Funny

Millennium square - Bristol Post


A quirky and humourous tale of visiting a sport festival in the heart of the city.

This is exactly what was going on in Bristol's Millennium Square on Saturday

Post freelancer Neil Maggs was in the centre of Bristol to discover what all the sporting activity was about at the weekend

European City of Sport taster event (Image: James Beck/freelance)

Last weekend I popped along to the ‘Are You Game’ sport festival at Millennium Square. The event, tagged in with the Bristol Half Marathon the following day, is a council initiative to try and get people trying new sports across the city.

The flyer informed me there was a range of activities from basketball to kettle bells to Pickleball. Pickleball!? No I don’t know either…

So was I game? Probably not with my dodgy knee, but was keen to meet people that were.

The weather was changeable which no doubt affected attendance a bit, bit there was still a fair amount of passing traffic through the square, with people of all ages trying new sports.

European City of Sport taster event (Image: James Beck/freelance)

I spotted a young lad, throwing a ball up into a basket. He was brilliant, doing it time and time again. But this wasn’t basketball, this was Korfball.

The ring was far higher, and it wasn’t really a basket, it was a plastic ‘thing.’ Apparently it’s a Dutch game, played on a far larger court than traditional basketball and netball. And unlike both those sports it’s mixed gender.

The young lad was aged 9 and called Javier. He was from Madrid, and was here with his uncle, who was registering for the next day’s race. His Auntie and uncle didn’t really join in, so neither did I.

I wandered through the various stalls promoting different health initiatives, declined to try a couple of things, and next stop was Pickleball. It had to be.

Scott Alford, Teddy & Joey playing Pickleball

There was a family having a game of doubles. Dad Scott Alford, with his two sons Joey aged 8 and Teddy aged 10. Scott quipped ‘ when I saw it was pickle ball, I thought I was heading over for a cheese sandwich.’ He stole my line. But yes I had to admit i had no idea what it was. ‘ But it’s basically a hybrid of tennis and badminton’ I was told by Jean-Paul one of the coaches.

The game originates from the good ole’ USA, and consists of paddle hard bats like beach ones and a net. It’s played both outdoors and indoors. And apparently is ‘fun.’

Was it I asked Teddy, ‘Yeah it was. It’s easier than tennis. Bat is heavier but more my size.’

European City of Sport taster event (Image: James Beck/freelance)

A good family game? I asked Dad, who looked out of breath slightly, ‘Definitely. Good to play, for little ones. Smaller court, and easier bats.’

I didn’t join in.

I spotted a hen party near the kettle bells section, so naturally headed in that direction. They were passing through in their matching bride pink t-shirts heading to the bars along the waterfront, but looked on curious at the equipment. The bride, Louise Chamberlain, was swinging one above her head, a traditional technique of the exercise that hails from Russia.

Hen Party trying kettle bells!

Amongst high pitched giggles, I asked her if this was the first time she had tried this. ‘No used to do it ages ago, but not for a while. I use my kettle bell as a doorstop now!’ Everyone laughed. Would you try it again? ‘Yeah I reckon I might you know maybe it was a sign…’

Even the more traditional sport of basketball, was in a less traditional setting. A blow up court with portable baskets, that just allowed people to come and go as they pleased.

I was talking to two young coaches from Bristol Storm basketball club, Kacey Whitfield aged 12 and 17 year old Kim Kheing who, came to a similar event 5 years ago and tried it for the first time. She is now part of the regional south-west development squad and was here volunteering.

It was at the point of her revealing this profound moment of the true value of sport, that a dozen or so football fans on their to watch Bristol City marched through chanting, all looking a bit worse for wear. No one seemed to mind really. One fan gestured to a mum to throw him a basketball, she obliged. Despite looking quite drunk he actually sank the basket from a good 12 yards and at quite a tight angle. The crowd cheered. A future prospect perhaps.

Someone threw me a basketball, I stepped out the way and pretended I didn't see it.

It was nearing the end of the day, and up until this point I had avoided everything, under the guise of ‘doing journalism.’ But suddenly a voice cackled, ‘You gonna have a go then or what?’ It was one of the coaches from the bowls section of the festival. A long felt strip was laid down from Bristol Indoor Bowls Club. A misnomer because we were outdoors.

Neil Maggs with Bristol Indoor Bowls Club

Well maybe this was a bit more like it. A more relaxed, sedate game. A game of technique and strategy. Maybe this was the level of exercise I needed. I obliged. One of the organisers of the whole event Darron Hamilton, challenged me to a game. A crowd emerged. Well a small crowd.

I threw down my first ball which rolled to the left and then kissed the jack. Onlookers were surprised. So was I. But I drew on my time playing bowls as a kid when we used to jump over the fence in Eastville Park.

Darron was struggling. He evidently didn’t even know which side the ‘bias’ was on. My next ball went down. And bang. Perfect. It was all coming back. I was a natural.

The final ball was to Darron. All my balls surrounded the jack. He had no chance.

He threw the ball down hard. Ricocheting off two of my balls it smashed into the jack dragging it with him. I lost. Everyone laughed. Except me.

European City of Sport taster event

Darron said, grinning broadly, ‘I wasn't even aiming for that ball!’

Sport can be fun, but it can also be cruel. I clearly wasn’ t ‘game’, but you could be. Give it a go. No excuses. What today demonstrated is sport can be played anywhere really, and there is probably something for everyone.

I left having had a great day. And licked my wounds with a nice cold west country ahem ahem ‘apple juice’ in a nearby hostelry. Lovely.


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