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18 June 2019

The Racing Centre’s Debbie Grey is well aware of the history of Newmarket’s community hub that has been serving the sport since 1893. Offering services that are meaningful to people is her objective, as she explains.

We make sure everyone is welcome

We provide a community hub in the centre of Newmarket; a varied fitness programme, events, education and much more. We are supported by local businesses in order to benefit the local community.

I was approached to apply for the role as Operations Director at The Racing Centre and decided why not give it a go! The best part of my work is implementing change and improvements and seeing the Centre deliver services that are meaningful to people. It’s a complete team effort and everyone mucks in to make sure things happen. We work hard but work well together and have fun, too. My part is leading the team but everything we achieve has been due to their efforts and they are good at humouring me by trying new things and being prepared to try new ways of working.

A first effort for Racing Together Community Day

It was important for us to be part of Community day and we had 300 flyers advertising our cinema club distributed around town by volunteers, and we held an open coffee morning. It is definitely something we support but Newmarket needs to be better organised next year, so we can make an even bigger impact, so there were lessons learned and we will prepare more for 2020.

A real splash of colour for our new art project

Our latest art project now has pride of place on the front of The Racing Centre. The theme of the project was chosen by the children who decided they wanted something to celebrate difference and show unity in our town. I think they’ve done a marvellous job and it has been a privilege for us to work on such a collaborative community project. It also gave us the chance to chat to people about the racing industry in an informal way and to learn from the children who truly demonstrated diversity and inclusion.

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Health and fitness proving popular with locals

The Racing Centre continues to expand to meet the needs of our visitors. We are thrilled with the results we have seen in the gym; in the past seven months, we have grown from 23 monthly members to 176. We have more classes on offer than ever before and have added senior keep fit, yoga and HIITStep to our busy programme.

We focus on the needs of racing people, including bespoke classes for trainer. The Peter O’Sullevan simulators are busy and coaching for apprentices has increased – seeing the success of David Egan, Cieran Fallon, Gavin Ashton, Ben Bromley, Antonia Peck and George Eddery is really pleasing. We want the Racing Centre to support success and there are another 11 youngsters currently training for their apprentice fitness test.

The relationship with our sister charity, Racing Welfare and KP Rehab through their occupational health scheme is working well. It is rewarding to see our dedicated racing staff returning to work fitter physically and mentally than ever before. The occupational health scheme has been tremendous for our industry and we thank Racing Welfare for their efforts in this area.

At the heart of everything we do

Community events at The Racing Centre

Some of the standout events we’ve hosted recently include the talk given to us by ex-jockey and now sports nutrition researcher Dr George Wilson and The JenningsBet Cheltenham and the Weatherbys Bank Royal Ascot Preview nights. Our Cinema Club has got off the ground with support from Clarion futures. We have screened A Star is Born and Bohemian Rhapsody and have many more exciting offers for children’s movies in the holidays and more adult and family sessions planned throughout the year.

The racing and stud secretaries’ lunch group has grown and been well supported. We would encourage all employers to send their support staff to attend, as not only is there a guest speaker who talks about topical industry events, but it is a great way to network, share ideas and remain current with what’s on offer at The Racing Centre. The sessions are interactive with lots of questions and it has been rewarding to learn from each other. We still want to engage with more racing staff and ensure they know they are at the heart of everything we do.

Boosting digital skills for Newmarket’s people

The Racing Centre set up for digital skills training

We may have opened our doors in the 19th century, but we have a new suite of digital programmes aimed at getting people to upskill themselves ready for this digital age. From placing prescription orders on-line, face-timing grandchildren abroad, to obtaining a certification in the Microsoft suite, all are services are free of charge. We are excited about launching a social media course specifically aimed at business holders later this month. Not only does this help people in their lived experience but we are upskilling people to increase employment opportunities. We have a few work riders on the courses that are injured, taking the opportunity to expanding their skills. These courses are in addition to the popular ESOL, English, Maths and ICT run by UnionLearn. Our racing staff really do have a wealth of options to choose from at the charity. The industry has been fantastic in their support and funding of these programmes.

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