The Village Show - Judgement Day!

Daily Daff: ‘Village show in uproar as judge condemns biscuits to second place’

All rise. The Court of the Village Show is now in session, the Honourable Judge McCann presiding. And so, at 10.00am the other Saturday, I began judging at our local spring horticultural show. And what pressure.

For the record I love village shows. I do my best to actually exhibit some of my plants and produce wherever possible. But this year, or this spring, having been volunteered to judge, I couldn't very well put my own auriculas in the show. Can you imagine the uproar as I carry off the silverware, having awarded myself the trophies? Exactly. So, it was on with the red gown (only joking - it was blue!) and getting down to business.

I wasn’t judging the main body of the show - the daffodils - so actually could have staged my own blooms except I pressure washed the path and splattered them all with path debris the day before. So, nothing of mine actually on the show bench anywhere in the hall allowed me to concentrate on everything except daffodils, cakes (sadly) and photography section. I got stuck in.

If you’ve ever been such a judge you will know how difficult it is. Imagine ‘any flowering pot plant’ as a class. You could be judging a coleus against a begonia against a gloxinia against an orchid against an amaryllis. Does a well grown but slightly easier coleus beat a less well grown but difficult begonia? And having exhibited plants and produce before I know how much work goes into staging. OK, a top prize of 50p is usual, but it’s the pride. I worked through the classes. One or two were simple as they only had one entry - but still, my decision there was whether that one entry was actually worthy of the coveted red card. How harsh can a judge be in a village show?

Then I had two classes to go. And two of the trickiest for different reasons. The first was the bowl of hyacinths grown exclusively by committee members. Oh yes, the president was in there somewhere, the vice president, treasurer - all vying for the top spot, and it was down to me. Of course, you don't know who has grown which bowl of flowers. I didn’t detect any gentle coughing or nudging as I inspected the blooms to ensure they were the correct variety, number and quality. I made my decision.

Then for me the most important class of the whole lot - the children’s baking class. ‘Six decorated biscuits.’ The entries were terrific. All plated, under cling film to retain freshness. I turned into a weird mutant hybrid of Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith. Were bottoms soggy? Under baked? Charcoaled beyond recognition? All looked great. There was only one other thing I could do to tell them apart - eat them! Obviously not all because that would leave the public nothing to see later in the day but a nibble of one biscuit from each of the exhibits?  Surely that’s good judge etiquette? They all tasted superb. Then I spotted the winner. The red card was awarded.

Phew. Cup of tea. ‘Sign the judge's sheet please.’ Thanks all round. ‘Expenses?’  I live 200 m from the village hall and I am myself a committee member so no, not this time! And that was that. All over. Judgement had been given.

I’m not doing it at the autumn show. No way. But that’s only because I’m having a go at exhibiting some bits and pieces, knowing that the judge, whoever he or she is, will scrupulously inspect, deliberate and decide on who can grow the best carrot, parsnip and pumpkin.

And just remember that the judge’s decision is final.


  • The begonia beat the coleus. Just.
  • A hard-working committee member won the hyacinth class and the president was unplaced. That’s me off the committee next AGM!
  • The children’s baking was terrific. The only thing separating the winner from the rest was uniformity. Six uniform biscuits had to beat six higgledy piggledy cookies. Both sets tasted superb. It felt harsh to award prizes but I wrote encouraging notes for all the entries in this class. I hope they all come back in autumn with more exhibits.
  • Go to your local show. It needs you.