Be Inspired Series
National Countrysports Fair
Bill's background is in media and he has been writing on country sports for major publications for over 30 years.
What does your job entail?
I am the marketing director of the National Countrysports Fair in Northern Ireland and its sister event, the Irish National Country Fair in the Republic of Ireland. My role is to market each fair as a real family occasion, an event that can be enjoyed not only by those interested in wax jackets, green wellies and country sports, but by all the family.
How did you get into this line of work?
I have always had a love of the countryside and in particular country sports. I fish and shoot and work gundogs and have been involved with writing on country matters for over 30 years. When a good friend suggested that we start the National Countrysports Fair in the mid-1990s, I jumped at the opportunity.
What have been the biggest challenges since you developed the Game Fair in Northern Ireland 15 years ago?
Instilling the confidence in Britain and Republic-based companies to come to Northern Ireland was undoubtedly the biggest challenge in the early days. Coming out of the troubled times was difficult for all home-based businesses. I had to work hard to attract those people to Northern Ireland and fortunately they placed their trust in me, my team and the show. We have all benefited as the National Countrysports Fair has grown and achieved recognition as one of the biggest events of its kind in the British Isles.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your work?
For me it's the feedback from the visitors to the show. The event is just for two days but the build-up is a 12-month effort. When the emails roll in after the event congratulating me and my team on the show, it really is rewarding and worth all the effort we put into it.
Is the event limited in the ages and backgrounds of the people it appeals to?
This is a family orientated event and always has been. Country sports are not exclusive to one gender or a specific social background. Young and old, male and female, company director and manual worker can all enjoy and participate in them, sometimes for the first time, at the National Countrysports Fair.
We have clay pigeon shooting, flying birds of prey, pony rides, have-a-go archery and shooting competitions, fly tying workshops, and fishing competitions. We also have a fantastic food festival with artisan food producers, a rural craft village, live music, lots of shopping opportunities and many child-orientated events like the children's farm and a free-to- enter pet show.
How has your previous work experience helped you with your current role?
As someone not only involved with country sports from a very early age, but also writing on those activities for major publications for over 30 years, the transition to event organiser was a simple one. I know the marketplace and through my media background and training I am fortunate enough to be able to communicate with people on a number of levels.
What do you feel are the key ingredients to the success of the fair?
Without doubt it is the personal touch that my team and I offer the exhibitor and the visitor alike. We don't hide away during the show. More often than not we are meeting and greeting our visitors and making them feel part of the game fair family we have promoted at Moira Demesne. It is important to deliver on promises and we feel we do just that in terms of product, attractions, value for money and a return on investment for our sponsors.
What sort of personality, skills or training are needed for the job you do?
Communication skills are vital, along with the ability to listen to the customer.
What are your aspirations for your business?
Expansion plans have already been implemented with the launch of the Irish National Country Fair at Ballinlough Castle in County Westmeath. A sister event to the show at Moira Demesne, this was launched last year. The 2010 fair at Ballinlough Castle will be held on July 31 and August 1, and the response to this event has been overwhelming.
What's the best piece of advice you ever received?
Never forget that your customer -- be they sponsor, exhibitor or visitor -- are the most important people in your business. Ignore them at your peril!
What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
I love training gundogs and have several in my kennels. Fishing is a passion for me in the summer and shooting in the winter months. The occasional trip to a cottage in a very rural part of France also rates highly.
Tell us an interesting fact about yourself?
After 40 years as a clay pigeon shooter, I decided three years ago to obtain a formal qualification in the sport. I qualified as a clay pigeon instructor in 2008 and now enjoy passing on my skills to a new generation of people.
Who or what has inspired you most in your life?
Undoubtedly this was my late grandfather, a true countryman who, whilst being dead for over 25 years, is still influencing me. If I have a difficult decision to make I just ask myself what he would do in a similar situation. Invariably I make the right choices.