I really didn’t know what to expect when I volunteered to be a steward and was rather nervous when I turned up at Winterbourne at 8am last Saturday. However, putting on the smart white coat provided by Nat made me feel a bit more confident and official and soon, Abid and I were being introduced to the 2 judges in the Show tent. They were a supremely confident and professional pair of gentleman who had driven down from Yorkshire that morning. They competently organised us and introduced us to the art of judging. It turned out that our primary task was to accurately record their judgements for each class and dash round to deliver a paper copy to the team in the office tent, next door, who looked up the names of the winners and wrote out the results cards. But whilst doing this, we were able to watch the judges at work and get all sorts of insights into how they came to their decisions.
I was working with Peter who was responsible for judging all the even classes. He was great fun to be with, very enthusiastic and keen to share and explain his professional methods. He had brought with him a huge bag which he delved into to produce special equipment needed to help with his judging -including, for example, honey colour grading glasses, weighing scales, special cake cutting knives, wine glasses to name but a few.
I was amazed by the attention given to technical details before any comparison of the qualities of the entries. Many entries were disqualified on technicalities – for example every beeswax block was weighed, the diameter of every cake was measured and each pair of honey jars was scrutinised to check whether they contained honey from the same source.
Then when every flawed entry had been eliminated, the final judgement was made by the mysterious art of sniffing and tasting.
Overall, it was a really illuminating and fascinating experience from which I learnt an awful lot and thoroughly enjoyed. I certainly recommend it to anyone else interested in the judging process.