Serving up another summer festival of free table tennis

The Oxford Times: Simon Price, 16, with Oxford City Council's schools sports development officer, Margaret Stevens, at a table tennis table in Cutteslowe Park, North Oxford Simon Price, 16, with Oxford City Council's schools sports development officer, Margaret Stevens, at a table tennis table in Cutteslowe Park, North Oxford

TABLE tennis is making a return to Oxford this summer after 21,000 people picked up their bats last year.

Oxford has been chosen to host Ping!, a festival of free ‘street’ table tennis, for the second time.

Last year saw 18 tables dotted over the city, and Oxford City Council is hoping to add 10 more this summer.

Schools sports development officer Margaret Stevens said: “We applied to Sing London, a non-profit participatory arts organisation, to host it again.

“We were very successful last year, which helped.

“And we have actively continued with the scheme. Most of the tables are still being used by community organisations.”

She added: “Last year we received £15,000 from Sport England for the scheme, but I don’t think we will get as much this year.

“The money goes on the tables, balls and bats, and any publicity we want.”

The council is now looking for potential venues, such as shopping centres and even restaurants, to register their interest in hosting a table.

Venues would need to be able to look after one or two tables from mid-July until September, with organisers having to replenish bats and balls, and host regular events to encourage people to use the facilities. All venues will then have the chance to keep their table permanently.

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Ms Stevens said: “We want to make it even better this year. We want more tables in the cultural-based organisations, like the Ashmolean. We really hope to cover the whole city.”

The council is also looking for volunteers to sign up to run the tables.

Board member for parks, sport and events, Mark Lygo, said: “We are keen to make this year’s festival even bigger and better, reaching even deeper into our communities.

“Volunteering in sport is a fantastic opportunity to give something back to our communities and a great way to get out and about meeting new people.”

Volunteers would have to visit the tables regularly and note how many people of what sort of ages are playing, and alert the council to any problems.

One of last year’s volunteers was 16-year-old Simon Price.

The two-time Oxford junior table tennis champion said: “Me and my mum supervised a lot of the tables, encouraging other people to play. I thought it was really good. We had loads of people coming up to play.”

The Matthew Arnold School pupil added: “Table tennis is really easy. It’s a sport anyone can get involved in.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re old, young or disabled, you can play. So why not play it?”

s Any venue interested in becoming a Ping! host should register their details by May 2 at surveymonkey.com/s/ Ping2014Venue Those interested in volunteering should register at surveymonkey.

com/s/PingPongOxford2014

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