Wednesday, 14 August 2013

60 SECOND INTERVIEW: Sam Mackenzie-Green

Sam Mackenzie-Green, 36, has been the Dorset County Show Secretary since 2002, moving from Berkshire. She came to Dorset with her husband, giving up a job managing an equestrian business, to become the show’s youngest secretary. Despite this being her busiest weeks of the year she found time to talk to us about her life and the show, which this year takes place on Saturday and Sunday, September 7th and 8th.

HAVE you always had an interest in horse riding?
Certainly since I was nine when I started riding. Although I’d had an academic education I went off to do an Equine Studies Degree which in those days was quite new. I just thought that I’d had enough of subjects like Latin and wanted to follow something I loved. I’ve continued competing in eventing and dressage until quite recently when, with two small children, we decided to build our own house and realised there simply wasn’t the time – but I’m not giving up completely.

WITH the county show now just weeks away, do you ever think you would rather do something else?
I love the variety and the pressure – the way it all builds up and then you have a natural lull in the winter. I enjoy the pressure but I wouldn’t want to do it all the year round. I’m an organiser and I like to have things planned and then watch it all fall into place, so the job really suits me.

AND if the show came to an end and you had to find something else what do you think you might do?
My mother always said I should go into law, but I think if I had to I might run a business or start my own. Running the show teaches you lots of transferable skills.

HOW did you get the job?
We had already moved here when I saw it advertised. I thought ‘this is right up my street’, I couldn’t believe it. They had quite a lot of applicants and whittled it down to six, quite a mix of people who had the experience and I was the youngest.  I remember being interviewed at 2pm and the then chairman, Tom Bartlett, phones me at 5pm and told me I’d got the job. I just put the phone down and screamed. When I started it was the first show after foot and mouth so it was quite a turbulent time. I inherited a show which was traditional in every sense. I remember when I started the accounts were done by hand, we had a big ledger in which everything was entered.

LOOKING back what’s the best change, or changes, you have made?
The introduction of ‘children go free’ was a major turning point. This should be an educational event, it’s part of our aims, and to have children coming along for free (with an adult) shows we are a family-friendly event and committed to educating people about agriculture. But I think we have also managed to balance the more traditional aspects of the show with the commercial aspects, making it attractive to more people.

Do YOU worry about the show?
Yes. I can have sleepless nights and I often wake up early with half a dozen things on my mind, so I try to get to bed early. My biggest worry is not the organisation, but the weather. If we get a series of good days in the run up to the show I start thinking that we are somehow using them up!

WHO has been influential in your life?
I grew up in the era of Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister and I’d been through a feminist grammar school, so whatever you think of her politics it was very encouraging to see a woman in that position and to get the message that women could achieve anything. Mrs Thatcher and Hilary Clinton are both very inspirational.

HOW do you relax?
With the family, although for these four weeks I don’t get to see them as much as I would like. This last weekend was probably the last one I will get off until the show is over. I like to potter in the garden and to read. I like classics like Dickens or I will pick up a thriller if I want a quick read.

WHEN the show is over do you just flop and go on holiday?
No. It takes a few days to come down from the show. It’s all going round in my head for days – what was good, what we could improve on and there’s still a lot of work to be done, thank-you letters to write, payments and results to sort out. I don’t really relax until the October half-term holiday.

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