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24 September 2014

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Chairman Phil Allan throws bottle to the ground

Bottle kicking krazy

By Chris Breese - local contributor
Forget spin the bottle, what about bottle kicking? Residents of two Leicestershire villages battled it out in an annual event of Bottle Kicking on Easter Monday.

"I remember one year in the 80's, it was dry in the morning, then we threw the bottle up & it just rained. It was so muddy we couldn't tell who was who"
Dave Wainwright aka Wacka - Former Chairman of the event

Grappling with hundreds of strangers over a small beer keg in a muddy field may not be everyone’s idea of a good bank holiday, but this is an annual event of choice for residents of two Leicestershire villages.

Hallaton and Medbourne, in the southeast of the county, are both examples of picturesque serenity for 364 days of the year, but every Easter Monday this peace is temporarily shattered by an ancient tradition called Bottle Kicking.

The event is the culmination of a day of festivities and is a chaotic battle between residents of both villages, plus anyone foolhardy enough to join in. The only object of the game is to wrestle the ‘bottle’ to one of two brooks close to each village.

Hallaton resident and Chairman of the event Phil Allan, 47, explains, saying: “There are two streams about a mile apart, and the idea is to get the bottle to your village’s stream, winning a point each time.

“A different bottle is used for each point played and the first village to two points wins. The rules are very simple; there aren’t any.”

“There are a few injuries, such as broken bones and things like that but most people are unharmed and the emergency services are on standby throughout.”

No-one is sure exactly when the custom began, but it is thought to pre-empt modern rugby and football. The event is accompanied by the ritual parading and cutting-up of a hare pie at the village church, which is said to date back to pagan fertility rituals. This is followed by the ‘Hare Pie Scramble’ where pieces of hare pie are thrown to waiting combatants before the battle begins.

Dave Wainwright, known locally as “Wacka”, passed the chairmanship of the event to Phil after 25 years at the helm. The retired 59-year-old, who has since moved to Redbourne, said: “I remember one year in the eighties, it was dry in the morning, then we threw the bottle up and it just rained. It was so muddy we couldn’t tell who was who.”

Final score

The Hare Pie is cut up
The Hare Pie is cut up

By 6pm this year’s score stood at one all. Tired participants made their way back up the hill for the decider. Phil tossed the final bottle to the ground and the melee began for one final time.

For half an hour the bottle hardly moved under the struggle before Hallaton made a drive to their stream to finally make it 2-1 just after 7pm.

Former Chairman Dave 'Wacka' Wainwright
Former Chairman Dave 'Wacka' Wainwright

Dave no longer competes, preferring these days to watch from the sidelines. He said: “It’s amazing how many people come back year after year, these days we expect up to 3,500 spectators plus 300 or so competitors. It's a tradition that will never die."

last updated: 29/03/05
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i to live in hallaton and it is a great fun day so come on Hallaton!!!

2008we came from north wales to attend, a great time was had by all. we got stuck in too and on the side of Medbourne as they had further to push. but Hallaton won this time. perhaps next year we will bring some rugby players from wales.

Jane Collyer
my family have all taken part, my dad, bob, brother bob and also uncle john, I love the bottlekicking and love to reminisce when i come back to hallaton as i lived on north end and went to school there, does peeve me tho when the pub only lets locals in, how much more local do we have to be??? well done hallaton and nice to see micky hunt turn up this year!! Ha

declan marlow
it is a realy good sporting event

david speller
This time it's Medbourne's.

robyn and lauren
we love it its so much fun! see you all there!!!!!!!!1

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