Tennis Ball Challenge Puts Barnsley Back on Wimbledon Map

Barnsley was the tennis ball manufacturing capital of the world and now it’s back on centre court with a crazy, Wimbledon-themed challenge.

The Yorkshire town was home to Slazenger for more than 50 years before the factory moved production to the Philippines 20 years ago. During that time workers made balls used at Wimbledon and even the umpires’ chairs.

An exhibition celebrating Barnsley’s unlikely heritage is taking place at Experience Barnsley museum throughout the Wimbledon fortnight and runs until October.

Organisers of “Barnsley Serves the World” will hold a fun challenge on the day play gets underway in SW19. They’ll be trying to pack as many tennis balls into a traditional red phone box as possible.

Curator Steven Skelley explained: “This year marks the 20th anniversary of the factory’s closure and transfer of production to the Philippines so we decided to put Barnsley back on the tennis map with an exhibition and a bit of family fun.

“The tennis ball challenge should be a real show-stopper. Former factory workers will join us at Experience Barnsley to see whether we can serve up what’s needed!

“We hope people will come along and watch and then visit the exhibition which tells the stories of the people who worked there and brings to life the shop-floor camaraderie.”

Barnsley Serves the World is free to attend and there’s plenty for visitors to enjoy including memorabilia, photographs, evocative Pathé films, newly commissioned films, as well as activities for sporting fans of all ages.

Cllr Robert Frost, Cabinet Spokesperson (Regeneration and Culture) said:

“The brilliant exhibitions at Experience Barnsley are a key element of our strategy to balance out shops, markets and restaurants units with entertainment and cultural venues to cultivate an exciting and diverse offer for visitors.    

“The upcoming tennis ball challenge is sure to be a great spectacle for the town and July’s Barnsley’s Best Balls trail is a fun and imaginative way to ensure that all those tennis balls are given away to the children of Barnsley.”

Steven added: “Barnsley Serves the World really does have something for all ages and interests.”

The tennis balls used in the challenge are then to be reused and given away as part of the Barnsley’s best balls trail which will run throughout July.

Fans of the Slazenger exhibition will be encouraged to keep their eyes peeled for the 12 tennis balls hidden around the town. Make sure to collect your trail card from Experience Barnsley, The Cooper Gallery or Barnsley Museums in The Glass Works to get started on this fun, free, family friendly trail across the town.