Paul Thewlis – 2018 Sylvia Edmondson Trophy Winner Writes….

I’ve been visiting agricultural and allotment shows on and off for the past thirty years, originally as a member of a brass band but more recently to try my hand at competing. I used to enter the vegetable classes but since moving away from the area and relinquishing my allotment I’ve concentrated on preserves and baking and, more recently photography. There’s something very satisfying about seeing the little coloured card with your name on it and if you’ve never tried it then I’d recommend you do. Emley Show is ideal for this as all the classes are in the same tent and the organisers are always on hand to assist when you need it. Even staging your exhibits for you when you arrive.

For the 2018 show I decided to have a try for the Sylvia Edmondson Trophy. As this was based on points accrued for the whole cookery section, it seemed that my best chance would be to enter every class. I knew this would be a lot of work and I’d be up against people who were specialising in just a few classes but I set about creating a timetable for the week ahead.
The preserves and photographs were done way ahead – I enter a few other shows so usually make jams, chutneys and flavoured alcohols in June for the whole season and a lemon curd the weekend before. All that’s required is a quick clean of the jar and a label and they’re ready to go. Photographs also get printed out and mounted the week before.
The baking I had to leave as late as possible – ideally I’d have taken Friday off work and made all the cakes then but I wasn’t able to do that so had to decide what I could get away with on the Wednesday and Thursday. On Wednesday I made the tea bread, the truffle mixture and the icing decorations for my cupcakes (an ambitious World Cup theme). Thursday I made the cherry scones, fruit crumble and the cupcakes themselves as well as making the truffles.
This made for a late night on the Friday with a Victoria sponge, lemon drizzle loaf, Danish pastry, chocolate cake and Bakewell tart all needing one or two stints in the oven. I was able to make the 1lb Bread loaf in a bread maker using the timer – so this was a bit of a cheat really.
On Saturday morning I just applied the fillings to the Victoria sponge and chocolate cake and packaged everything up ready for the show.

Living in Rochdale, it’s about an hour’s drive to the show and this was the first year I arrived in decent time – it helped that I was able to park in the exhibitor’s car park because previously I’ve had to race past the equestrian ring from the public car park carrying everything. The chocolate cake and cupcakes had got damaged in transit but thanks to encouragement from my other half we managed to clean them up and get them on the table.
It’s always a relief to get everything put in place, and it certainly helps to do all your paperwork in advance as this cuts down on time and stress on the day and also assists the ladies on the desk with allocating space. Once everything is dropped off it’s then just a matter of waiting.
On this occasion I returned to the show at about 2 o’clock and eagerly made my way back to the tent. It never occurred to me I’d won the trophy because I just made my way around the tables – starting at the preserves end and seeing if my name cropped up on any of the cards. I’d picked up a number of 2nd & 3rds and a 1st with my flavoured gin. I’d been vindicated in entering every class because I’d also picked up points in the classes with few entries and even scraped a couple of 3rds with the baking I’d damaged on the way over.
When I saw that I’d won the Sylvia Edmondson Trophy I was overjoyed. It’s always great to feel that all the hard work has been justified and good to know that, at least some of it, was liked by other people. In 2019 I’ll be back but I think I’ll be a bit selective in the classes I choose – or at least take the Friday before off work.

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