Course not viable for big-name acts says manager
A suggestion from former United Racecourses chairman Sir Evelyn de Rothschild that Kempton has not worked hard enough at promoting outdoor concerts and other non-racing activities is wide of the mark, according to general manager Steve Parlett.
De Rothschild, who at 85 is an 'emeritus' member of the Jockey Club and so no longer has voting rights, was speaking in the wake of the news this month the course could be sold for housing, and adding his weight to the mounting criticism, described the proposal as "a completely avoidable act of cultural vandalism".
Parlett, however, pointed out the big-name concerts that are so popular elsewhere in the Jockey Club Racecourses portfolio are not viable at Kempton, and that the course does what it can in other areas.
Kempton had Olly Murs in concert three years running, and also hosted a Dizzee Rascal concert in September 2014, but more recent events have been much lower key.
Parlett said: "As a group we have tried to put on a better quality act, but our capacity here is about 10,000, plus staff and hospitality. We had Olly Murs on a three-year deal and Dizzee Rascal, but Sandown have a higher capacity and can therefore drive a higher return and profit, which we can then reinvest."
He added: "Besides racing 71 days this year, we have 51 general markets and 23 antique markets. We are also licensed for weddings and stage a variety of conference events and exhibitions, plus stand alone events like our firework display, which regularly attracts a crowd of 10,000 or so."
Jockey Club director of communications Scott Bowers has been unsurprised at the strength of opposition to the proposal, including that of De Rothschild, but said: "We would expect nothing less than a whole range of views on such major proposals. However, we have strong support from our members, and our board of stewards is very confident we would deliver major benefits to help our sport for years to come."
Stars on parade at 1968 mega gig
Even the bigger acts Kempton has hosted like Olly Murs, Dizzee Rascal are a far cry from the huge three-day event that was held at the track in August 1968.
Long before festivals such as Glastonbury and Reading became so commonplace, Kempton played host to many of the biggest names in the music business at the Eighth National Jazz and Blues Festival, presented in association with London's Marquee Club.
Jerry Lee Lewis was the biggest name in the opening evening line-up, while Saturday's show was so star-studded that Deep Purple, who were to become such giants in rock, were little more than a warm-up act for the likes of Joe Cocker, Marc Bolan and Tyrannosaurus Rex, Ten Years After, Jeff Beck and The Nice. The evening also saw Eric Clapton join Ginger Baker on stage, not long after the break up of Cream.
The final day featured folk-rock's Fairport Convention and Jethro Tull, blues legend John Mayall, and regular hit-makers the Spencer Davis Group. Top of the bill was Traffic, featuring former Spencer Davis singer Steve Winwood.