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DMU duo help drive exciting £18 million development at Silverstone

Fresh from celebrating a dramatic Lewis Hamilton win at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone over the weekend, the home of the Formula One® British Grand Prix has outlined plans for an exciting new visitor centre and archive, which a student and an academic from De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) have been helping to get to the finish line.

Hamilton-inset

CHAMPION: Lewis Hamilton claimed his 3rd British Grand Prix win at the weekend 

The proposed Visitor Centre and British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) Archive received a first round pass in 2013 for a Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant to cover half of the £18.2 million required to fund the project.

As Hamilton was busy extending his lead in the Driver’s Championship, the BRDC launched their fundraising campaign to raise the other £9.1 million.  It is hoped that the visitor centre and archive will be ready to open by spring 2018, a significant date for Silverstone as it will mark the 70th anniversary of the first British Grand Prix.

As well as celebrating the rich motorsport heritage of the circuit, the proposed project will tell the historic story of the Silverstone site itself using the latest technology to create a vast range of exhibitions detailing the stories of Silverstone’s esteemed past.

David Freestone, who is doing his Master’s at DMU in MA Sports History and Culture having qualified for a VC's 2020 Scholarship after the success of his undergraduate degree in History, has been working on the BRDC’s archive after first visiting to conduct research for his undergraduate dissertation.

David said: “A lot of what I’m doing at Silverstone is covering archive work. I’ve been digitising parts of the collection and cataloguing what they already had.

“I did my undergraduate dissertation on women in motorsport which involved me going down there to research that project and it ended up with me asking about volunteering and it all went from there.

“I knew when I started volunteering that they’d applied for funding and I was asked if I’d work part-time to help on the archive side of the project.

“I think me doing the MA particularly helped. Once they knew I was doing that, that’s when they asked me to help out and stay on.”

Silverstone-inset

Jean Williams, deputy head of the Sports History Research Group within DMU’s International Centre for Sports History and Culture (ICSHC), has also been involved in the project. She was brought in as a trustee for the Charity and Project Board as a result of the success of her previous academic work on the history of motorsport.

Jean said: “The reason I’m excited about this project is if you look at what we saw after the Olympic Games in London, there’s been a huge increase in wanting to protect sporting heritage, and we don’t have a national sport museum which is surprising considering how big a part it plays in our social lives.

“So if Silverstone don’t preserve and protect their own history then nobody else is going to do it for them and it will all be lost.”

Silverstone-inset-2

TRACKSIDE: David and Jean on track outside the BRDC Clubhouse at Silverstone's Luffield corner

Jean and David have worked closely together before the Silverstone project, with Jean supervising David’s undergraduate dissertation and they again crossed paths once David started his MA in the ICSHC.

She added: “I’m very pleased to be working with David, he’s so committed to his studies and he’s very clear that there’s relatively little literature on motorsport compared to other sports.

“He’s getting all kinds of expertise and he’s demonstrating that history has a very strong part to play in modern motorsport, especially with some of the great British marques and heritage sites.

“It’s also nice to see that the industry is looking to historians, and young historians like David in particular, to tell these stories and they’re using new technologies to do so.”

For David, as a motorsport enthusiast, spending time at ‘the Home of British Motor Racing’ is an opportunity he is relishing and he’s looking forward to seeing the project completed.

He said: “It’s really good working at Silverstone. I enjoy it so much because there’s so much to do. I’ve worked through the last two Grand Prix there and there’s just such an amazing buzz throughout the weekend. It’s great to be there.

“Silverstone really needs a heritage centre. The current collection is just held in a dining room and there are plenty of people that will get a lot out of seeing it, not just those interested in motorsport but also people with an interest in local history.”

With Jean’s representation, De Montfort University is the only university represented on the six-strong board of Silverstone Heritage Trust Ltd, along with three BRDC members and two Museum and Heritage professionals.

Posted on Monday 6th July 2015

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