Where were you this Shrove Tuesday? If you were in Sedgefield, Co. Durham, chances are you may still be nursing the odd bruise or two from the annual ball game.
This game was started by Peter Robinson (above), and was typically hard fought, but with an atmosphere of camaraderie and respect, throughout.
Other games around the country seem to have the greater focus at the moment, but it was clear after today that tradition continues unabated in the village, with little outside disturbance, and that's just the way everyone would like it to remain.
For a run-down of the game, see below.
At around 4pm, the game moves from the village green to a small beck, around half a mile to the south of the village centre. The ball (and bearer) must be dunked in the waater to win the ball.
Now it's back to the village green, where the ball must be passed back, three times, through the bull-ring to finally win the game.
It wasn't quite the afternoon stroll, but with only a few minor injuries on the day and a popular winner in Daz Clemmet, it proved a fine advertisment for one of the oldest ball games in the country.
The Game Today.
The game itself begins at 1.00pm, when a respected member of the community thrice passes the ball through the bullring set in the village green. The ball is then thrown to the crowd to be contested for the next few hours, being kicked and thrown around, many risking their ankles (and sometimes greater health) as they struggle to kick the coveted ball. With a well spirited, enjoyable atmosphere, the game continues, interrupted only when the ball is 'stolen' - taken to a local pub for a brief rest where recent tradition dictates that free alcohol must flow to the bearer.
This continues to approximately 4pm, when an attempt will be made to win the ball. Here, things start to become more serious. The ball must be taken to the 'alley' (or goal); a stream on the edge of the village, about half a mile away. This, the first stage of winning, is the tough part. The bearer must dunk the ball (and themselves) into the stream, facing stiff competition whilst doing so. This is often an immense struggle to complete, with friends around you being key in success.
Once this struggle is completed, the ball must now be returned to the village green for the small matter of passing the ball back again through the bullring three times – to finally win the game, and therefore, the coveted ball. This itself is another huge struggle, though the contest now is more or less regarded as won, despite the effort required to achieve the final result.
How many photos have you taken today? With virtually everyone carrying a camera, usually their phone, the potential for taking photos is huge… In fact mind bogglingly huge.
In 2015, across the world, it is estimated we will have taken just over one trillion photos. Yes, you read that correctly. Where we once shot one film through a year’s events, we now easily take 20 or 30 photos of one subject. But what do we do with them? Most of us… nothing.
So why not try something different with your photo?
With software Apps, and little effort, you can easily give a photo a completely different look. With the addition of black and white, texture and border, you can get creative and start sharing photos that are a little different to the norm.
We all like to be a little different. Why not your photos?
Photo and words by Stephen Curry.
More photo of the week at: http://www.pocketfulofrye.co.uk/
Gig review– P.h.u.q Tour.
Let's wind the clock back 20 years and consider the music you were listening to. Look now at the bands that you're still listening to. Are there many? If you’re a Wildhearts fan, the answer is likely to be ‘yes’! Welcome to one of the most dedicated fan-bases in music.
Back in the 1990s becoming a Wildhearts fan probably meant you were hooked for life. Well known for sticking by their band through everything the years could throw at them, Wildhearts fans will still have the band high on their playlist today. Seeing them live is not to be missed, and seeing them return to play their 1995 album, P.h.u.q., in its entirety for the album’s 20th anniversary, is something truly special… And something this Wildhearts fan could not resist. So off I set to Wolverhampton’s Wulfrun Hall on 23rd September 2015.
We began the evening with Hey Hello, a (growing) side project of The Wildhearts front man, Ginger. For this performance Ginger took a back seat on guitar and backing vocals, leaving new singer Hollis Mahady to steal the show with a triumphant rendition of the self-titled insanely catchy rock-pop album, whetting our appetites for album number two, due for release soon.
The guest support slot was Baby Chaos, re-appearing after a 17 year hiatus with a new album, and a renewed spirit. Mixing current album tracks with earlier favourites, the band were well received, delivering a tight, loud and riff-laden performance.
All very good, but this evening was about The Wildhearts. As they took the stage, my memory drifted back 20 years – this is my own 20th anniversary of seeing the band live.
Playing through a whole album live hasn't always been popular; bands often suffer from too many filler tracks, losing their audiences. Not so here. P.h.u.q. is a fan favourite which produced Top of the Pops appearances and hit singles. The main question was why wasn’t it far bigger? Look into a well-documented band history and you’ll find your answer.
