Peter was right, it is strange and, if I hadn't seen it on TV first, it would probably have seemed stranger still. Despite some modern technology, the 'feel' was exactly as I remembered watching on TV. Expressions like those I'd heard in that episode, "Can we have the Association Witness, please?". and "Frank Carter's on." were echoed throughout the afternoon, as some very large berries were played, one against the other, on the delicate balance.
The Holy Grail of a Gooseberry Show is the 'Premier Berry'; the heaviest of the heavy. In that episode from 1987, the winner of Premier Berry was the legendary Frank Carter. Not only was Frank a prolific grower and shower, he also bred new gooseberry varieties, and most of the modern winners have been grown on Frank's varieties.
These days, as well as the silverware which has to go back at the end of the year, a 'Frank Carter Memorial Plate' for the winner of Premier Berry is also awarded. Each one is unique, with the year, winners name and the variety recorded on it. This way they get to keep a permanent memento of their win. Unbeknownst to Doug, there had also been moves to create a special 'Lifetime Achievement' version of the plate, to acknowledge his contribution to gooseberry growing in Goostrey over the years, meaning he gets not one but two plates this year.
Despite how it seems, Doug didn't get it all his own way. Last years Premier Berry winner, Emma Williams, won the 'Red', the 'Twins', and the Yellow 'Show Plate' (12 berries) classes. Another Premier Berry veteran, Terry Price, won the 'White' class, and 2017 winner Martin de Kretser won the Red 'Show Plate' class, for instance.
Full results can be found here.
My thanks to the Goostrey Gooseberry Society (in particular, Secretary Martin de Kretser for imparting his knowledge and for convincing me to go this year), Doug Carter, the 'Crown Inn', and the good people (and their dogs) of Goostrey. See you next year!