This has been my first experience of working with retired racing people and what a delight they have been. Stories have been exchanged one after the other and at great speed, accompanied by a lot of laughter. We were meeting to create a Personal Journal of their lives working in the racing industry. My task was to encourage them to record their careers in a way that they would be proud of and could be shared with the public. A lifetime in the industry, doing all manner of work needs to be shared. The general public have no idea how many people are employed behind the scenes and the layers of work that combine to produce race horses. I didn't know how difficult it would be to persuade them to stop chattering!
We met weekly at the National Horse Racing Museum in Palace St, Newmarket. Who would appear changed weekly, but I caught up with those who hadn't been able to make it at other venues and we all spoke weekly by phone.
Characterful, humble, hard working people, who take what they have done during their racing career as common place. Initially they breezed over fascinating information in one sentence not giving it any recognition or emphasis. I have encouraged them to discuss the finer details of their working day, specific tasks, equipment, horses, travel and their opinions as well as remembering where they were, what they were doing and who with, decade by decade, to ultimately create their timelines.
I recall innocently saying "If you have photographs, documents or newspaper cuttings bring them in and I will scan them, so we don't have to use your originals". Little did I know what I was letting myself in for! Carrier bags of crumpled newspaper, tattered scrap books, dog eared photographs and albums. I never thought I would see the day when I was ironing newspapers. There has been a monumental amount of scanning and photographic repair work performed by myself and George Wilson. I am eternally grateful to 'Newprint Ltd' Newmarket, who have exerted great patience with my random, unusual printing request, cutting and bending card.
Fortunately, at the last group meeting there was time to cut up the typed pages of their stories, match with the correct pictures and place in date order, which has at least meant their lives are in the correct order for me to present. Layout and fitting on pages has been another issue along with space to perform the task. It is slow work yet very distracting and interesting.
I wanted their Journal's to look really special and have a horse racing connection. Myself and Alie, one of the participants were discussing the presentation and I told her what I had in mind, but added I wasn't sure yet how I was going to provide the silk fabric for the covers. A few days later I received an email from her saying she had been talking to Gay Margarson (Alie Tyers is Secretary to George Margarson at Graham Lodge Stables, Birdcage Walk) about what we are doing. It transpires that Gay makes racing silks herself and most generously offered to provide the silk that we need to cover the Journals. Life works in mysterious ways. I went and met Alie and we set to cutting lengths of different colours.
Sadly, we ran out of project time and therefore the task of compiling and presenting the Journals has come down to me. I couldn't possibly let them down or allow this information to go to waste. I feel honour bound to produce them, as they have been willing to share their lives with me, who up until I popped up in front of them with the idea in January, had no idea I existed.