In January 2017, a member of a local Portishead Facebook group asked whether it was feasible to put on a new event in the town. The post was an immediate hit with local residents with many suggestions of what could be put on locally.
Ben Knowles, owner of RedLeaf Event Management who has lived in Portishead his whole life kept a close eye on the post, immediately wanting to be able to help in whatever way he could.
It quickly became apparent that the community in Portishead were keen for a new event in the town and one comment that received a lot of interest was about putting on a SoapBox Race in the town. Ben quickly spoke with his business partner, Sam Garland about the feasibility of putting the event on.
Ben commented, “We have a wealth of experience in putting on events across the UK and Europe. To be able to put on an event on our doorstep was an exciting opportunity and something we were looking forward to getting our teeth in to. To be able to bring another community event to the already thriving events calendar in Portishead was an exciting prospect. The town has a great community experience with some amazing events like The Raft Race and the Portishead Carnival which have been hosted in the town for many years. We certainly had an expectation to meet!”
Ben and Sam were keen to make the event a local community event, benefitting as much of Portishead and further afield in to North Somerset as they could. The decision was made to make the event in aid of a local charity.
St Peter’s Hospice became the charity of choice for the team after a sad turn in Sam’s life saw his mum, Helen suffer with multiple cases of cancer. Helen was admitted to St. Peter’s Hospice in March of 2017 after a long battle with cancer since 2014. Helen passed away in the care of the team at St. Peter’s Hospice in April 2017.
A family picture. Dad John, daughter Becky, Sam, wife Sarah and - Helen before she started chemotherapy.
Ben added, “Being able to donate the profits of the event to a charity that is so close to us was amazing. Not only this, but we were able to offer the event to spectators for free, thanks to our amazing sponsors. Putting on an event of this size comes with great cost, so being able to afford the event infrastructure costs, as well as donating just over £18,000 to St. Peter’s Hospice over the past two years has been great”
In 2018, the SoapBox race saw 36 teams descend the course in their homemade gravity powered racers to see who could get across the line in the fastest time possible. The event was attended by over 10,000 spectators who enjoyed all the thrills and spills on the course as well as a trader’s village supporting local businesses and a children’s funfair so that all the family were kept entertained.
Continuing in support of St. Peter’s Hospice for 2019, the team have been hard at work talking to sponsors and supporters of the event ensuring everything runs as smoothly as possible. “Our supporters have once again been amazing and we are very excited to be close to race day again, even bigger and better than before.”
“We are hoping to raise a further £10,000 for St. Peter’s Hospice this year which is no small feat given that the event is costing over £30,000 to bring to fruition. The team entry cost, the fantastic donations from our sponsors and some amazing deals from our trusted suppliers, means that we can hopefully give such a great amount of money to the charity whilst still keeping the event completely free to spectators".
"We are very lucky that we are able to bring our professional experience to the event and create something that has the same quality as a professional commercial event, whilst maintaining the community feel and such a great support for a local charity. It’s certainly an undertaking, but it’s one that we both really enjoy!” Ben and Sam have happily not taken any financial gain from the event, to make sure that they are able to maximise the money given to charity whilst maintaining the standards of a professional event the community have come to expect.
“We can’t wait to see everyone on Sunday 14th July for this years’ event. Hopefully the weather will stay on our side and the whole family can have a great day out!”