We interviewed the Lincoln grad who just won two Royal Television Society awards

His winning documentary challenged gender bias in horse racing

Last week Elliot Hawkins, a recent University of Lincoln graduate, won a National Royal Television Society Student Television award for Undergraduate News.

His documentary titled 'Horse Racing's Gender Divide – The Final Hurdle', took the Midlands competition by storm and then again at the national competition.

The documentary challenges gender bias in horse racing and highlights that only 11 per cent of licensed jockeys are women, and they take up only five per cent of all race rides despite being found to be as good as men in studies.

The Lincoln Tab spoke exclusively to Elliot about all things film, gender, and of course, his time at the University of Lincoln.

How did you get into taking part in the competition for the award?

My tutors suggested I should submit my documentary for the RTS awards, and as I was happy with the work I produced I was confident I could compete. But it was still a huge shock even to be nominated at the regional level, let alone win two awards.

What influenced you to choose the topic of your documentary?

I love horse racing and I've followed the sport for about five years. Something I noticed right from the start was there were, and still are, very few female jockeys compared to men.

But they were still winning some of the biggest races, so I wanted to find out why they weren't being given the same opportunities, as well as what was being done to level the playing field.

Have you received any particular recognition or comments about your work that stand out?

I was really proud to hear the RTS thought my documentary provided a "fresh look at the role of women in sport". There were very few studies in video form that addressed the status of female jockeys and my aim was to fill a hole in the market. As it's been recognised for doing just that, I'm extremely happy with what I've achieved.

Do you have an overall opinion on gender bias in sport, or just horse racing?

All sports are different and I don't believe they can be judged the same way, but one thing I do believe in is equal opportunity.

It's made more clear in horse racing because it's been factually proven that female jockeys are just as good as male jockeys, it's just about giving them the opportunity to show it on a wider scale.

How did it feel to receive the award?

As cliche as it sounds, it was an incredible feeling. It's a feeling of both pride and relief, knowing that the months of planning, filming and hard work that went into producing the documentary were all worth it.

Do you have any other favourite pieces of work you have produced?

While at Lincoln I produced some television news packages that I was really happy with. I spent the day on the road with LIVES looking at the issue of road safety in Lincolnshire and also followed Lincoln City's FA Cup and National League successes.

I managed to turn them into effective television pieces that I was highly commended for so that was a really good feeling.

Where do you look for inspiration?

While it's important to have your own unique ideas and techniques, taking inspiration from others is vital and I've done that throughout my time at university.

There's a documentary called 'Being AP' which focuses on the career of record-breaking jumps jockey AP McCoy, and it's a piece of television that gave me some of the inspiration to produce my own documentary. Some of the shots, interview techniques and transitions in my own work were inspired by what I saw in 'Being AP'.

What did you study at the University of Lincoln and what was your favourite thing about studying there?

I studied BA Journalism and I had the time of my life. Right from the first open day I came to I felt at home.

The teachers treat you like journalists and drive you through your studies to help you reach the very highest levels. It felt like a big family and I enjoyed coming in each and every day.

Describe your uni experience in three words

Rewarding, enjoyable and life-changing.

Which halls did you live in first year? Any funny stories about your time in halls?

I lived in Hayes Wharf and stayed there, in the same room, for all three of my years in Lincoln. Being surrounded by other students and having extremely thin walls meant I heard some interesting things, but I won't go any further than that!

Do you have any advice for people still studying at Lincoln uni?

Make the most of every moment and work hard. I truly believe that hard work and determination are qualities that cannot be understated, if you put the effort in you will go far.

Away from your studies, have fun, make new friends and don't put too much strain on yourself. People told me that university would be the best three years of my life and they weren't wrong.

What is next for you? Any career plans?

I'm currently working for Essex Live as a Multimedia Journalist and I'm loving it. My passion is still very much for television and broadcast journalism, and if I could find a role that combined both sport and television then I would have to describe that as my ultimate job.

But that time will come and I just want to enjoy everything I'm doing where I am right now.

Okay, a little quick-fire round: Best student night in Lincoln?

Bierkeller, without a doubt. I would love to say Quack (which was always brilliant) but nothing could beat a night at Bierkeller. Beer stein in hand, classic tunes playing all night, life was good.

Best floor of the library and why?

The silent floor. When it comes to essays I have to be working in silence, so without the escape of the library's top floor my dissertation would have been a whole different struggle.

Best place to eat after a night out?

King Kebab and Domino's were both amazing hangover preventers, but somehow we always ended up in McDonald's after a night out, so I have to go with that.

You can watch Elliot being announced as the winner of the Royal Television Society Student Television award for Undergraduate News here.