By Abi Simpson
In a world much too serious, sport should be something to enjoy
The playground, where you could go without a care in the world, make best friends with that child that you would probably never see again, have the greatest time and then simply leave and never look back.
This is what Pete Reed wanted to re-create when he came up with the Alternative Sports and Games Club in Boscombe, formerly known as the Silly Army, but this time it would be an adult’s only affair.
The original name for the club, ‘The Silly Army’, was dropped when people started assuming the club was associated with the real army, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Reed said “The word silly put some people off as well, they suffer from being too grown up.” The club isn’t “Childish, more childlike.”
I walked quickly from the bus into the shelter of Springbourne Library’s reception, to escape the cold evening air. The smell of old books immediately hit me in the face. I saw a man, who I hoped to be Reed, unstacking a substantial pile of various board games in a room off to the side of the hall. Quite short, a little rotund with a full beard and messy brown hair, he certainly wasn’t your stereotypical sportsman, but that’s the point.
“I absolutely hate sports”. This was definitely not the answer I was expecting from the man who set up a sporting charity 9 years ago. Reed paused to drill a screw into the games cupboard in an attempt to put up a new shelf.
“People take life way too seriously, especially sport. I went to a five-a-side club briefly and they want to fight each other all the time, it’s all very aggressive. Too serious” he said. “I wanted to have a club where you can come if you are completely unfit or even just a bit shy.” “A bit fat like me” he said, grabbing his belly and jiggling it up and down in much the same way as Santa Clause.
Monkey toss, space hopper polo and crumbs and crows are among the sports invented by the club. Yes, that’s right, they don’t seem like your traditional sports. What happened to a good game of tennis or a little football? But where do the ideas come from? “Several were stolen from the pursuits club. Several from when I did work at a children’s charity. They’re children’s games, which children can get quite easily but you try explaining them to grown-ups. We had to dumb them down for adults.”
“Members suggest a game and we do it, we make the actual equipment for the game as well.” A double sized volleyball net was among the plethora of weird and wonderful equipment commissioned for, or made by club members themselves.
Reed worked for 12 months with a children’s charity Adventure Unlimited, in Brighton. “We just played games a lot of the time, it was such a laugh. “I was on benefits years ago”, the Government used “to take sponges off the benefit system and get them to do a year’s work for nothing, and it was brilliant, it was such a good fun thing.” And that’s where “I got a lot of my ideas from.”
Talk turned to elves, wizards and giants with Reed attempting to teach me how to play one of the most popular games at the club. It is essentially a fantasy themed rock, paper, and scissors. How hard could this really be? The rules were quite simple, but it involved a little more action than the classic hand movements usually attributed to the game. Wizards wave their arms frantically around whilst the giants stomp on the poor little elves. It’s fair to say, anyone who dared to even walk into the room at this very moment, would have assumed that we were a little crazy. But nevertheless, after fits of laughter it was clear to see why adults want to partake in sporting activities like these.
We both got carried away talking about a variety of different games played as children, each offering our own version of the rules. Reed had finished putting up the shelf which was almost straight, and began stacking the games back into the cupboard ready for the evening ahead. Quidditch, Reed said was one game that the club had failed at, joking that they hadn’t been able to overcome the flying issues. When it was suggested that you could just run around with a broomstick and wearing a cape, his simple reaction was, “I salute the stupidity.”