Join us as we bring Borough Market Sports Day back to life almost 80 years on! Part of MERGE Bankside.
Take part in races and games drawing on the tradition - and silliness - of the historic competition loved and supported by Charlie Chaplin. Sign up a team of four players from your business, and you'll get the chance to test your strength, speed and balance in the cabbage carrying championship, racing with a loaf of bread on your head, as well as the traditional egg and spoon race, compèred by a Charlie Chaplin lookalike.
Credit: British Pathé
The idea of the competition was first rooted in 1904 with a cricket match between the Market’s fruiterers and salesmen. It soon grew into a general sports day for Market porters and became a regular event at Herne Hill Athletic Grounds. The event was stunted with the outbreak of the First World War, until the late 1920s when one of the original organisers at the Market set about to revive the annual event. Attempting to raise funds and publicity, he wrote letters to newspapers, businesses and celebrities, and in June 1930 received an unexpected response back from a Hollywood office. Charlie Chaplin, whose impoverished childhood had been spent on the streets of Southwark, had enclosed a cheque for £20.
With this endorsement, the sports day became one of national interest, and included a Charlie Chaplin lookalike competition. Chaplin himself kept a close eye on the event, sending signed photographs to winners and donating money for extravagant prizes. In 1935 the comic actor stipulated that, as a consolation prize, £2 10s of his contribution should be presented to the wife who had endured the misfortune of being married to an unsuccessful competitor for the longest time. One winner of the basket race walked away with a Chaplin-sponsored suit, an overcoat and a gold watch.
Borough Market Sports raised thousands of pounds for charity. The event scheduled for 6 September 1939 was set to be the biggest yet. The posters were pasted up and the BBC were apparently preparing to broadcast highlights. On 1 September, German tanks crossed the Polish border and the contest ended. Until now… Almost 80 years later the event of the season returns to Borough Market for MERGE Bankside.
Register your team of four with firstname.lastname@example.org - and get practicing!
Mar 30 2017