Festival will celebrate 'legendary' farmer

Eric Freeman wearing a white top and black top hat
Mr Freeman was a nationally-respected breeder of Gloucestershire Old Spots pigs [BBC]

A festival of Gloucestershire's rural traditions will be held this weekend to celebrate a "legendary" farmer and broadcaster.

Eric Freeman was one of the founders of the British rare breeds movement, helping to save the Gloucester cattle breed in the process.

He died in October 2023, aged 91.

The Eric Festival will take place on 11 May in Redmarley, featuring live music and traditional country fayre activities.

Along with his conservation work, Mr Freeman was a keen broadcaster, and reared Cotswold sheep and Gloucester Old Spots pigs.

Clifford Freeman, Eric's son, said Saturday's one-day country show at Everes's Farm will be a showcase of his late father's "passions and pursuits".

"From rare breeds and Morris dancing to the Forest [of Dean] poets and old-fashioned farmhouse cider, it’s all the things he cherished," Mr Freeman said.

"We’ll honour his heartfelt determination to preserve the best of rural Gloucestershire so that the old ways, the traditional skills and the local dialect could be passed on to the next generation."

Clifford Freeman wearing a blue polo shirt, standing in a cattle barn
Clifford Freeman said the one-day festival would celebrate his father's passions [BBC]

BBC archive film from 1972 was shown to Clifford, documenting the sale of Gloucester cattle, which led to the formation of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust.

"Without this sale, there would be no Gloucesters," Clifford said.

"They could have easily been pushed into the markets and they'd be gone and been slaughtered and that would have be the end."

The late Mr Freeman worked with fellow farmers Joe Henson and Charles Martell to help save the breed.

"They were real pioneers, Clifford said.

"But they were being laughed at and scoffed at by the rest of the farming fraternity. They were the 'idiots'.

"But things have changed 50 years on."

Mr Freeman received a lifetime achievement award from King Charles III in 2013.

The outpouring of affection his death sparked last year led to the Freeman family vowing to stage a memorial event in his name "in the same spirit as his famous farmyard gatherings".

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