A pint and a bout of bouncy boxing, please

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The Independent Online
IF YOU thought bar billiards or space invaders meant the death of the English pub, then take to the hills now, writes Martin Hennessey. 'Bouncy boxing' is the entertainment of the future. Two topers strap on outsized padded gloves, climb into an inflatable ring and attempt to beat each other to . . . well, to a fit of helpless giggles, really.

But the financial logic behind it is no laughing matter. 'We sell the basic ring for pounds 1,495,' said Peter Fraylich, of the manufacturers, Just Fun. Within 12 months, he believes, bar-owners can reckon on a return of at least pounds 25,000. And that's without add-ons such as a wetproof sheet, which renders the ring fit for mud and jelly wrestling as well.

'Bouncy boxing' is straightforward compared with some of the pub entertainment on show at the Leisure Industry Week at the Birmingham National Exhibition Centre last week. For the more adventurous there was Pole Jousting, in which two players straddle a padded wooden horse and try to knock each other off with padded poles, or the opportunity to take a spin in a Nasa-designed gyroscope, which left the assembled landlords and bar-owners feeling distinctly green. Mr Fraylich and his associates are even working on human ten-pin bowling.

New ideas are like gold. Take Bungee-running. A player is attached to a bungee rope and strains his way as far as he can along an inflated alleyway to plant a marker on a Velcro ruler, before the elastic yanks him viciously back to base. And don't think that it will never catch on: 18 months ago, the daddy of them all, Bar Fly Jumping, was a similar glimmer in Just Fun's eye. In this, Velcro-clad participants jump from a mini-trampoline on to a Velcro-covered wall, hoping to 'splat' and stick there, preferably upside down.

Since its introduction from New Zealand, Mr Fraylich and his partner have seen it hyped, copied, remade and repackaged as hundreds of clubs and bars bounced on to the bandwagon. What he has not seen it do is lose money. Just Fun had a turn over of about pounds 500,000 in its first year of making the game.

A quiet pint, however, may still be the safest option. Manchester City Council has banned bar fly jumps from all official events after a gymnast damaged nerves in his back. A group of specialists in Oxford launched their own awareness campaign after a woman broke her neck trying to land upside down on a jump. 'We have been seeing minor fractures and sprains among bar fly jumpers all summer,' said Keith Willet, a surgeon at the John Radcliffe Hospital. 'People don't realise you can end up with very serious injuries.'

(Photograph omitted)