The Awards Chair is Countryside Alliance Executive Chairman Sir Barney White Spunner. Barney is a writer and countryman with first-hand knowledge of farming and wide countryside interests. He lives in Dorset with his wife and three children, and is a long term supporter of all country sports. As well as being a regular contributor to The Field magazine he was a former editor of Baily’s Hunting Directory and President of the Association of Masters of Harriers and Beagles. He has had a distinguished military career and was knighted in 2011. He commanded British forces in the Balkans, Afghanistan and Iraq and then took over as the Army Commander in 2009. He left the Army in December 2011 and is now leading the charge for rural life.
Secretary of State for Defra, Owen Paterson MP, is a passionate supporter of localism, free enterprise and less interference in people’s lives. He believes that taxation and bureaucracy should be minimised to give people the best chance to exercise their talents. The Secretary of State has written exclusively for the Countryside Alliance's magazine, endorsing the Awards: "The Rural Oscars play an incredibly important role in recognising and encouraging dynamism in the rural economy....The Awards sum up my vision for rural Britain; successful businesses and flourishing communities thriving in a living, working countryside." (In February 2013 the horsemeat scandal meant the Secretary of State could not attend the judging lunch in London. Instead, Fisheries MInister Richard Benyon MP stood in. The Minister has handed out the Rural Oscars at Parliament for several years running and is a vocal supporter of rural businesses and local produce.)
Clarissa Dickson Wright is a well known tv cook and countrywoman, whose show "Clarissa and the Countryman" with Sir Johnny Scott, brought a view of the countryside as it really is into the nation's sitting rooms for the first time. Clarissa has been a tireless campaigner for rural issues, not least for the Countryside Alliance on the issue of hunting. She is also a passionate campaigner for honest food labelling and a fair deal for our food producers and is a noted food historian. Her latest book, "Clarissa's England", is out now.
David Lidgate is an experienced 4th generation butcher and is a member of the Worshipful Company of Butchers, the presitigious and ancient livery company. David is new to the panel in 2012 and says "These awards offer a great opportunity for Craftsman Butchers countrywide to tell of their prowess.” The butcher category is one of the most popular in the Awards - everyone loves their local butcher and butchers in turn support our farming industry and keep traditional butchery skills alive. We are proud to see the industry represented on our judging panel. www.lidgates.com
Philip Johnston is The Daily Telegraph's Assistant Editor for Home News. Philip writes about the broad issues facing the UK, including crime and policing. His interest in rural life has seen him to tackle topical subjects such as food waste, road pricing and fly tipping. Philip represents the Daily Telegraph on the judging panel; the newspaper supports the Village Shop/ Post Office category which applauds the humble village shop - so often the heart of any community.
Emma Penny is editor of Farmers Guardian, agriculture’s national newspaper, and comes from a strong farming background. Her parents farm north of Aberdeen on a mixed farm with pedigree Limousin cattle, suckler cows and arable crops, and Emma studied agriculture at Aberdeen University. She has been a journalist for more than 15 years, and has been involved in covering farming, road haulage and logistics and construction markets – but agriculture and farming are definitely her favourites! She also has a horse, and is a keen participant in affiliated eventing.
Chris Dewbury is the Sales Director for Hunter Boot. Chris is an active, passionate sportsman with over 20 years experience within the sports and lifestyle industry. He is a keen shot and administers a small shoot in North Hampshire with his trusty black labs. When he’s not out with his gun he’s down on the Test casting a fly or tucking a surfboard under his arm and heading for the waves on the coast. Summer also sees him under canvas taking in the tunes at Glastonbury. In his spare time he retires to his shed and garden feasting on local produce washed down with a drop. However, he still has time to be a devoted father to his two girls, and a major challenge to Sarah, his wife who finds it much easier to train polo ponies.