Sarah Bullen’s passion for sport and major events has seen her navigate a successful career path from the London Olympics 2012 to being general manager at the Goodwood Revival

What was the first major outdoor event you attended, and did it encourage you to work in events?It was a Six Nations rugby match at Twickenham with my dad. I didn’t think I would end up working in events but I’ll never forget the unbelievable buzz of being in that crowd and that remarkable atmosphere.

What was your first step into the industry?

My career has always followed a thread of doing things I love because I just could not imagine throwing myself into something I wasn’t 100% interested in. I started out doing sport and exercise science at university.

As a child I did modern pentathlon and because of that I ended up volunteering in my summer university breaks at the Pentathlon World Championships in Somerset. They asked if I could help with the medal ceremonies that were to be broadcast on TV. I absolutely loved it. From there, I was given the opportunity to volunteer at the London 2012 Olympics working for the pentathlon team in athlete services. That launched my career.

What was your path to the current role?

I started working at Dunsfold Park in Surrey on an event called Wings & Wheels. We had a meeting with the team at Goodwood during the middle of the Festival of Speed build. They were building this huge international event and I remember being there with the team and just thinking, “Oh my goodness, this is just the most amazing thing, I have to be part of it”. I kept an eye on the Goodwood website and eventually got an interview for an event-planning position, working on the Festival of Speed and the Revival. The opportunity came up for assistant operations manager at the racecourse and so I moved up there and then very quickly moved into the operations manager role where I was for five years. After maternity leave, I came back into the role of general manager at Revival.

What has been the most extraordinary day in your career  at Goodwood?

As an event manager you tend to remember the worst experiences mainly because they’re the ones you learn most from. We certainly had some extreme weather-related challenges with the racecourse being on the very top of the South Downs, but the most extraordinary day was the Friday of the Qatar Goodwood Festival in 2020. We had been given the go-ahead two weeks prior to run the first pilot event in the UK. We had been working solidly on it for two weeks, changing almost every aspect of the venue in order to be able to follow social distancing guidelines, only to be told with less than 24 hours to go that the whole thing had been cancelled. It was the event of all events that we never actually got to deliver. I’m very, very, proud of what we put in to deliver that event. I have no doubt it was going to be amazing, and we were only 24 hours away from making it a reality.

 What excites you most about this year’s Goodwood Revival?

It’s great to be back with the original team I started with at Goodwood. That, and all the amazing set-dressed spaces, the visitor experiences, that we are bringing to life. There are some interesting builds that are happening this year, which I am sure will surprise and delight customers.

 Given the choice, would you prefer a racehorse or vintage car?

I would go with the car – funnily enough, I think they’re less dangerous than the horses.

 If you could change one thing about the events industry, what would it be?

More budget, more time and more sunshine.

This article was published in the latest edition of Access All Areas magazine  – subscribe for free here