Shrovetide Football has been played in the English market town of Ashbourne for centuries. (Courtesy Photo)

Shrovetide Football has been played in the English market town of Ashbourne for centuries. (Courtesy Photo)

Imagine two teams with more than a thousand competitors on each side. Imagine a playing field that stretches three miles from goal to goal. And imagine a single ball that both sides are fighting over.

That is Shrovetide Football, which is played each year over two days in Ashbourne, England between members of the town. In his documentary Wild In The Streets, Peter Baxter tells the story of the game that has been played for centuries.

Bill’s Thoughts on Wild In The Streets

In a sense, Wild In The Streets, Peter Baxter’s documentary about Shrovetide Football, might seem to be the ultimate quirky sports movie.

Each year, thousands of players compete in an annual game of Shrovetide Football. (Courtesy of Peter

Each year, thousands of players compete in an annual game of Shrovetide Football. (Courtesy of Peter Baxter)

The game itself is peculiar to Ashbourne, a “market town” in the middle of England. Its rules are few, its participants numerous. In fact, most of the town’s population, some 3,000 people, join in on two days each year as those born south of the river battle those born north of the river in the attempt to push, pull, kick, carry and otherwise coax a ball through town and field and brook to a goal a couple of miles away.

But Wild In The Streets is not a sports movie. It’s the story of a community determined to hold on to its traditions, or at least to the most physical among them. Their game may appear goofy to outsiders. The residents of Ashbourne don’t care. Baxter’s triumph is in never diminishing the spirit and energy of the people he finds to tell the story of Shrovetide Football. He likes them, and as a result, we do, too.