Martin Fullard enjoyed a day at the races to witness first hand Cheltenham’s events space in action
Whether you like a flutter or not, there’s nothing quite like a day at the races. Where rich meet not so rich and where majestic steeds are paraded around before adoring punters: it’s a blizzard of tweed, stirrups and hats so preposterous that even popular musician and headwear enthusiast Jay Kay would blend in.
However, my day out at the Jockey Club’s Cheltenham Racecourse wasn’t to be all play, there was a great deal of work to be done too – this may or may not have involved wine tasting.
An inherent stigma with venues like racecourses is that there is often an assumption that they are for horse racing enthusiasts only and, if you’ll forgive the pun, are a bit of a one-trick pony.
When you’re out there in provincial Britain, a venue must be all encompassing. If you’re going to cater to exhibitions, then you need to cater for conferences too. If you’re going to run conferences then why not run meetings as well? And, if you aren’t restrained, then why not rent yourself out for product launches?
It’s hard to imagine an event that couldn’t run there. Maybe a shuttle launch would be tricky, it would burn the grass, but otherwise it is conveniently versatile.
What’s more, the vista offered at this Cotswolds venue is enough to make you burst into song. The racecourse sits in a natural amphitheatre, bordered by a rock-tipped escarpment.
We were given a tour of the various rooms. There are more small meeting rooms – and executive boxes – than you can shake a stick at. The flagship indoor space, and the venue’s dedicated conference facility, is the Centaur. Named after the half-man, half-horse from Greek mythology, this particular room is very much a room of two beasts. An upper tier of retractable seating overlooks a versatile floor space suitable for exhibitions, launches, or conferences for up to 2,500. All the AV is in place, there’s even a rather fetching cinema screen for good measure.
The outdoors space on offer makes the racecourse a suitable place for product launches, and would likely appeal to the automotive sector. The Best Mate enclosure, which is opposite the main stand, serves this purpose well, with a large tarmac area overlooked by a standing terrace.
During the Cheltenham Festival over 65,000 people pass through the gates. This, clearly, suggests capacity bears no hindrance.
With all the boxes ticked, it was back to our Royal Pavilion box to continue with the wine tasting and guessing the wrong horse. And, on the way out, I spotted a punter sporting an International Confex bag. Clearly, they’d backed a winner..