DEFINING Shrovetide is something of an impossible task.
One of the first things people always start to explain is the age-old rivalry between the Up’ards and the Down’ards.
The basis of the game, indeed of any sport, is competition between people of skill and determination.
But, as we saw last year when the world watched the London Olympic Games, activities which are essentially based on division, also promote unity.
Shrovetide is not exception.
Yes, there are two sides, pushing in the most physical way, against each other.
But, there is also the work of the players behind the scenes who join together, putting allegiances to Sturston or Clifton aside, to ensure that the game can continue each year in the face of ever-increasing bureaucracy.
There is also the cohesion of a community as children cheer on their fathers, and the town’s older folk reminisce about the games of the past.
Shrovetide offers Ashbourne the opportunity to come together in a way that few other communities enjoy.
The spectacle, the age-old struggle and the almost primeval desire to reach the goal in pursuit of the honour which follows.
Scores of people work behind the scenes for the benefit of the game.
Police officers, firefighters, paramedics, a doctor and a team of marshals are all on stand-by to protect not only the players and spectators when the game gets rough, but also to protect the game itself against any calamity which could prevent it being played in the future.
The power of Shrovetide is exemplified this week in the news that Ashbourne woman Private Emma Soult has returned on leave from her tour of duty in Afghanistan.
Pt Soult returned on Saturday, having deferred leave late last year in hopes of getting home for Shrovetide.
The power of the game and the pull of the community stretches across the town and beyond, to family and friends scattered across the country and across the world and even to those fighting for their country in a far away war zone.
To help us all keep in touch and follow the beloved game, visit us at www.ashbournenewstelegraph.co.uk/shrovetide.