Combining Yorkshire grit and hopeless romanticism for his beloved Hull City, Paul Swain will be on point to help deliver next month’s prestigious RCA Showcase & Awards. The former BHA Graduate and Racing Together pioneer speaks proudly about the red-hot competition developing between racecourses to land the Community Award.
Having pestered many people in horseracing to write one of these blogs I’m thrilled to finally write one myself! The Racing Together partnership is very close to my heart and our contribution to it as a sport is something of which we should be proud.
A little background first: I was introduced to racing at a young age by my grandparents and parents around the racecourses of Yorkshire—I’m currently at 20 Ebor Festivals and counting.
I never considered that a career in racing was open to somebody with zero connections within the sport until I stumbled across the BHA Graduate Development Programme in the Racing Post. As an introduction to the sport it is second to none and I will be eternally grateful for being given the opportunity to be on the programme.
Community is a very broad term and it certainly applies to this development scheme. The pipeline of talent that has emerged is simply fantastic and horseracing is fortunate to have a growing pool of experienced people, across a range of disciplines, who are the biggest advocates of our sport.
The Graduate Programme led to a placement at the Racecourse Association (RCA) and that’s where I am six years later. My role has developed somewhat in this time and I’m now our Brand & Experience Manager, responsible for overseeing our raceday experience strategy and the Showcase & Awards.
Racing Together holds a special place for me, both as a landmark change for the sport and, personally, in my career development. In 2014, I was given the opportunity to lead Racing Together by then Chairman Ian Barlow and launch its first strategy to the world. This gave us a wonderful chance to share the great work done every day by racing in its communities and tie it together under one collective banner.
Launching Racing Together was an exciting time for all involved—it took us to all corners of the country including multiple receptions at Parliament to demonstrate the fine work of the sport across its communities. I was proud to be a part of the inaugural ‘Beacon Racecourse’ programme, which saw Aintree Racecourse work with stakeholders across the sport to serve as a community hub. Aintree has since offered programmes to support the needs of numerous areas of their community, but their work supporting sufferers of dementia and their families is truly inspirational.
An increasing number of racecourses are seeing the power of community engagement in action and, having handed the Racing Together baton over, I am able to provide support from a different perspective. The RCA and Racing Together have co-hosted two masterclasses since 2016, to share best practice and provide racecourses with encouragement to develop their own community engagement programmes. Keynote presentations from hosts Aintree & Warwick Racecourses, plus the Leeds Rhinos Foundation were particularly rousing.
The evidence of Racing Together’s effectiveness is there for all to see, notably in the RCA’s Showcase & Awards where the Community & Corporate Social Responsibilty category has transformed into consistently the most hotly contested category. Aintree has become the first racecourse in the history of the awards to celebrate a hat-trick of wins in any one category, which sets the bar very high for other racecourses.
The independent judging panel for the 2018 Awards met just last week and it was a pleasure to read all 14 submissions in this category—a record for Showcase. This year’s Finalists (Aintree, Ascot, Beverley, Uttoxeter and Warwick) all represent something different—be it continued excellence, amazing new initiatives or groundbreaking new partnerships.
The Showcase & Awards takes place at Aintree Racecourse on Thursday 8th November and I can’t wait to see who comes out on top: will Aintree continue their unprecedented winning streak with four in a row or will we see a new community champion?
Until then, the RCA will continue to ensure that the messages surrounding the power of community engagement flow between racecourses and Racing Together partners. In just four years Racing Together has come so far from its inception and I’m excited to see where it goes in the next four years (almost as much as I’m keen to see where my beloved Hull City end up in the same space of time, but that’s another story!).