Shrovetide: The Birth of Football

Every year on Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday, the “up’ards” and “down’ards” meet in the centre of Ashbourne, Derbyshire, England for the Royal Shorvetide Football Match. The tradition is believed to date back to the 10th century, but the game is as competitive today as it has ever been. The passion that the locals have for the game is truly remarkable; to many scoring a Shrovetide ball is considered a life-changing event. James Smith’s documentary captures the frenetic obsession of a town consumed by Shrovetide, focusing particular on the exceptional events of 2019. The tale is told by a cast of characters that include ball-painter and historian Tim Baker, Down’ard goal-scorer Mark Harrison, Up’ard goal scorer Tom Leighton, and Down’ard runner Richard Smith, a local geography teacher who scored the only goal in 2019.