Since history began, people have assembled outside the Armoury in Winchelsea at 11am on Boxing Day for the annual Winchelsea Streete Game, otherwise known as Kicking The Frenchman’s Head.
Three teams, in red, green and blue tabards, and a partisan crowd, assemble. The Games Marshall delivers an address and reads an oath of fealty to the Game and a promise by all not to sue whatever injuries are suffered, and then the tussle in the street starts.
Three teams, one goal and no rules (other than no murder) leads to twenty minutes of mauling and rucking, odd moments of individual running brilliance and, in the last decade, an inevitable victory for the Blue team.
The Games Marshall is perhaps the second longest running great office of England (after the headmastership of Hogwarts) and the current holder explains the transfer of office is as mysterious as that of the creation of the Mayor of Winchelsea!
Social distancing a non-starter
But when a youthful matinee idol Dicky “RomCom” Otto arrived in the town he moved from dashing star of straight-to-video light romances to Games Marshall – and the move was extraordinary, but seamless.
“By the Jurats’ beards, I cannot indulge such a secret, but I have to say that sadly in 2020 we will see the first cancellation of the Winchelsea Streete Game in my decades of tenureship,” says the Games Marshall. “Social distancing is a non-starter in this ancient game, so it is essential this year that we see a break.”
A “Study of the Games” history has patchy details for the early 1830s, when the run up to, and just after, the Great Reform Act of 1832 promised a distasteful move towards democracy in the national government, and an influential group of the town’s citizens sought to double down on such ideas at a local level – so the Streete Game might have taken a short break. But never before or since.
In a relatively new tradition the Games Marshall has already decided, as in recent years, the result of the annual Game before it has been contested. The declaration of the formal result for 2020 is awaited.
Image Credits: Seana Lanigan .