Director's Blog - 9th April 2010
Gosh, where to begin?! As many will know, my principal role on the Estate is that of Resident Agent, or Estate Manager. The role of Event Director (of the Horse Trials) was added to my general remit a few months after the 2008 Event; and I got stuck straight into the serious business of reigning in the Event's spiralling costs together with reviewing what had worked successfully and what had not worked so well in previous years.
Laura Jennings joined the team in November 2008, and has proved to be invaluable. Laura is a former Event rider, and is always on hand to guide me through the more technical aspects of Eventing. Jane Conyers, the third member of the office team looks after the Horse Trials accounts as well as the main Estate accounts, and is very good at keeping an eye on costs.
In general the Lane Fox family and I were very pleased with how 2009 went, especially when considering the ‘new team' in the office and the fact that we agreed to take on and run a CIC*** with literally just a few short weeks to go (as a result of the cancellation of Chatsworth due to bad weather). The Event however would not have gone so smoothly if it were not for the small army of Officials and Volunteers who descend upon Bramham every June, and without whose help the Event would not operate. Some of our volunteers have been returning to Bramham since the Events first running, 37 years ago!
A lot has happened since the 2009 Event, and we are all looking forward to 3rd to 6th June 2010 - albeit with a slight degree of trepidation. Personally I had a pretty busy summer last year, starting with my black Labrador ‘Messy' having a litter of puppies on 19th May. We kept one: Tilly, who has picked up so many good traits, and one or two less helpful traits such as chewing the walls in our utility room!
June was of course dominated by the Horse Trials, although shortly after the Horse Trials I quickly became distracted with my own wedding plans - and married the beautiful Beth on 18th July. The day was perfect in every respect, except for my then fiancés journey to the church itself... Unfortunately the horses drawing the carriage got ‘spooked' by a tractor and the horses broke free! Fortunately no one was hurt and my bride and her Father squeezed into the car taking the bridesmaids to the church.
There was time for a short break in Scotland, before my role of Estate Manager took over again, and the Leeds Festival build started in earnest in late July. The Festival last year was a great success, and fortunately the weather was much kinder than during the 2008 show - after which the Park looked like we had ploughed it!
Back onto the subject of Horse Trials, we are delighted to be holding a CIC*** again in 2010, and this should be a permanent fixture on our busy and exciting timetable.
The first of the many changes for 2010 is that of the Course Designer; after many years of first class design by Sue Benson the decision was made to appoint Ian Stark as our designer. As many of you will know, his early design process was somewhat ‘hampered' by his terrifying brain bleed. Fortunately Ian made a full and speedy recovery, and has been on numerous trips to Bramham working on his new and exciting design. Ian was keen from the outset to use many of Bramham Park's natural features, and is for example jumping on and off the ha ha in front of the Round House, one of the many wonderful follies found in the Park.
The snow in the Park around Christmas was wonderfully beautiful, although it lasted just a little too long, and that followed by weeks and now months of fairly consistent rain is holding back our ground works more that we would like. I was however glad for my Land Rover during the snow, as it meant I could go about my business without fear of getting stuck. Unlike poor Laura who spent two hours getting to work one morning, to only get stuck on the hill just outside the Park - she phoned for a tow! Any excavation type work, for example the remoulded Dickinson Dees water complex, was completed prior to Christmas, there are many things that the Course Builder (Gary Podmore) wants to be getting on with now but cannot get onto the land for fear of causing surface damage! This has however given him plenty of time to work on the large number of new portables, including two giant boots which have been skilfully moulded out of huge old tree trunks and a magnificent birch hedgehog.
As part of the continual review of costs we looked at great length into the issue of ticketing, our booking system and subsequent fulfilment. After a number of meetings with various suppliers, numerous and often lengthy telephone discussions we decided to move our ticketing operation ‘in house'. Despite a few teething troubles with the printer, the system (touch wood) appears to be working very well and bookings have been flowing in since the online service went live in February. Telephone bookings are available from 4th May onwards. For the third year in a row now we have kept our prices fixed, and introduced discounts to those who book in advance, for those who book four day passes and those who book as part of a larger group.
Our catering and marquee layout has been the subject of another review, and although we concluded that the marquees around the Dickinson Dees West Arena are in the right place we have altered how the catering operation will run. As part of this we have brought in a new marquee supplier: the Accio Group, we have also brought in new caterers in the form of Mark and Jenny Morris. With Mark looking after the concession units and Jenny the onsite catering. The Members Bar remains unchanged, but the Members Dining has been opened up and we will be running a Bistro which will be much more affordable with for example steak and chips for about £12. Tables in the Bistro area cannot be booked and we hope that this area will prove to be very popular serving good quality affordable food, and of course is set adjacent to the arena. We have also kept our more traditional Hospitality area and private chalets from previous years. Our Hospitality packages in the dining area and chalets have already sold out on the Sunday, and are selling fast on the other days - book now to avoid disappointment!
Discussions with our many loyal sponsors has been ongoing throughout the winter, and we are very lucky to have such loyal supporters including Dickinson Dees, Land Rover, Equi-Trek, Bishop Burton College, Savills and Carter Jonas to name just a few. Although we have lost one or two due to the continuing economic situation, we are delighted to have one or two new sponsors including Joules Clothing as our official clothing supplier (who will also be selling the Bramham Polo Shirts on their stand), and Alltech who are supporting our ever popular riders and owners cocktail party.
Much effort has gone into the provisional timetable that can be found on our website. The challenge of trying to fit so much action into the four days never lessens! Entries for the Arena classes are now open, and are coming in thick and fast. The CIC***/CCI*** entries open toward the end of April.
There is much more to do in the coming weeks, and as I finish my first blog Ian Stark is again out on the Cross Country Course - but for once the sun is shining which is great news .
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