P.h.u.q. begins with the huge 'I Wanna Go Where The People Go', then straight into ‘V-Day’ and ‘Just in Lust’, the band breeze through this somewhat varied album, making it sound as fresh as in 1995. Arriving at the final track, 'Getting It', we're all very pleased to still be here after 20 years. With more energy and enjoyment on stage than in bands less than half their age, this is about giving their loyal fans a stunning show in a city they love to visit.
After a quick break, we were given a blistering, celebratory volley of classics, including 'Caffeine Bomb', 'Everlone' and ‘Vanilla Radio’... These tracks pushed us up a gear, reminding us why this band should be huge; so much more successful than the charts seem to show. Then the night ended not altogether surprisingly, with '29 X the Pain'; another fan favourite. If you're unfamiliar with the material, you could do worse than start with tonight.
The memories here are of a band still performing at the top of their game. Much has been written about the turbulent career of The Wildhearts - it’s often regarded as amazing they are here at all, a sentiment echoed by Ginger in dedicating the night to those who didn't make it through the last 20 years. You could argue that we've seen it all before: there's no new album coming – the last being Chutzpah!, in 2009 – and the band have their own careers, so why bother? This is for the fans, celebrating the music and the albums that formed their lives.
Who knows what the future may hold with The Wildhearts... at least until the next 20th anniversary album comes along in 2 years’ time.
Photos and words ©Stephen Curry
Meet Nugget. Nugget is a Bateleur medium sized Eagle. She is endemic to sub-Saharan Africa, but you can also find her a little closer to home.
Nugget lives at The Falconry Centre in Hagley, West Midlands. She is one of over 80 birds of prey found at The Falconry Centre, including various species of Eagle, Owl, Falcon, Vulture, Buzzard and Kite. With over 30 species, the centre undertakes displays, rehabilitation and hands on experiences for visitors, with daily demonstrations.
As well as being informative, being so close to these magnificent birds gives stunning photographic opportunity - like this week’s photo, taken at the Centre.
There are many stunning birds available to view, but just be aware, for who is really watching who?
For more information on the Hagley Falconry Centre, please visitwww.thefalconrycentre.co.uk/ or www.facebook.com/thefalconrycentre
Let me take you back in time. A time of opulence and excess, where wealthy families entertain dignitaries and sometimes royalty in their lavish country house. A star attraction is (one of) their fountains, the Perseus and Andromeda fountain.
The fountain is within the grounds of Witley Court in Worcestershire, a unrestrained mansion constructed in the late 1600s, and extended through to the late 1800s. Following a devastating fire in 1937 the site became ruined, with items of value being stripped and sold (the former entrance gates can be found at the London Bridge site in Lake Havasu City, in the USA).
English Heritage now manage the site and have restored much of the abundant gardens, spectacular fountain and secured the house. So if you’re looking for a trip back to the Edwardian period, and an opportunity for some great photography, here’s a lovely day out.
The unpredictability of British weather is legendary. How often have we left home in blazing sunshine and it’s rained? Hard. Or left home in full waterproofs only to find the exact opposite? Mother Nature does so like to test us!
This week’s photo was taken on Saltburn beach, on the North East coast. This, a day when pretty much the whole country was bathed in warm sunshine… except for the North East. Where warm, moist air moves over the cold North Sea, it condenses, forming a sea fog (called haar, in meteorology). Common in summer, this can significantly reduce temperatures and (as in this case) penetrate only a few hundred metres before returning to sunshine inland.
Expecting to photograph beach landscapes, your photography need not suffer, for an atmospheric, almost ethereal photo opportunity arrives. Ghostly figures walk in and out of the mist, giving an entirely different view of the coastline.
There’s very little weather we don’t experience in the UK, so as we roll through this Spring warm spell, let’s not forget that Mother Nature always has surprises in store.
If you love your photography you may have been one of the thousands who visited The Photography Show (@ukphotoshow) at the NEC, near Birmingham, last weekend. You’ll have witnessed new cameras, technologies, printing processes, demos and lectures - if it’s photography it was there. The show has something for every style of work, and inspiration for beginners and professionals, both.
