Sophie joined the Leisure and Tourism team in December 2019, during our incredibly busy festive season. We caught up with her to find out how she has been settling in, and what her first six months with Raby has been like.
Where did your career take you before you joined Raby?
I joined the London Olympic Organising Committee (LOCOG) in 2011 and went on to travel working on sporting events such as the Rio 2016 Olympic games and Commonwealth Games both in Glasgow (2014) and Gold Coast (2018). After 8 years travelling, I felt it was time to come home to County Durham. I’m delighted to be able to use my extensive events experience right here in County Durham in my new role at Raby.
You joined Raby at one of the busiest times of the year – what were your first impressions?
I think people have the impression that Raby is a bit of a sleeping giant whereas the reality is it is an incredibly vibrant and exciting place to work. There is always something different going on across the Estate, and so much goes on behind the scenes to deliver the incredible variety of events that happen throughout the year.
Starting at Christmas was a really good thing – I got stuck in straight away and it meant I got to know the rest of the team very quickly. It is such a busy time of year – but I thrive on being busy! I adore Christmas – it is such a magical time, especially at Raby. I loved being part of our Fireside Stories experience and seeing the faces of our visitors as they met Father Christmas in the Grand Entrance Hall. We’ve been busy making preparations for Christmas during lockdown, and hope to be able to offer some really special experiences this year.
What has surprised you most about working at Raby?
Probably the variety of events I get to work on – it’s fantastic getting to work on so many different types of events; one day it could be a stargazing event at High Force, or a children’s activity trail, the next it could be an Italian car show at Raby Castle, a new special interest tour or a huge sporting event. So many of our events require input from different teams across the Estate – whether it’s the garden team or the forestry team, the sporting team or colleagues in the Estate office – delivering a fantastic visitor experience is very much a team effort.
I also love discovering more about the place where I work – I am incredibly lucky to based at the Castle and am fascinated by its incredibly rich history. With over 120 rooms to explore, Im discovering something new every week!
Earlier this year I was involved with a new tour ‘The Women of Raby’ – which was fascinating. I’m looking forward to running more events like this in the future and sharing more of the untold stories of the Castle and its inhabitants.
What impact has the coronavirus pandemic had on events at Raby?
There is always so much to see and do at Raby, and we started 2020 with a jam-packed events calendar which had to put on hold in March when lockdown began.
As we have gradually reopened to the public we’ve been following government guidance and it’s great that we are now able to resume some of our events activity. Visitor and staff safety is our priority so we’ll be focusing on outdoor activities, and new experiences for our visitors. We’ve been opening the Park and Gardens for our series of Summer Late evenings which have been fantastic – such a lovely relaxed atmosphere, and I’ve been blown away by the lovely comments we’ve had from visitors.
I’m really excited about the activities we’ve got lined up for the rest of the Summer, especially our very exclusive yoga and wellbeing sessions in the garden. I’ve also had a sneak preview of the new Terrace and Towers tours which is just fascinating – visitors are in for a treat!
What do you enjoy most about working at Raby?
The fact that I get to work in a Castle – I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of my walk into work! I also enjoy working with the people here at Raby, we all support each other – it’s great to be part of such a close-knit and proactive team. Despite recent events, I really feel that I have joined Raby at a very exciting time, and I am looking forward to watching it develop as a tourism destination.