Why Ipswich must secure its identity: Vital farewell advice
HAVING spent so much time at his second home, Brett Kitching enjoys sharing why the Ipswich Turf Club is such an important part of his life.
The racing hub has provided almost daily experiences from when he was brought up just down the road at Ebbw Vale and he attended Bundamba primary and high schools.
"I remember many days hanging over the fence watching the races from the primary school, or from the top level of the high school looking out over the course on midweek race days,'' Kitching said.
"Ipswich was always the centre of my universe. I even initially thought the 1971 Melbourne Cup, won by the grey Silver Knight, was run at Bundamba when I hung over the school fence at lunchtime on the first Tuesday of November and saw a grey horse win the lunchtime race.''
The retiring Ipswich Turf Club administrator has been to every Ipswich Cup meeting since Lloyd Boy won for Bart Cummings in 1978.
As he prepares to finish up his important Ipswich role this week, Kitching said his progression to general manager made him feel at home.
"My greatest joys at the turf club have been the success of every Ipswich Cup Day over that time and successful completion and operation of the new facilities incorporating much more than racing in the Ipswich Events and Entertainment Centre,'' he said.
The impressive new events facilities have revitalised the tradition-rich Bundamba venue.
However, Kitching knows such assets are essential for the city.
"Ipswich's strengths are large parcels of available land to continue the residential and commercial activities, a wide variety of quality educational facilities, growing employment opportunities and growing entertainment facilities helped by the turf club,'' he said.
As what Ipswich can constructively improve on, the experienced administrator answered: "Gain clarity around the identity of the city.
"In the 60s we knew we were blue collar, hard working, played hard at sports, and kept the family close and tight,'' the fifth generation Kitching family member said.
"This identity is not so clear anymore and things have changed both for the better and worse.
"I would like to see what Ipswich people want as the identity of the city. Once you know who you are, then it's easier to work on getting better.''
During his time at the Ipswich Turf Club, Kitching has also enjoyed serving on the Chamber of Commerce and other city advancements.
"The enjoyment from such projects is in the end knowing that you have assisted and contributed to development of the city of Ipswich,'' he said.
"When starting as treasurer of the Chamber in 2007 it was basically insolvent.
"Over the next five years as treasurer then president, finances were pushed strongly back into the black giving a solid foundation for current president Phil Bell who has done a terrific job further developing the Chamber.''
A proud Ipswich sports fanatic with a sense of humour, Kitching was asked about any lighter moments at the turf club.
"As it has been my job, a line from Bob Dylan's song Hurricane best answers this question,'' he said.
"It's my work he'd say, and I do it for pay, and when it's all over I just as soon go on my way.
"Lighter moments have come after work at functions held on the premises with family and friends, such as my 50th with a keg of Guinness, or (wife) Annette's 40th Venetian Masquerade Party, or our three children's themed 21st parties, or Ellen and Jackson's recent engagement party.
"But while I was at work, it was work time.''
Outside his Ipswich Turf Club office, Kitching enjoyed spending time in the members bar and watching races from various vantage points around the Bundamba complex.
"The outlook from the office has always been pretty cool but my favourite memory is watching out over the running of the Ipswich Cup from high up in the grandstand,'' he said.
Kitching also recalled the racecallers he has worked with over many years.
They include Wayne Wilson, Alan Thomas, Paul Dolan, David Fowler, Chris Barsby, Terry Spargo, Josh Fleming and Anthony Collins.
Wilson was among his favourites.
"He loved a cup of tea but the water had to be boiling hot or it was no good,'' Kitching said.
"Alan Thomas loved the famous committee lounge corned beef.
"Terry Spargo got caught on the fence one day climbing over the construction security fence to the callers box.''
The Ipswich Cup will always remain a source of pride for Kitching.
"For an emerging city that at times needs to fight for equitable treatment, a sense of pride in events of the city is enormously important to continue emergence of that city,'' Kitching said.
"As a fifth generation resident I have always held great pride in the city, and yes do see the development of the Ipswich Cup as a major legacy, along with development of the Ipswich Events and Entertainment Centre (IEEC)''
Having been to every Ipswich Cup since 1978, he expects to see the symbolic event to remain a crucial part of the city's sporting and social fabric.
"The importance of the race day can be maintained by continuing the approach of asking what is wanted by the entire community of Ipswich, and accordingly produce such an event,'' he said.
"Whilst race day attendances are generally in decline across Australia, maintenance of the title of the biggest race day by attendance for a provincial club across Australia is possible.''
Kitching, chairman Wayne Patch and club staff have played a leading role in the massive growth of the Ipswich Cup. Before last year's COVID shutdown, crowds increased from 18,000 to a record-breaking 24,000 in 2011.
Crowds of around 20,000 have been maintained in recent years as Ipswich led the way for trying new ideas.
The turf club's progressive thinking included a world record attempt wearing sunglasses, infield disc jockeys and entertainment, and beach parties in the middle of winter.
Kitching offered some wise words of advice, more like a professional list of goals, to new general manager Tim Dunn.
"While placing your own stamp on the club, stay fair dinkum, continue to work hard for equity and the right thing for the ITC,'' Kitching said.
"Push hard for the commercial development on Brisbane Road, which has proven difficult to date, and continue building on the impressive early results from the IEEC - all of which Tim has started doing already.''
As for leaving the turf club after 17 years, Kitching said: "I will mostly miss the camaraderie of fellow staff and colleagues.''
TOMORROW: A special feature with a heartfelt message as Brett farewells the city.