Friday 29 January 2010

December Diary

After what seemed a successful event in 2009, the summer and autumn have been busier than usual, with a lot going on ‘behind the scenes’.

There is to be a major change in our television arrangements – though this will hopefully be invisible to our viewers! In common with most other sporting events, the BBC will no longer be producing the coverage of Badminton themselves, so we have been through the time consuming but fascinating tendering process to employ our own production team to make the programmes for the BBC, who have guaranteed us coverage for another three years – which will take us to our 66th continuous appearance on the channel. The successful candidate was a team led by Chris Lewis, who is now a freelance but produced here for the BBC for four years. At the same time we looked at all our TV related investments and will be bringing more extensive web coverage in conjunction with Horse & Country TV plus improved ‘Big Screens’ on site, all of which for the first time will be in operation throughout the event (except for the main arena screen during the show jumping).

The new Mitsubishi Motors Grassroots Championships have inevitably involved a lot of planning and we need to be very careful that they are integrated into the main event but do not jeopardise it in any way. The organisation of the contractors and infrastructure for this event is being done from the main Horse Trials office, but we have been very lucky to recruit Ollie Bush to coordinate officials and help the competitors. There is an update on preparations on the Grassroots website

Every year seems to bring another IT challenge – or opportunity as our IT consultants always call it! This time we have gone in for what seems a very high tech solution to data management, whereby all our material is now hosted on remote servers by our partners Proximitum – this solves all the back up problems and also means any of us can access everything from anywhere in the world, provided we can get an internet connection. It is already proving useful – for instance we can share Grassroots folders with Ollie at her home in Devon!

With Proximitum we are also changing our ticketing service provider. They are building a new bespoke system for uswhich should be much easier for us to manage than the generic solution we have previously used and it will enable customers to book directly on the web their preferred seats, caravan sites etc – subject to our being able to change it when, for example, they leave individual grandstand seats in a row, which we would find very difficult to sell. Our Box Office Manager, Carol Alexander, is retiring after the 2010 event and she was probably looking forward to a quiet run up – no chance with all the preparation for the new system! Her stress levels must be quite high as she has also moved house this autumn.

Our charity of the year has been announced as World Horse Welfare, which is also the official welfare partner of the FEI (International Equestrian Federation). Many people will no doubt have seen in the press our objection to the hastily proposed and voted changes to the internationally permitted drug rules for horses – we very much hope these will not in the end go through and are delighted at the sensible attitude adopted by the FEI President and Bureau in view of the widespread disquiet – as I write the proposals have definitely been postponed to April 2010 but seem quite likely to be put off until the FEI General Assembly in autumn 2010, which is an excellent idea, allowing time for rational debate and consideration.

The actual competition is of course at the forefront of our planning, though in the autumn each year it is all too easy to forget the course, the horses and the riders! Work has continued on the going, which I suspect will be like the Forth Bridge painting – as soon as we think we have finished we will have to start again. However, the recent heavy rain has shown how much the course drainage has improved and when the Technical Delegates visited in November they were more than happy. Giuseppe della Chiesa from Italy will be the TD for the 3rd occasion, with Adrian Ditcham as his assistant – this gives us a terrific source of advice on everything related to the event. It gives us particular pleasure at Badminton that Giuseppe has just been elected to be Chairman of the FEI Eventing Committee, succeeding Wayne Roycroft.

Our Ground Jury (Judges) for 2010 will be a distinguished trio. President of the Jury for the first time at a 4 star event will be Nick Burton, who was of course a British Team rider himself, at the European Championships, and is now heavily involved in the Dressage world, training and judging at the highest level; Christoph Hess has judged here several times and is, with Chris Bartle, the author of the three day event dressage tests; while the newcomer to Badminton is Nicoli Fife from New Zealand, who judged in Lexington in 2009. All three have the true expertise to do the dressage judging justice but also the experience to keep an eye on all aspects of the event.

In addition to losing Carol after the 2010 event we will also be saying goodbye, in an official capacity, to Brian Higham, our Stable Manager. Brian has worked for the Duke of Beaufort for over 50 years, starting originally as a 2nd horseman but being Stud Groom at Badminton for a very long time.  We were thrilled to hear in early December that Brian has been awarded a British Equestrian Federation Medal of Honour, the highest accolade the Federation can bestow, for outstanding services to equestrian sport.
Our tradestand applications closed early in December and we seem to have as many as ever – now we have to sort out exactly what space is available for new exhibitors, with a view to inviting any that can be fitted in during January, to give them time to prepare for their stand here. It won’t be long now before the Box Office is open and the coursebuilding is in full flow – then we will really know that we are on the run up to another year’s Badminton