Aintree the Beacon for Racing Together
The prestigious Showcase Awards organised by the Racecourse Association, in conjunction with Great British Racing, celebrate excellence and innovation on Britain’s racecourses. None more so is this than in the work of British racecourses with their local communities where there have been many fine examples of creativity, originality and innovation. The unenviable task of selecting the winner of the coveted Racing Together Community and Social Responsibility Award fell to a team of independent judges with Aintree emerging victorious from the tough challenge of a short list of finalists comprising Ripon, Newmarket, Royal Windsor and Musselburgh.
The Aintree Community Programme was launched at the Becher Chase Community Day in December 2014 when free access was given to the local community in which 30,000 attended. In November 2014, Aintree was also announced as the Beacon racecourse for Racing Together, the first of Racing’s regional Beacon hubs for community engagement. Mainly focusing on Education Outreach, Aintree has also created inspiring partnerships with local businesses and charities such as Alder Hey Hospital, Barrie Wells Trust and Liverpool and Everton football clubs.
Aintree faced strong competition from the other four finalists:
Musselburgh was selected for its “Beyond Track” programme. They are a great example of a racecourse that has embedded community engagement firmly as part of its business strategy and vision “to be proud of our racecourse”. In 2015 Give and Gain Day focused on matching the skills of the racecourse and the community need through partnership with Scottish Business in the Community. 20 members of staff volunteered to help throughout the day, improving the large garden area by creating a new water feature, painting a new wall mural, painting fences, weeding and planting, providing hours of enjoyment for young children.
For the second successive year Newmarket Racecourse, working with other notable Newmarket organisations introduced students at Newmarket Academy to a week of racing-related activities to develop their leadership skills and create interest in pursuing careers in the racing industry. The programme is designed to show children the unique heritage of their local area and raise their employment aspirations as well as introduce them to the variety of employment opportunities offered by the racing industry. The week culminated on Dubai Future Champions Day on the Rowley Mile.
Royal Windsor supported the Berkshire College of Agriculture to develop employability skills and raise career aspirations of the students. As part of the programme, the racecourse also offered vocational work experience opportunities to students from various disciplines including art and design, business studies, media studies, floristry, equine and horticulture. There are plans to build on the partnership and develop bespoke work experience opportunities for students of the College for years to come.
Ripon led an initiative to split the traditional two day fixture of the Bank Holiday and introduce a new family raceday to coincide with the school holidays. One of the key objectives of the project was to establish new working partnerships within the community offering not only financial but also educational and resource support. The racecourse supported the heritage of Ripon’s links with Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” story by bringing it to life at the racecourse and educating the local community of its proud connections. They successfully built a partnership with the local library to encourage children to take part in a “Design the racecard” competition, increasing traffic to the library in school holidays.
Sean O’Connor: Racing Together Community Engagement Manager said:
“Congratulations to Aintree and all the showcase finalists. Aintree are the Beacon racecourse and an example of what we want to create consistently across the country. There are five key aspirational themes to the Aintree Community Programme “Best of Health and Well Being”; “Best for riding the community”; “Best for mental health”; “Best for community engagement” and “Best for disability”. The Aintree story is a great example of the full force of Racing Together at work.
There are many wonderful examples of racecourses up and down the country working creatively and innovatively to serve the needs of local communities and make peoples’ lives better. During the day we learned of at least three other examples of racecourses engaging innovatively with their communities. Beverley adopted the local public conveniences and made them race friendly and welcoming on ladies day. Stratford converted an unused area of the racecourse into a cafe called the Honest Cafe, serving free tea and coffee on racedays and sharing any donations received from the public with the local charity of the day. Nottingham erected a greenhouse to grow home grown produce and have plans to engage the community in 2016. Goodwood has been promoting its local heritage.
The great news is over 50% of racecourses now have a designated Community Engagement Officer and an official community engagement/charity partner. All racecourses should be commended for leading the way with community strategies and setting a high benchmark for our sport”.