Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Using film to explore the heritage of local Playmakers

We are working with One to One Development Trust on a project for a forthcoming exhibition.

Judi (Creative Director) writes:
Whilst a lot of the country are enjoying tennis season and Wimbledon, we have been busy filming for our latest production, ‘Playmakers’ a short film and exhibition about the Sykes/ Slazenger Factory in Horbury.

What a gem of a story this is.
William Sykes was only 23 when, against family advice, he married Ethel Marshall. Using his wife’s savings William bought a saddle business in Horbury in the 1870s. The factory has had a long and fascinating history including being taken over by Slazenger in 1942, Slazenger were then taken over by Dunlop Rubber in 1959 and then purchased in 1985 by BTR PLC, (both brand names Dunlop and Slazenger were kept) the factory finally closed in 1986.  Apart from during the war when the Sykes factory made a variety of army equipment including gun parts, the main business has been in producing sports equipment.

Last week we were very lucky to be filming Robert Haines who was Technical Manager at Slazenger and oversaw the build of a new product research centre at the site in Horbury. The centre was opened in 1978 and was a hive of innovation and excellence. Tennis rackets, one of the companies’ top products, were traditionally made from wood planks, but the team at Horbury showed incredible ingenuity with their approach to producing a new product which would change the face of racket sports forever. Robert and his team lead the way in the switch over to graphite frames with the launch of the Max 200g tennis racket, the first graphite racket, and the first to be constructed using injection moulding. The racket made its debut in the early 1980s as the preferred choice of world renowned players John McEnroe and Steffi Graf.

Bob Haines with Dunlop Racket
Robert shared with us the excitement of working at the old Sykes factory at this time including when the Dunlop Max 200g went on to win lots of prestigious awards including the Queens Award for Technological Achievement 1985. The factory site now is an industrial park full of small businesses, but from the early days of it being a saddlery, through to it being the home of one of the most successful global brands in the world, the Sykes site holds some magnificent stories. The Horbury factory and its local workforce has produced some of the UK’s most famous sporting equipment in the world, from cricket bats to boxing gloves and including the famous Zig Zag football used in the 1966 World Cup. 
Bob Haines' award for Max 200g Racket Technology

Working with Wakefield Museum we are keen to find any interesting stories from people who worked at the Horbury factory, we are also looking for any artefacts/items that people may have that could contribute to an exhibition entitled ‘Playmakers’ later in the year.

If you would like to contribute to the project in any way, please email us at One to One or ring 07901 686142

Judi Alston
Creative Director
One to One Development Trust

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