Pigs Bladder Football

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This article was written on 26 Jul 2011, and is filled under 2011, Workshop.

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Getting the Ball Rolling (and Bouncing!)

Saturday 23rd of July 2011 marked the first public manifestation of Pigs Bladder Football an unusual new and experimental art project, which will be exploring the historic and material origins of our beautiful game.

Football is often claimed to be an international language and the ball itself is a globally iconic object – our Pigs Bladder Football is a collaborative investigation into the fundamental values of soccer and related games, through the re-invention of centuries-old processes which are on the verge of being lost. The main focus on Saturday was an introductory workshop involving hands-on research conducted by members of the public into appropriate techniques for manufacturing footballs out of pigs bladders which had been obtained from an abattoir as a by-product of slaughter.

Fittingly for a project concerned with forgotten craft and re-invention, the launch took place within the post-industrial surroundings of Europe’s last iron-ore mine – the soon to be re-opened Florence Mine arts centre in Egremont, Cumbria, and the day was given an extra buzz by being recognised as an official part of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games Open Weekend – bringing together art and sport on one platform.

Earlier in the day we had a first preview of a brand new short film I made in collaboration with Tim Brunsden during some of our initial research in Cumbria: “Uppies and Downies” chronicles an astonishing Easter Tuesday evening of “mob football,” a unique sports-festival-happening which takes place three times each year in the nearby town of Workington. We followed the screening with a discussion about the nature of such games and present was Joe Clark (2011 player of the series) and his son Paul, who described their own visceral experience of this much misunderstood sport-without-rules – making an important argument for freedom of expression as the key element of their historic contest. The film (which was the first film to be publicly screened in Florence’s excellently equipped new cinema) gave us an appetite for the days main event and the fundamental starting point for any such game – the making of the ball.

Pigs Bladder Football begins here…

There is a full set of photos from the workshop up on flickr here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/john0shea/sets/72157627284531726/

And Sam Meech who participated blogged about it his experience here: http://smeech.co.uk/?p=1180

Debbi Lander also took part and blogged here: http://debbilander2012.wordpress.com/2011/07/23/pigs-bladder-football-2012-open-weekend-workshop/

(image at top: “Keepy Uppie 6″ credit: John O’Shea / image middle “workshop” credit Tim Jones.)

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