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12 April 2023

Yorkshire Racecourse pioneering Sunflower Bench initiative

In a move to make racing and racecourses more accessible, sunflower benches have been installed at Yorkshire’s nine racetracks. These benches, painted by local mural artist Jess Arthur, are designed to provide a safe space for those who might need to take some time out from large crowds or noisy spaces.

Funded by the Racing Foundation, the benches have been placed so that those who use them can still see the horses but from a less densely populated part of the course.

The sunflower is the symbol that is used widely on lanyards and other items to denote a hidden disability, ranging from anxiety and stress to autism. Rolling the motif out onto benches and into specific spaces is a tangible step to making racing more inclusive and accessible for a wider range of society.

The drive for inclusivity is something that is being championed by the Yorkshire Beacon project. Piloted in 2022, the project comprises year-round activity that brings together community-focused events that unite this racing region as a force for good, and is a collaboration led by Go Racing in Yorkshire and supported by Racing Together.

Go Racing In Yorkshire Chairman, Ben Warn said: “People go racing for the atmosphere, but we recognise that there are some racegoers who are not as comfortable in the busy crowds.  The sunflower benches are there for them to take some time out, while still in the presence of the horses to relax before returning to the action.  We are very grateful to the Racing Foundation for their support of this initiative.

“Racing is an inclusive sport and we want to make it as accessible as possible for everyone.  Our racecourses have spent the winter months working on projects to improve accessibility and the sunflower benches are another element of this.”

Tansy Challis from the Racing Foundation added: “The Sunflower Benches provide a recognisable, safe space across Yorkshire racecourses for those who may experience anxiety in a crowded environment and who may otherwise not feel able to come racing. This project sits alongside other activities we are funding, such as the Autism in Racing programme being rolled out across racecourses and activities being delivered by the Diversity in Racing Steering Group.

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