The courts, just to the left of the main entrance of the shopping centre, are free to use
“This is ground-breaking,” said New Yorker Jay Sanchez, looking at groups of school children hitting a small ball against a colourful wall on the side of Surrey Quays shopping centre on Thursday afternoon (May 12).
Mr Sanchez has flown into London to promote wallball, a burgeoning sport in the UK that aims to make use of small corners of cities to get people active.
As part of this effort, he and other top wallball players visited Surrey Quays, where developer British Land has launched what it calls the UK’s first multi-court outdoor wallball venue, which is free to use. “What’s important is that they’re getting the kids involved from a very early age,” said Mr Sanchez, who will also be taking part in a tournament in west London.
Wallball is simple – you hit the ball with your hand against the wall. The ball can only bounce once before your opponent hits it back. Games usually last fifteen minutes.
The idea is to get people active in a low-stakes, sociable way. The two courts are at the shopping centre, which means that anyone can stop and have a casual game on their way to or from a shopping trip.
Southwark has some of the highest obesity rates in the country. Some 43 per cent of children in Year 6 were overweight or obese in 2020, alongside 58 per cent of adults in the borough.
Daniel Grant, an NHS doctor who founded UK wallball and was at the Surrey Quays launch on Thursday, said: “We cannot wait to see people of all shapes and sizes and from all backgrounds get going on these amazing courts. They’ve been designed with the local community at heart and we’re looking forward to seeing how people use the area as an active and social space.”
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This is the second wallball court in Southwark – the first was opened last April in Marlborough Sports Gardens near London Bridge.
The courts are free to use from Thursday. People can bring their own balls to play with, or buy one from a nearby vending machine for £2.
For more information on how to play, click here.