Mid Wales

Royal Welsh Humans: Characters behind the show

Greg Thomas Image copyright Greg Thomas

The stories of those visiting and working at the Royal Welsh Show are being told on social media by a PhD student for his thesis.

Greg Thomas, originally from Builth Wells in Powys but studying at Aberystwyth University, Ceredigion, began by conducting surveys at the show - but realised they were only providing him with numbers.

"I didn't want [the thesis] to be really dull," Mr Thomas, who is due to submit his work in October, said.

"I didn't want it to be read by five bearded academics and that's it - I wanted it to be useful and everyone to get something out of it."

So what about looking at the people behind the numbers?

"It's 100,000 words - but there's so much going on here and the show means so much to so many people, is that even enough?"

Mr Thomas decided to break up his doctorate - which considers the exchange between farmers and non-farmers, Welsh identity and politics - with photos and quotes from farmers, visitors, stewards and organisers.

In other words - the humans of the Royal Welsh show.

Taking inspiration from the Humans of New York social media storm, Mr Thomas arranged interviews during the show and also approaches people he spots along the way who may have an interesting tale to tell.

'Fy enw i yw Nigel Owens'

Image copyright Greg Thomas

Even though Mr Thomas said his most popular posts are usually those about "real people", rather than celebrities or politicians, rugby referee Nigel Owens was an exception to the rule.

Mr Owens contributed bilingual posts, saying: "I've been coming to the Royal Welsh for years really, coming from a farming community and working on a farm, that was the interest originally.

"But then over the last few years I've been president of Wales Young Farmers clubs, and most of the time I've been coming here to compete with the Young Farmers when I was a member and then coming to help out in the YFC office during the competitions.

"The last four or five years, I've been coming here to referee the final of the sevens tournament."

'I don't know anything much about pigs and cattle'

A voice regularly booming across the showground belongs to chief announcer and commentator Nicola Davies.

And Mr Thomas wanted to give that familiar voice a name - so he interviewed Ms Davies for his Facebook page.

"I've been coming here as a child with my family, exhibited Welsh cobs here for many, many years," she said.

"But I was asked to commentate here on an equine display back between 10 and 15 years ago, and I got the bug.

"I was part of the team, some say it was a promotion, some not. But I'm now chief commentator, so I'm in charge of the commentators at the main ring, horse ring, the sheep, the cattle and the pig section.

"So I don't know anything much about pigs and cattle, but I try to find people that do."

'We're here to give you a couple of extra paragraphs for your thesis'

Image copyright Greg Thomas

Wales UKIP leader Neil Hamilton and his wife, author and media personality Christine Hamilton, joked they were attending the show purely for Mr Thomas's doctorate.

"We're Neil and Christine Hamilton, and we are basically here to give you a couple of extra paragraphs for your thesis," Mr Hamilton said.

"But apart from that it is of course the biggest agricultural show in northern Europe, and I believe this brings in £20m a year to the mid Wales economy.

"It is a vitally important event in the year."

'I would be coming anyway, so I do a bit of work'

Image copyright Greg Thomas

Mr Thomas said people he approaches rarely turn him down for interviews - he in fact has more success than he did when conducting simple surveys.

Among those who agreed to be interviewed was police officer Matthew Howells.

"I'm a police officer with Dyfed-Powys Police, I'm working here at the show for three days this week.

"I'm from a farming background myself, so the interest is there anyway for me to come to the show.

"I would be coming anyway, so I do a bit of work, and I'm helping my partner show a horse tomorrow as well," he said.

'Very nervous'

Image copyright Greg Thomas

Steward Barbara Green is showing a barren mare in the main ring this week.

"It will be the first time I've shown in the main ring for many years," she said.

"I was showing here for the first time when I was 16 years old, and quite a few years have passed since then.

"I'm quite excited about it, but I'm also very nervous."

But there is still one man who has never featured as a Human of the Royal Welsh Show.

So how about giving Mr Thomas a taste of his own medicine?

Image copyright Greg Thomas

"I'm Greg Thomas, a PhD student in the Department of Geography and Earth Sciences at Aberystwyth University.

"This week at the show I have been conducting the Humans of the Royal Welsh Show project, it is great to get so many stories from the people who work tirelessly to make the show the best in Europe.

"Being from Builth Wells, and having a farming background, it is a privilege to be able to study an event that means so much to so many."

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