Market Rasen scoops top industry award for sensory raceday experience

Market Rasen Racecourse is celebrating after the UK’s first-ever ‘sensory’ raceday experience aimed at those living with sight and hearing loss scooped a top industry award.

On screen signing during racing
Steven Cargill / Racingfotos.com
On screen signing during racing Steven Cargill / Racingfotos.com

The venue’s charity partnership with Deafblind UK led to the exciting innovation which saw a number of new initiatives at the racecourse’s fixture on July 31 this year.

This included big screens featuring a sign language interpreter as part of race commentary for all seven races, as well as a dedicated area by the last fence to enhance the sensory experience for those with audio or visual impairments.

Two races also featured the commentator and raceday presenter creating extra descriptive details for the visually impaired.

The initiative scooped The Diversity & Inclusion Award at the annual Racecourse Association Showcase Awards, with the award aiming to celebrate initiatives which open horseracing to all and promote racecourses as accessible, welcoming venues.

Entries were asked to demonstrate how the racecourse has appealed to diverse audiences and made effective steps to be inclusive to all racegoers and/or staff.

Nadia Powell, general manager at Market Rasen Racecourse, said: “The whole team across Market Rasen and our partners Deafblind UK are delighted to be recognised for our Sensory Raceday.

“It was a great first step to ensure we are doing all we can to make racing more accessible for those who are living with sight and hearing loss and we are excited to now build on the initiative moving forward.”

Founded almost a century ago, Market Rasen stages more than 20 jump racing fixtures throughout the year.

The racecourse, owned by The Jockey Club, is known for its family-friendly atmosphere, with a number of family fun days throughout the spring and summer, as well as other major fixtures including the annual beer festival in September and competitive racing on Boxing Day.

Now, with this latest initiative it has opened up racing to an even wider audience.

Steve Conway, chief executive officer of Deafblind UK, said: “Our relationship with the jockey club is a great example of how partnerships can benefit those with accessibility needs.

“For people with deafblindness, horse racing comes alive with the smells, touch and the vibrations as the horses race over the ground.

“Our members have thoroughly enjoyed their time at the racecourse, and to know that this has been recognised by the Jockey Club with this wonderful award, is a huge step forward for everyone with a sight or hearing impairment.

“We are thrilled to know that other sports venues may follow this lead, by providing more accessible sporting events.”

Wilf Walsh, chairman of The Racecourse Association, said: “Congratulations to Market Rasen Racecourse for their fantastic sensory raceday.

“In what has been a challenging year for racecourses, I was buoyed by the quality of the initiatives on show, not least this one which I hope will act as inspiration to other racecourses in future.

“The RCA will share the best practise arising from this year’s Showcase Awards amongst all racecourses in the year ahead,” he said.

As previously reported in the Rasen Mail, the racecourse will begin celebrations of its centenary at the Legsby Road site in 2023 and there is still a strong family connection from those early days.

Sue Lucas will become chairman of Market Rasen Racecourse from January 1, 2023, becoming the fifth generation of the family to be involved in the running of the venue.