3 Dec 2012

Inventor of 'crate stacking'


When was the team-building game of crate-stacking invented? 

I'd like to make the claim that unless anyone has evidence otherwise, Tanya Bocking invented it at Broadstone Warren, the UK Scout Association campsite in Sussex in July 1977.

I was working as a leader at a camp run by The Kensington and Chelsea Play Scheme for children living on the estates around Latimer Road and Trellick Tower during the summer holiday. The camp leader was a Canadian named Chris (a beefy former bouncer at the El Mocambo club in Toronto) and his sidekick was his friend Andre. I forget their last names but they had been travelling in Europe and found this job taking inner-city kids, some troubled, some wonderful, out into the wilds of Sussex for a week under canvas. 

They then recruited a bunch of 16-20 year olds, including me, a couple of hippies, an AWOL soldier and a Hell's Angel (whose dad was a bishop!) as camp counsellors.

Towards the end of the camp we had got loads of milk crates piled around the site. We'd buy a crate of milk in cartons everyday but nobody would take the crates back. We had made tables and chairs and swings out of them but hadn't thought of a stacking game. I didn't see any boy scouts there playing this game then. Then Tanya came up to visit the camp and one evening she challenged all the kids to see how high they could climb on a SINGLE stack of milk crates.

The kids from the other groups camping near us watched in awe and soon joined in and then we had regular competitions. The record by the end of the camp was 22 single crates. Those scouts watching us and joining in could have spread this idea around pretty quickly.

Now outdoor centres everywhere play this game. Some make wimpy towers three across and use safety ropes. When our towers toppled, you fell into mud and risked spraining an ankle landing on a crate.


A video crew came to the camp with a bigwig from the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea to see what we did with their money. If this video can be found, then it would be evidence.

UK milk crates are a bit easier to stack as they have bigger teeth that latch together. US milk crates are much lighter and will tip easily.



In September 2009 I gave an interview to Adam Molner on crate stacking for Climbing magazine in the USA.

I can't claim Tanya Bocking was absolutely the first person to play the game but until we have evidence she wasn't, it's very likely. As this happened at a headquarters of the scouting movement, that would explain its rapid propagation. I don't know how it got to the USA but it may be parallel invention. 

If you have evidence of the crate stacking game being played before 1977, please get in touch.

- Nat Bocking

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