We take more photos today than ever before, sharing millions of images daily, yet with photos computer and mobile phone based, we rarely print. There’s still something special about seeing your photo on the wall, which is why (bit of self-promotion here!) I was so pleased to see my image – this week’s photo – of Kelly Hansen, lead singer of the band Foreigner, exhibited on the Tetenal (photo paper and materials suppliers @TetenalUK) display stand at the NEC, demonstrating their paper surfaces.
Paper type can hugely enhance a photo, and whether in a gallery or simply at home, can bring a subject properly to life, in a way you never experience when staring at it on a screen.
The basic message this week then, is to get printing, and remind yourself how great it is to pass a photo around, or see a print on display, capturing memories for both keeping and sharing, rather storing with the thousands of others on your phone – most of which will soon be forgotten.
Photograph by Stephen Curry.
There are many indicators that Spring is well and truly on the way, not least is the progress of flowers. When you begin to see the Daffodil, you know that the cold fingers of February are starting to wane, and the optimism of March is just around the corner. This brings me to March 1st; St. David’s Day.
St. David, the patron Saint of Wales, was a Celtic monk, Abbot and Bishop who lived in the 6th Century. Tradition holds that he died on this day in 569. His life is remembered today as this National Day of Wales. Traditionally on March 1st many people will wear a daffodil, a National emblem (as is the leek) of the Welsh.
Outside of the Welsh celebrations, you will find many gardeners ticking off the daffodil as the next step towards Spring. Equally you may start to find the more fair weather photographers among us, venturing out with camera, ticking their own list of flowers captured in their photos for the year.
What happened to you this Shrove Tuesday? Was it a day of indulgence, eating lavishly prepared pancakes? Or simply another dull day at work? A pancake race? For many, Shrove Tuesday is just another day, but for several towns around the UK, something a little more special is going on. Welcome to the world of Shrove Tuesday Football Games, pancake races and excess.
Shrove Tuesday lies in February or March, preceding Ash Wednesday, the first day of lent.
Pancakes are associated with the day as a way to use up rich foods such as eggs, milk and sugar, before the fasting season and religious obligations of the 40 days of Lent. Fasting involves eating plainer food, refraining from the pleasures of rich ingredients. In many cultures, this means no meat, dairy products, or eggs.
In Britain, as part of community celebration, many towns held traditional Shrove Tuesday "mob football" games, some dating as far back as the 12th century. There are 15 games still in existence – not all on Shrove Tuesday, a number take place also at Christmas, New Year and Easter - festival dates, whether religious, traditional or folk, in basis.
The practice mostly died out in the 19th century after the passing of the Highway Act 1835, which banned playing football on public highways, others over the years dying out due to less interest or excessive trouble and authorities banning the games.
A number of towns have maintained the Shrove Tuesday tradition, including Alnwick in Northumberland, Ashbourne in Derbyshire (called the Royal Shrovetide Football), Sedgefield in County Durham (The Ball Game), Atherstone in Warwickshire (the Atherstone Ball Game), and St Columb Major in Cornwall, (called Hurling the Silver Ball). These are the main 5 now contested on Shrove Tuesday.
The games are still fiercely fought, with the balls highly prized, maintaining and winning the games are of immense value to the townsfolk involved and very little will stop the games going ahead. Tradition now plays a huge part, with some of these games reputedly begun 700-800 years ago – though records beyond the 1700's are often difficult to find, with history of the games being passed down through families, church records and village life rather than through the news. Nevertheless, Ball Games are known to have taken place around the 12th Century, so it is entirely plausible that some of these games, or variations thereof existed at this time.
So, if you have a little time to spare on Shrove Tuesday, and feel like risking your ankles or more, then head down to one of these towns and villages, where there's a little more going on than on a usual day.
With photography it’s so easy to miss that great shot on your doorstep. Commonly, you visit the same places time and again but sometimes never really see them. Welcome, this week, to Selfridges, in Birmingham’s Bullring.
Opened in 2003, Selfridges quickly became known as one of the most iconic and striking buildings in the city, it’s also one of the most photographed. This was one of the reasons I’d never personally got around to taking any photos. It almost seemed too common.
Just because you’ve seen countless photos of a subject, there’s nothing stopping you taking your own. You make it personal; it’s not about what others have produced, but what you capture at that moment. Even if a subject has been photographed thousands of times before, it all comes down to what you feel.
So wherever you are, whatever you walk or drive past. Don’t forget to really look.
Thoughts and opinions
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