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Young Barrow



A Barrow ball, is a ball, is a ball, is a ball…

Twelve sports-mad young people from Barrow have been working with world experts in sports technology and artist Kathrin Bohm to design a ground-breaking new sporting product.

Over a seven month period, they attended workshops and brainstorming sessions at Loughborough University, the sports hall at Humphrey Perkins and King George V playing field with youth worker and BOSCAPS leader Alison Johnston. A short film has been made charting the development of their ideas over the seven months.

John Edwards from the Sports Technology Institute commented that the project had been a real eye-opener, not only for the teenagers but also for the team of sports technologists that worked with them. Both groups were free to let their imaginations run wild and the results pushed the boundaries of both sport and art and can be viewed and used as both a sports product and an object of art.

Their brain child, now to be called a Barrow Ball, consists of a second ‘skin’ for a football. The easiest way to envisage what we’re talking about here is to imagine a football-shaped fabric bag. The fabrics that I’ve seen have included tartan, bright yellow fur fabric, a hairy one that looks very like a wig and a shocking pink one. The bag may be given carrying handles so this skin becomes a football carrier bag, or the handles can be tucked inside and the ball used for practising all the usual football control skills. When you do this you find that the ball’s bounce and roll qualities are strongly affected by the kind of skin. One of the group came up with the idea of attaching a skipping rope to the skin instead of the handles.

Once a real product range had emerged from all the fantastical ideas that came up on the way, the University had them made them up as kits so they were ready for the ‘Launch’ on June 14 as part of Loughborough University’s Centenary Day. Kathrin Bohm’s artists group ‘Public Works’ will create a specially designed shop unit in which the skins will be displayed alongside products that have been made by other equivalent collaborations in villages linked into an international rural network including Bulgaria, Netherlands, Germany and Japan.

However, as Alison pointed out, the product was of secondary importance to the teenagers. What they relished was the sense of challenge and the cooperative response between all the members of the team. She praised them for their commitment and enthusiasm.

Judith Rodgers