"a ball is a ball" village produce
Loughborough and Barrow upon Soar, UK
June 2009

A new collaborative product, devised and designed by staff from the Sports Technology Institute at Loughborough University together with a group of sport enthusiastic young people from the nearby village Barrow-upon- Soar and Kathrin from public works.

Following first meetings and presentations, interested individuals from both groups met for a first get together and conversation at the Sports Technology Institute. Everybody was invited to bring an item that tells something about their interest and involvement with sport. The items included rugby shirts, water bottles, rubber bands and ballet shoes, and conversations ranged from talking football, explaining infra red screenings to accidents and enjoying dance. What do you want to get out of this relationship?

A second workshop at the local sports hall in Barrow-upon-Soar was more hands on. A random range of sport related material and equipment was on offer, to be put together as new games and products, in 3D collage style. STI staff and teenagers worked in smaller groups to develop and put together new product ideas, from Three Threats game kits to Surprise Balls, targeting games, the
Human Bike etc. etc.

A joint reflection of the material brainstorm brought several main themes up: To develop something that can be played across sports, a kind of Multi Sport, that everybody could engage with. To have something that looks like one thing but turns into something completely else, e.g. a ball on a slowly releasing string that extends when skipped around one leg. Or a ball filled with helium which wouldn t move on impact. Something that is fun and can be played with
intuitively.

The STI group started to build first prototypes:
A wall based, double-sided targeting wall which can be played with any sports ball, with the individuals discs moving according to the impact.

Testing some of the prototypes at the STI lab, using the high impact ball kicking machine and high resolution movement camera.

Testing the “Impact Wall” at Loughborough University Gym. The wall was so far the most successful prototype, but as an object too large and complicated to produce for the traveling shop.
The idea was later used for a joint public art proposal for a new Sports Park on campus, which happened independently to the project. The refining brief for the new product started to focus on the main elements which kept appearing: multi sport, playing with a ball and surprise.

More mobile and less technical prototypes were then tested again on the main green in Barrow-upon-Soar, and it was the moment when everybody started playing with the Basketball Bag, which became important for the final product idea. The group put a football into the basketball skin, and immediately changed game, now passing the ball instead of throwing. The idea for the second skin for balls was born, reflecting on the concept of multiball and fun, but also the strong and renowned tradition at STI that involves ball technologies.

The product as part of a one day International Village Shop on June 14th 2009, alongside produce from other places .
Each group will keep a number of copies and use in their own context and interest.

Involved in the development and production were:
John Edwards, Dan Toon. Ash Gray, Sarah Mullane and Steph Forrester from Sports Technology,
Alison Johnston, Conor Kirk, Charlie Brown, Jack Brown, Jordan Brown, Billy Bott, Jessica Cox, Matthew Doherty, Callum Johnston, Alix Johnston and Nathaniel Higton from Barrow upon Soar.