Yes, it really is a racehorse. On Friday 11th May SEMFed members had a wonderfully inspiring and enjoyable study day in the surroundings of Palace House, Newmarket: National Heritage Centre for Horseracing and Sporting Art.
The site has undergone a tremendous transformation over the past few years from semi dereliction to the well-cared for and elegant collection of buildings it is now. Three organisations have come together to create this intriguing and tremendously varied site, right in the centre of Newmarket. The National Horseracing Museum, the charity Retraining of Racehorses, and the British Sporting Art Trust have combined forces and the result is tremendous. It includes nationally significant collections, historic buildings, and ex race horses and we got to spend the day exploring all this!
We assembled in the mews, and began the day with refreshments, and the now regular slot of ‘updates’ from everyone attending. This is a great way to hear what different Fed members are up to, and gives us all ideas of who to make a bee-line for for more discussion at break times. This is a key way to make the most of the fantastic cross discipline networking that is always at the heart of any Fed events.
A big thank you to Briony Jackson (Science Learning and Participation Officer) and Hazel Courtley (Community Engagement Manager) who represented the team at Palace House, Newmarket and who both spoke to us about their roles and their part in the development of the site over the past few years.
They shared some of the ways they have been working both during the physical development of the site, and now, on the organisation’s on-going development. They discussed with us their working with different audiences, the impact they aim to make in the town, and the many ways volunteers can get involved with the site.
At this stage of the day I feel the need to issue a warning should any of you visit in the future… beware the sausage rolls…. if you order a sausage roll, scone or scotch egg at the site café… they may be the biggest you have ever seen…
Carrying the weight of our lunch with us we were allowed free rein to wander over the site – but it was the race horses which captivated many of us. It was an extraordinary experience to see them at such close quarters, but more than that to hear all about how the on-site charity works to re-train them. They can be ‘retired’ from racing at a very young age so the charity enables them to develop the skills, muscles and new behaviours that will mean they can make the transition into the non-racing world.
Retraining of Racehorses is a national charity and their work takes places around the country, but the Newmarket site is the only place where they can showcase what they do to the public. Having the horses is a huge asset to the site overall, bringing an extra dimension to the visit.
It was great to find out more about the site, to explore the displays, and discuss recent work with SEMFed colleagues, my memories of our encounters with the horses made it a truly outstanding day!
Vice President (Retiring) South and East Museums Federation