Historic Hallaton bottle kicking event cancelled again - but villagers made sure the 2,000 year tradition stays alive

“We stage and help to look after one of the oldest and best-loved traditions in the UK – if not the world – and we had to do something"

Tuesday, 6th April 2021, 5:10 pm
From left, Harry Hollis, Phil Allan chairman and Steve Wickham head towards the bottle kicking battlefield. PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER

The totemic Hallaton bottle kicking event – stretching back a 2,000 years - has had to be cancelled again this year because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

But the nationally-famous historic showdown between the rival twin villages of Hallaton and Medbourne, near Market Harborough, was still very much alive and kicking on a glorious spring day yesterday.

Chairman Phil Allan, 63, Harry Hollis, custodian of the bottles, and treasurer Steve Wickham walked the traditional route on Easter Monday as brilliant sunshine shone down on Harborough.

Click here to watch the video.

Phil, who’s chaired the iconic annual rural spectacular for almost 40 years, said: “We were determined to keep the spirit of the bottle kicking alive in some way, shape or form.

“This is only the third time in 2,000 years we’ve had to call it off – after the coronavirus struck last year and the foot and mouth outbreak in 2001.

“We stage and help to look after one of the oldest and best-loved traditions in the UK – if not the world – and we had to do something.”

Finnbar Reilly 5 with help from his dad Cahal Reilly at the butter cross on Easter Monday in Hallaton. PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER

Phil, Harry and Steve walked with the three bottles at the centre of the brutal kicking ‘match’ from the Fox Inn near Hallaton’s duck pond down the High Street, by the Butter Cross monument, towards the church and up the hill into the field of play.

“It was a bit weird because there were just six of us – us three and our partners – and there would have been anywhere between 6,000 and 10,000 people gathered on a beautiful day like yesterday,” said Phil, a proud born and bred Hallatonian.

“It’s a great shame that a magnificent event like ours dating all the way back to the Ancient Britons and the Romans couldn’t go ahead for the second year running.

“But we are staging an online vote asking people to back either Hallaton or Medbourne to win it.

From left, Steve Wickham, Phil Allan chairman and Harry Hollis set off from the Fox pub in Hallaton on Easter Monday PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER

“I’m glad to say that Hallaton were winning up to yesterday.

“We are also asking supporters to donate because we do need funds to put on the bottle kicking year in year out.

“And I’m delighted to say that we have already raised about £350.

“So I’d like to thank everyone who has contributed.

Centre, Phil Allan chairman throws the bottle in the with Harry Hollis and Steve Wickham watching on at the bottle kicking battlefield. PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER

“And we are all looking forward to putting on a fantastic event, one to remember, next year when we finally get through this pandemic,” vowed Phil, who works in renewable energy.

From left, Harry Hollis, Phil Allan chairman and Steve Wickham head towards the bottle kicking battlefield. PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER