Tracking the Workington Uppies & Downies game on Easter Tuesday.
Myself, Chris Speed, Anais Moisy and Chris Barker had arranged to meet people in the pub before the game to ask people if they were willing to wear GPS watches during the game. The mass-football game is a ‘happening’, not an organised event. Whoever turns up takes part, and there are no indicators of which side someone is playing for, its all about knowing each other. The game has no rules (excpet a relatively recent gentleman’s agreement to not put the ball into a car). The game lasts as long as it takes one team to win, and has lasted up to 30 hours, starting at 6.30pm. It is played out across the town, beginning in an area call the Cloffock’s, and roaming through becks, carparks, green spaces, shopping streets, building sites, cricket grounds, wherever the game takes them.
It hadn’t been possible to arrange to meet with individuals before the day, and there was some initial skepticism about participating in the tracking. Some people were against it because they wanted the game to stay traditional, others because they were worried that it might be live tracking and that people would know where the ball was during the game. Part of the strategy in Uppies & Downies is to try to smuggle the ball out of the scrum and hide it, if anyone could detect the location of the ball, one team could gain an advantage.
20 minutes before the game started we still didn’t have any Downies, they weren’t at the pub, so we headed down to the ‘long bridge’ on the Cloffock’s, where the game starts. There we approached players until we found two downies who were happy to wear the GPS watches.
In the middle of the scrum players wriggle their hands through between people to get to the ball, or clinging to the ball once they have it. A GPS watch on a wrist would make this more difficult, so we had to gaffer tape the watches to their ankles, and then cover them with their socks.
Throughout the game we followed the action, filming the beginning with a drone, and getting as close to the action as we could with a GoPro camera, and DSLR’s.
The game ended at about 9pm that night, with an uppie win.