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Uppies and Downies: What is it?

If you're from West Cumbria, you may have heard people talking about Uppies and Downies, but if you're like me, you may also have wondered what it actually is.

We decided to dig into the history of this local-sport, to help you understand it all a bit better before the first match of the year kicks off next Friday.

So, what on earth is Uppies and Downies?

Uppies and Downies is a Workington tradition that has been around since the 1860s.

It is traditionally played in 3 matches across Easter, with the first match kicking off on the evening of Good Friday.

Thousands of people play and they are split into two teams, the "Uppies" who have roots in the upper part of the town, and the "Downies" who come from the lower part.

While most players originate from Workington, some come from Whitehaven and Maryport too.

The aim of the game is to "hail the ball" (throw it up in the air three times) at the opposing team's goal.

The Downies' goal is a capstan [a machine for moving or raising heavy weights] on the Prince of Wales' dock, while the Uppies' is the gates of Workington Hall Parklands.

What's crazy is that there aren't any set rules or organisers for the game, so it's primarily a rough and tumble scrum interspersed with break-away sprints by members of one team or the other, with some similarities to rugby.

The game has recently been used to raise money for local charities and they usually raise quite a large amount due to the thousands of people that attend and play.

This was a game from 1969. The game has come a long way since then!

What happens when one of the teams wins?

The player who hails the ball and wins the game will go into the town centre with the winning ball and take pictures with fans, usually to raise a little bit more for charity.

The winner is also treated as a bit of a local legend for the night and they even get to keep the special Uppies and Downies ball as a prize.

When can I watch and is there anything special about this year's games?

The first game kicks off on Good Friday (the 15th of April) at 6:30 pm until the ball is hailed.

The next games are on the following Tuesday and the following Saturday, both of which also kicks off at 6:30 pm.

The game begins at the bridge between Allerdale House and the Black Path, at the Cloffocks.

If you can't make the games this year, make sure you keep an eye on our social media as we'll be featuring content covering the games across the Easter period.

Uppies and Downies has survived through wars and countless other major historical events, but for the last two years, the game has been cancelled due to the pandemic, a first in its long history.

So you can expect to see Workington rife with West Cumbrians more ready than ever for a monster game of one of the world's weirdest and most wonderful sports, Uppies and Downies.


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