THE vice-chairman of one of the country’s oldest agricultural shows quit after his verbal attack on a folk band was blamed for a near-riot in the beer tent.

Respected farmer John George William Stobbs found himself in court yesterday after his anger at a faltering folk band ended with a rowdy crowd hurling chairs and beer cans at the stage. Up to 400 people were waiting in the marquee for The Emerald Thieves to entertain them during the final evening of the 169th Stanhope Show last September.

The court heard that the band had arrived at the Weardale showground about two hours later than expected and – minutes into their set – were forced to stop when an amplifier failed.

Janet Coxon, prosecuting at Consett Magistrates’ Court, said that as someone tried to find another amplifier, the Irish band were confronted by 48-year-old Stobbs and another committee member.

Ms Coxon said Stobbs was “aggressive” and called the band a “f*****g disgrace”.

He then jumped onto the stage and grabbed one of the microphones and again shouted to the crowd that they were a “f*****g disgrace” and “the worst band we’ve ever had”.

She said the crowd were incited by Stobb’s tirade and began throwing chairs and beer cans at the stage - causing several thousands of pounds-worth of damage to the band’s equipment.

In a statement, band member Robert Millah said: “It was a very surreal experience. We have never experienced such aggression before.”

The Emerald Thieves, who are based in County Durham, finally completed their set after Stobbs, known locally as Willy, left, and said the atmosphere had grown “friendlier”.

Miss Coxon said that a charge of criminal damage was dropped after there was insufficient proof that Stobbs had caused £150-worth of damage to the microphone after pushing it to the floor.

“This was a very unpleasant incident caused by the actions of this man,” she said.

Clive Booth, mitigating, said Stobbs was a highly respected member of not just Stanhope, but Weardale as a whole.

He said his client accepted he swore, but that he “could not be held responsible for the actions of the crowd”.

He told Consett magistrates the band had been expected at 4.30pm to set up for a gig at 7.30pm, although the band insisted they had not agreed a starting time.

Stanhope solicitor Ian Shuttleworth wrote a letter of support for Stobbs in which he described him as a leading light of the show committee.

He said that without him, “the show would not have been as successful as it is”.

The court heard that, as a result, he had resigned from both the show committee and Stanhope Sports and Social Club’s committee, where his enthusiasm had helped save it from extinction.

Stobbs, of East Lane, near Stanhope, County Durham, admitted threatening behaviour and was given a 12-month conditional discharge and ordered to pay £85 costs.

Speaking afterwards, he said the audience was already irate due to the band being so late.

Stobbs was a member of the show committee for nine years and a former chairman of the two- day show, which last year attracted 16,000 visitors.

“I shouldn’t have sworn, but everyone I’ve spoken to is appalled it’s come this far,” he said.

“I felt badly let down at the time, as it was a disastrous situation.”

He added that he would not be involved in the show this year, but may return in the future.