War and Peace show leaving the Hop Farm after 25 years
THE WAR and Peace Show is leaving the Hop Farm after 25 years.
The annual event, which attracted 110,000 people this year and is now the world's biggest military vehicle exercise, has boosted business in Paddock Wood.
Organisers have announced they will hold next year's event in Folkestone instead.
They said the event had become "tired" and some of the Hop Farm's facilities such as the toilets and shower blocks had been criticised by showgoers.
It comes just two months after two planned performances at the venue by Leonard Cohen were pulled at the last minute. The singer later vented his fury at those who forced him to inconvenience his fans.
War and Peace spokesman Georgina Martin said: "It has come to the end of its 30-year reign, 25 years at the Hop Farm, and people were saying and we agreed, that it was becoming a bit tired, a bit 'samey'. We had our highest visitor numbers for a Saturday this year that anyone can remember. We thought let's end it on a high. People still love the show, so let's close it and start again."
She added a new show called The War and Peace Revival would open next year at Folkestone Racecourse – a former airfield which was steeped in Second World War history.
"I know the Hop Farm is big but it was not able to cope with our expansion plans," she said.
She said the move had the backing of big players at the show, including the Invicta Military Vehicle Preservation Society which said facilities at the racecourse would "greatly enhance the experience of the show for visitors and exhibitors".
Paul Smith, chairman of Paddock Wood Business Association who also owns the House of Portmeirion in Commercial Road, said: "I am very saddened. It without doubt was what helped the local economy. They would drive into Paddock Wood and they would use the shops and services. It created a real buzz and a real atmosphere in the town. A lot of people both residents and business will miss it, I am sure."
Marilyn Clarke, who runs a bed and breakfast at Warrington Lodge in Church Road but is soon retiring, said: "It's a shame. Paddock Wood used to be choc-a-bloc with all the jeeps and the cars. It was a great atmosphere. I seem to remember all the shelves in Waitrose were empty and I got the impression it made a difference to all the shops and the restaurants around and the cafes – I think they did quite a bit of business."
Waitrose department manager Chris Harrington told the Courier: "We did used to see an increased trade for that period but it was quite marginal and we are sorry that we will not be seeing that."
Hop Farm head of sales and marketing Miguel Fenton refused to comment when approached by the Courier.