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Explore British Racing’s Directory of Community and Education Activity…

The Directory maps nationwide activities from over 130 organisations that are harnessing racing’s assets to help people develop skills, increase physical activity and create a more diverse and inclusive sport.

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15 January 2024

Community projects, Cancer support and a donations hub – Ayr Racecourse’s groundbreaking charity work

In our latest blog, we caught up with Lindsey Smith, Sales and Marketing Manager for Ayr Racecourse, who spoke to us about their award-winning work with Ayr Cancer Support Partnership. This groundbreaking work for charity was a popular winner of the Racing Together Community Award at the 2023 RCA Showcase & Awards.

Why do you think community engagement is so crucial for racing and racecourses in particular?

It is clear that Community Engagement is becoming increasingly important and central to racing’s culture, providing an invaluable amount of support to the communities in which we operate, whilst successfully creating a more inclusive and diverse environment.

There is huge potential for racing to help. As a result of the racing industry employing a diverse team of people, over a vast range of professions, these areas of expertise and skills can prove to be incredibly beneficial in supporting the community which regularly supports us. It’s important we use racing’s assets to support the community, providing opportunities and inspiration.

At the recent RCA Showcase Awards, it was fantastic to hear about the many different initiatives being undertaken by the racecourses and encouraging to see the amount of charities, groups and individuals benefiting. It’s apparent that more and more racecourses are being viewed as Community Hubs, providing vital support. We unquestionably have so much to offer. It’s also great to simply be involved and I know that here at Ayr the team have really benefited working with different community groups on a variety of projects finding it worthwhile and rewarding but also really enjoyable.

I think we are sometimes guilty of forgetting how ‘magical’ our industry can seem to those not involved. To witness children getting the opportunity to interact with horses or enable a group who have never been able to come racing before experience the thrill of a raceday or to help fundraise to enable vital services to continue makes the tough days seem more worthwhile!

What does winning the RCA Showcase Community Award mean?

We were absolutely delighted to win the award. Given the hugely impressive entries from the other courses in the category it was very unexpected which made it all the better! I think it is safe to say the team were thrilled and Ayrshire Cancer Support, our partner charity even more so! One of our main objectives when we partnered with Ayrshire Cancer Support was to increase their profile and winning that award certainly allowed us to do just that. The feedback we received was humbling and it was heartening to know that so many people were proud of the Racecourse. Winning the award and hearing about the different initiatives and projects being undertaken by the other courses was undeniably inspirational and has reinforced our determination to undertake more projects and play more of an active role within the local community.

How are you looking to develop your community programmes?

With this increased enthusiasm, we will continue to build links with the local community and endeavor to maximise the impact of these activities.  Our main objective is to continue with our partnership with Ayrshire Cancer Support as well as supporting several other charity and community groups. Ayrshire Cancer Support have for the last few years been working towards raising the capital to open a Home for Cancer in Ayr, similar to the facility they have in the neighbouring town of Kilmarnock. With plans having been delayed by Covid, they are now on track to have this fantastic facility open by the end of this year and the racecourse will continue to fundraise and raise awareness to help them achieve this goal. Sponsoring our family raceday featuring the much loved Mascot Race, a hospitality day, hosting their annual ball, participating in fundraising activities and providing help and support through time and expertise are some of the partnering activities planned. There are also plans to collaborate with both local football clubs as well as the rugby club who also partner Ayrshire Cancer Support on some larger scale projects. We have also provided space on our grounds for a much needed donations hub which opens late January which is vital to their retail strategy and are looking forward to working with them to maximise the benefits of this facility.

As well as continuing with this partnership we intend to expand on several other projects initiated in 2023 including welcoming families from a local retreat who offer short breaks and support for children and their families who have life altering illnesses. We welcomed one family last year with the aim of making memories for them and it proved so successful we are offering a trip for visiting families at all appropriate fixtures this year. In addition, we have several other local and national charities hosting racedays and events to raise funds. We will also continue to provide complimentary tickets to a wide range of organisations including Blue Light and Tickets For Troops.

Finally, it goes without saying that we look forward to continuing to work with Racing Together on the wide range of projects undertaken on the hugely enjoyable Racing To School project.

What are the challenges you think Community Engagement faces within horseracing?

Too many!

Accessibility. I think we still have someway to go in changing the perception of privilege in the industry and demonstrating that racing is indeed for all although there has undoubtedly been much progress made in this area in recent years with a strong commitment to improving diversity and inclusion. 

Animal welfare and the opposition to horseracing is clearly a challenge to the industry and we all know too well that the racing industry is coming under increasing public pressure with regard to this. Education is key in addressing this as is improved communication on equine welfare by the racing industry. Similarly, the ethical objections to gambling presents the industry with well documented challenges.

I think also we’d all agree that the complexity of racing doesn’t help with the general public often struggling to understand jargon around the sport. And we have the continuing challenge of engaging with young people!

Here at Ayr, one of our main challenges is the size of our team and the time we have to commit to community projects. Undoubtedly, it’s not as much as we would like and I’m sure many others feel the same. Community Engagement should undeniably be at the heart of the industry but sometimes we are simply limited but time and resource.

How can we work together to promote the existing work that is already going on to make sure that everyone hears about it?

I know we are very guilty at not shouting about our community projects. Even whilst writing this it has become clear that even internally some of our team don’t know of our endeavours therefore we have to improve communicating what we do. I’m sure that is the case for many organisations who maybe don’t have the time or are even reluctant to celebrate their achievements and the opportunities available.

We are very lucky to have dedicated TV channels and a newspaper for our sport but working together we can improve our communication and reach new audiences through the diverse range of platforms we have open to us.  Sharing our ideas and projects through platforms like the Racing Together website and Industry Day are key while the Directory of Community Engagement allows us to see what others are doing and the promotion of these. 

Here’s to shouting louder! 😊

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