Trip to Istanbul

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"Roger, do you fancy a trip to Istanbul in May ........ ........ all expenses paid?" Willie Baxter of the Scottish Wrestling Bond was alerting me to the "European Belt Wrestling Championships, that will take place in Istanbul (Turkey) during 4 – 6 May 2007 within the limits of the 1st European Green Festival of Traditional Wrestling Sports".

I can remember when a trip out of Northumberland to compete at Aikton Sports seemed an exotic adventure. Keeping your feet on the ground can be difficult at any time when you are wrestling, but the computer age now brings lots more opportunities to disappear into flights of wrestling fancy.

Forty years ago we sort of knew that Cornish Wrestling went on at the other end of England, that the Scottish Highland Games had "Cumberland Wrestling" and that a couple of Breton wrestlers had come exploring in our area, but otherwise our horizons were limited to the North of England and the Borders of Scotland.

That changed in 1985 when the International Federation of Celtic Wrestling was founded and we took our place alongside the Bretons, Scots and Icelanders who were the competitors at the first European Championships in 1986. Since then we have established contacts with traditional wrestlers in a dozen countries, and each extra contact emphasises how little we know of the global scene.

A quick flash onto the International Belt Wrestling Association web-site verifies that it is bona fide, with a wide membership of countries. The Scottish wrestlers went along in November last year to a huge wrestling festival at Almaty in Kazakhstan so this organisation does actually exist.

On the other hand some organisations seem to exist only in someone's head. The following e-mail was forwarded to me recently:

Traditional Wrestling Association Great Britain.
I am a representative of a newly formed organisation that represents the traditional wrestling of Great Britain. The styles represented are: Cumberland/Westmorland Wrestling (Back hold style); Cornish Wrestling (Jacket wrestling); Loose wrestling; Lancashire Catchas Catch; Norfolk Wrestling; Scottish Highland Wrestling (Back hold style); Irish Clollar and Elbow. (All spelling as original)

The signatory is unknown to me, and Willie Baxter commented that he had noticed odd references to this fellow on the internet but had no idea who he was and that he had absolutely no standing or credibility in wrestling. "For some reason wrestling is plagued by oddballs and this fellow is obviously one".


In the real world the opening of the 2007 wrestling season is imminent, with two very down-to-earth events staged by vintage machinery enthusiasts.

On Sunday, 6th May the season starts at Carlisle Airport with Hethersgill Vintage Society and on the following Sunday, 13th May it is the turn of the Eden Valley Vintage Society to host wrestling at Dalemain, near Penrith.

Television cameras will be at the latter and the producers are particularly keen to see a good turn-out of wrestlers in the traditional wrestling strip.

Written by © Roger Robson. Photographs by © Roger Robson, Julian Richardson or Linda Scott (April 25th 2007)


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