Newmarket insists it is not closing its doors to children but hopes its decision not to offer tickets for its popular Friday night music concerts to under-16s will make clear what type of audience the track is targeting.
Children will still be able to attend Newmarket Nights with an adult ticket, but only at “parents’ discretion”, said the course’s managing director Amy Starkey, who added the change was the result of feedback from customers as part of the annual review of its music attractions.
The decision comes on the back of a summer on the July course when racegoers hit out at the scenes following a Little Mix concert in June, one saying on social media her children had been “left absolutely traumatised and covered in bruises” after attending the 22,000-strong sellout event, with Starkey at the time acknowledging some of the crowd did not “behave as we expect”.
Lingfield was also criticised recently after staging a Craig David concert with scenes that trainer Ed Walker described as “appalling”, adding to a chorus of disapproval that the evening was blighted by poor organisation and inadequate facilities.
Starkey, who stressed the importance of Newmarket Nights and underlined profits were reinvested in prize-money and facilities, said in a statement to the Racing Post on Tuesday: “Having completed another successful summer on the July course we’re in the process of reviewing and evolving ahead of 2018 to make sure we continue to improve the customer offer on course – for all of our events, not just music.
“Specifically in relation to music, based on customer feedback from our Newmarket Nights events, a number of improvements will be made to both the experience and terms and conditions of entry. One of the changes to be implemented will be children’s tickets will not be available for any evening music event next year.
“Other changes include renaming the Family Enclosure as the Garden Enclosure and this is because of how we want to position Newmarket Nights. Insight in the form of feedback from our racegoers has been particularly helpful when looking to improve the on-course experience and I’m grateful to those who’ve taken the time to work with us and offer us their suggestions.
“We have a number of family-friendly events at Newmarket, including our popular summer Saturdays and our summer Saturday live events, which we’re hopeful of staging two of next year, and for those events children’s tickets will be widely available. We’re looking forward to announcing the first acts for 2018, which will happen shortly.”
Newmarket has staged more than 200 pop concerts for more than 30 years, and Starkey hinted performers in 2018 may be in line with their new policy, saying: “The profile of artists will play a key part in the decision-making for 2018’s line-up.”
She continued: “It’s better to have a Garden Enclosure because the demographic of the night is a predominantly adult audience. The bands aren’t coming on until 9.30pm and coming off at 11pm. That’s late for children. We’re not saying no to children, but what we’re saying is it’s the parents’ discretion.
“We’ve sold only a very small number of children’s tickets historically and we haven’t ever said it’s not recommended for children, but now we’re just being a bit clearer – concerts are on late, it’s dark, and people have been enjoying racing. Customers will still be able to bring children at their discretion.”
Starkey added: “I think this makes the positioning of all our events that bit clearer. We have family pop concerts [after two Saturday afternoon meetings] where we welcome children and want everyone to come and have a good time, and then we’re saying we’ve got the Newmarket Nights, which are predominantly targeted at an older audience.”
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