“But last year’s event was very disappointing, with behaviour by some attending which I actually think put people off coming into town and affected trade quite badly.
“We can only hope this group who plan to come this year are well behaved. It is certainly really good that they are planning to raise money for charity.”
After last year’s event, NFYFC chairman Lynsey Martin apologised for the behaviour of some of its members, saying she was “really sad, disappointed and ashamed” after watching and sharing a video which shows a number of YFC members stopping traffic on a busy road, kicking cars and swearing loudly.
She added that “the actions of a few have tarnished the reputation of so many” and after a return the event this year was initially put on hold after consultations with the police and Blackpool Council, the NFYFC issued a statement to say that the convention was off this year – not just giving Blackpool a miss, but scrapped altogether.
Although there was no specific mention of the Blackpool controversy in the NFYFC statement, which confirmed the event has now been consigned to history, the decision to pull the bash after 50 years was thought to be directly linked to trouble flaring at the 2018 convention.
The statement said: “Following a meeting of the board of management of NFYFC it was agreed the Federation would no longer hold the Annual Convention for its members.
“After 50 years of hosting the event, the board believes it is time to refresh its offer to members and to bring its programme of activities more in line with its charitable aims to meet the needs of rural young people.
“While NFYFC recognises this will be disappointing for many NFYFC members and sponsors, the organisation is looking to move forward.”
A spokesman for Blackpool Council said: “The National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs is not staging or endorsing any official event in Blackpool this year and has written to all members to inform them of this stance.
“We are aware that unofficial activity is being promoted and police are working with local licensees to discuss the implications.”