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George Freeman MP and James Fellowes launch project to offer help to Newmarket racing staff 'who have taken a tumble in life'

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George Freeman MP, co-founder of Bridge of Hope (5047792)
George Freeman MP, co-founder of Bridge of Hope (5047792)

A project which aims to find jobs in racing for people who have ‘taken a tumble in life’ has been launched by two men with first-hand experience of life’s highs and lows.

Childhood friends George Freeman, MP for mid-Norfolk, and James Fellowes have founded Bridge of Hope (Project Racing) to offer a leg-up to people including the homeless, mental and physical health sufferers, ex-addicts and offenders, refugees and veterans who are receiving support from charities but remain unprepared to re-enter the world of work.

“Research proves that the single biggest game changer of life chances is an actual job,” said Mr Fellowes. “Conversely there are nearly a million job vacancies in the UK but employers are largely ignoring this amazing talent pool”.

Both men have backgrounds connected with the racing industry and it is here that they have chosen to pilot their project.

Mr Freeman’s father Arthur was a jump jockey whose greatest triumph came in the 1958 Grand National when he rode Mr What to a dramatic victory. Subsequently his life fell into a tragic collapse from a potent cocktail of concussion, gambling, alcoholism and mental health problems until his death in 1988 aged just 62.

For Mr Fellowes, an idyllic childhood in Newmarket where his late father Robert was the highly respected and influential Agent to the Jockey Club for nearly 30 years, was followed by a career which took him to America where he lived until 2015 when he returned to the UK after his life had ‘totally unravelled’.

“I lost everything through a combination of bad people, bad timing and bipolar disorder,” he said.

Now, with generous sponsorship from the Peter O’Sullevan Charitable Trust, and a good working relationship with charities such as the Prince’s Trust and Key 4 Life which nominate candidates for Project Racing, people are starting to be introduced to the world of racing before possibly taking up places at one of the Racing Schools to learn the skills for work in stables or on studs.

“The racing industry from top to bottom can be proud that it has has welcomed and supported the principle of inclusive recruitment,” said Mr Fellowes.