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11 August 2022

Simon Durrant, General Manager of Epsom Downs Racecourse, explains how strengthening community ties was a key priority when delivering the 2022 Cazoo Derby and Platinum Jubilee celebrations.

From the moment it was announced that The Cazoo Derby would form part of the official programme of Platinum Jubilee celebrations in June, we knew we had a massive opportunity.

Work had been ongoing on a significant project within The Jockey Club to look at The Derby. We wanted to talk with local stakeholders, fans, commentators and industry figures to understand what made the race so special, and then harness those views to produce a new customer proposition and a five-year strategy.

Links between Epsom Downs and the community

One of the key areas which shone through as that work progressed was how important it was to ensure the links between Epsom Downs and the local community right at the forefront of how the race and the event moved forward.

Epsom is known as the home of The Derby, but the racecourse and the town do not just come together for the first weekend in June. As The Jockey Club, we own and run the racecourse and are custodians of the world’s greatest Flat race, but we also own the training grounds that operate 365 days a year and are a popular open space for local residents to use outside of horse training hours. All of these things inform our relationship with the local community.

The Derby is always a huge weekend for Epsom, as it is for racing and the British summer season. With The Platinum Jubilee we knew the eyes of the world would be upon us. We wanted to ensure that the celebrations were not just about the two days of racing.

Celebrations underway with a free event 

Early on it became clear that a free event on the Thursday evening would be well received locally, giving those in the local community the opportunity to see the prepared site for themselves and to get a sense of anticipation about what the next two days would bring, not only to the racecourse but to the town.

There was a parade of hats made in workshops in the town centre as well as a host of children’s entertainment and some live music, too. We also renamed the Queen Elizabeth II Stand in honour of Her Majesty and a fantastic evening was topped off by the Jubilee Beacon Lighting by the Mayor of Epsom and Ewell. It was a great event that had a real community feel and gave the whole team at the racecourse a boost before two extremely busy days of racing – it’s something we will look into repeating in the future.

Input from local businesses

Over the two racedays themselves we had input from local businesses and our ‘racemakers’ from the local area to help maximise our visitors’ enjoyment. We also worked closely with Go Epsom, Epsom BID, Epsom and Ewell Borough Council, as well as The University of Creative Arts and other institutions right across the town. One of the most exciting aspects of this collaborative approach was the building relationships that can develop in future.

The Derby has been run since 1780 and has an extraordinary history, but no race or event can ever just rely on its heritage. The Derby has to remain relevant, enjoyable and something of which the local community can be proud. The Jubilee saw the town at its very best.

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