(24th February 2007)

There are several icons which hold together local communities---and we must fight tenaciously to hold on to them and to strengthen them.

I am speaking of local schools, shops, businesses, the local pubs---and the long-time symbols of rural communities, shows like this historical one at Exeter.

Yes, shows have evolved from the original showcase for produce and animals---they’ve had to change or die.

But they are still annual symbols of the strength of a community.

And that is demonstrated, as it is here today, by the support of members of the community.

I am happy to say the community on the West Tamar, demonstrates each year---through the Exeter Show---that it is not going to be bowled over by the modern juggernaut that is changing our lives, not always for the better.

Jobs that give us too little time for our families and community, too much traveling, too little time in our homes.

In fact, I would argue that the West Tamar community, and the Exeter Annual Show is demonstrating a surprising vitality and an amazing resilience against this threatening juggernaut.

We are bucking a trend in developed societies, a trend which in some countries is de-populating the country side. That may be happening in parts of Europe, and particularly industrial nations like Japan.

But I believe it will not happen here.

I am pleased there are no such signs of rural degeneration from where I stand today.

We have a strong community, which, if you look around you this morning, involves people of all ages.

As long as the community throws its support behind annual events like this—this icon of our West Tamar community, there will be many future opportunities for our community to come together at Exeter on a Saturday in February.

I am proud and pleased to declare the 2007 Exeter Show open.

I hope every member of our community enjoys today and will be back next February, and for all the Februarys to come.