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Jess Dalgliesh Aintree Racecourse 13 August 2019

Aintree is more than a home to the world’s greatest horse race; Senior Comms Executive Jess Dalgliesh gives an insight into community engagement at the course and at The Jockey Club’s other tracks in the North West

I started at The Jockey Club in September 2015 as a Marketing and Communications Co-ordinator for the North-West courses – Aintree, Haydock Park and Carlisle, and since then have progressed to Senior Communications Executive. I have loved every minute of my journey and every day I’m learning new things about this incredibly compelling industry!  

It’s been a fun couple of weeks in the North-West!

From Carlisle’s famous #LadiesNight last Monday (5 August) to a three day fixture at Haydock Park which started with a busy Family Day (Thursday 8 August) in conjunction with Racing To School, Careers in Racing and Great British Racing ‘Kids Takeover’, and culminated with the Rose of Lancaster Stakes Ladies Day on Saturday (10 August). It’s safe to say there has been lots going on!

All credit to Molly Dingwall (Carlisle General Manager) and the team for hosting a fantastic Ladies Night. It was great to work with her on the ‘Inspirational Community Sports Award’ which is a special prize organised by the racecourse for someone who has gone above and beyond in the local community. This year, the prize was won by Tracy Gannon who is the Women’s Team Manager for Carlisle United for inspiring more females to get into Football.

Ladies Night at Carlisle Racecourse
Ladies Night at Carlisle Racecourse: Gok Wan with Tracey Gannon and Hannah Jackson

I like that my role spans across all three Jockey Club Racecourses in the North West region; no two weeks are the same and it’s great to have the opportunity to work with different people across a variety of teams and racecourses, in addition to the Group Jockey Club Communications team based in London.

It’s an honour to work on the world’s most famous horse race – The Randox Health Grand National – each year throws up a fairy-tale story and with Tiger Roll capturing the hearts of thousands this year, I am so excited to see what the race will bring in 2020.

I love hearing about everyone’s own experiences of the Grand National and even more so when I go into local schools with Racing to School’s Carrie Ford to talk about their local racecourse, the racing industry and of course the Grand National, or when community groups visit the racecourse to reminisce about past Grand Nationals.

Carrie Ford and Samantha Quek with students
Carrie Ford and Sam Quek giving inspirational talks at schools ahead of this year’s Grand National Festival

A focus on helping the community close to Aintree

The Aintree Community Programme is a very special project and one I am proud to be driving forward with Grant Rowley. The programme focuses on three key themes – Education and Enterprise, Health and Wellbeing and Community Engagement – it is a fantastic way to connect with children and adults alike to be the best that they can be through the power of horseracing.

Regular interactive and engaging sessions at Aintree are designed for individuals living with dementia or mental health problems, social isolation groups, military veterans and school children.

A highlight this year has been organising an event called ‘Challenge Merseyside’ working with the Royal Marines, Be Military Fit, Merseyside Police, Sale Sharks and Liverpool Football Club to broaden the horizons of 80 local school children and teach them valuable life skills. Listening to Andy Grant, Sam Quek and Katie Walsh talk to the children about their own individual career journeys and the challenges they have faced was very inspiring for all.

RMR Merseyside Challenge Liverpool
Pictured: A Royal Marine meets Neptune collonges, the winner of the 2012 grand national. Pupils were put through their paces and shown what they could do in the future at community event Challenge Merseyside. Royal Marines Reserve Merseyside helped organise the event at Aintree Racecourse which saw more than 70 students take part in a range of activities. As well as challenges put on by the marines, the schoolchildren from across Liverpool played football with the Liverpool FC Foundation, learnt rugby skills with Sale Sharks Rugby Community Trust and did circuits with Be Military Fit. They also got a talk from former Royal Marine Andy Grant, a motivational speaker who lost his leg after a tour in Afghanistan, as well as talks from jockey Katie Walsh and Team GB Olympic hockey gold medallist Sam Quek on what it takes to succeed. Merseyside Police also spoke to them about the consequences of knife crime and how to deal with potentially volatile situations.

A Jockey Club team fundraising challenge

I love getting involved in charity work and I’m a believer that you can never do too much for the local community. Last month, myself and 24 crazy employees took part in the Jockey Club’s #RunTheCourses non-stop challenge which raised about £24,000 for Racing Welfare, Rainbow Trust and Carer’s Trust. In summary, we ran 14 Jockey Club courses in 36 hours, totalling 22.1 miles and over 1,052 miles travelled on the road. Sounds easy enough when you summarise it, but it was definitely one of the hardest challenges I have ever done (after a marathon!). Running around Carlisle and Aintree Racecourse in the middle of the night will be a memory I will never forget! I’m so proud of us all for completing the challenge and so grateful to everyone who supported us with generous donations! Thank you!

Run The Courses – mission complete!

We have plenty more in the pipeline for community projects in the North-West including Carlisle’s Summer Family Day on 21st August,  Racing Welfare Charity Day at Haydock Park on 18th October and our Community Raceday at Aintree on 9th November.  Aintree’s Equestrian Centre also plays host to the Retraining of Racehorses National Championships later this month, with treasured ex-racehorses competing for glory in dressage, showing and jumping classes spread over six days.

It’s never a dull day in the NW!

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