I cannot believe I did this whole article, scheduled for release in May, only to find that on Friday, 12th March, the Health and Safety Department in England have, in their wisdom, cancelled this hundreds-of-years old event – fearing for the safety of spectators as the event grows in popularity!!! Can you believe it?
I might as well broadcast the now-cancelled event anyway, and perhaps the Healthy and Safety department can see a way around their dilemma…
We’ve profiled this off-beat and wacky English competition once before, but this is the best photograph I’ve seen of it (courtesy of Will de Freitas)… Despite the many videos we’ve shown, it has been difficult to get through to you, our audience, exactly how steep this hill is. And NOW you know. The guy upside down here ended up in hospital…
I think he lived!
Hey, what’s life if you can’t take a risk or two?
Cooper’s Hill Cheese Rolling is proud of its more than 200 year old tradition. A 3.5 kg round cheese is chased down a vertiginous hill by hilariously mad, possibly drunk, idiots. A fun day out for all! Certainly a good spectator sport.
The festival was originally held at midsummer but was moved at some time to Whitsuntide, and now takes place annually on on Whit Monday. In 2010 this will be the 31st May.
Cooper’s Hill as viewed from the bottom and the top.
So what’s it all about then?
There are 5 downhill races, one is for ladies; and 4 uphill races for boys under 12’s, girls under 12 and men’s and women’s open with staggering prize money of £10 for the downhill race and £5 for the uphill one.
A master of ceremonies escorts an invited guest to the top of the hill and helps him/her to sit on the precipitous slope holding the cheese. At his command:
- one to be ready
- two to be steady
- three to prepare…
… at which stage the guest ‘roller’ releases the cheese. And at…
- four to be off
…the competitors, anywhere from 2 to 20, hurl themselves off the edge in hot pursuit. The first person to the bottom takes home the cheese. The second and third placed get £10 each… or so.
The slope has a gradient that is in places 1-in-2 and in others 1-in-1. Its surface is very rough and uneven and it is almost impossible to remain on foot for the descent. Injuries incurred are usually minor and competitors (particularly the successful ones) enter again year after year.
The 5 downhill races are held at twenty minute intervals.
The uphill race does obviously not include a cheese although the winner does receive a small one.
A Double Gloucester cheese, the real thing, is the prize and always has been, apart from a brief rationing period between 1941 and 1954 (not many people are aware of how long rationing continued in England after the Second World War). During this period the game was not forsaken, but a wooden substitute was used with a small niche cut into it which included an equally small piece of cheese!
This is a day out in true mad-dog-an-Englishman style… with much to recommend it and if you’re still doubtful, you might like to have a preview of the 2009 race (SoGlos):
As event organisers say: “You do not need any type of application form to enter. There are no qualifications and no entry fee. All you have to do is arrive at the top of the hill, make the decision (possibly check that your ‘Last will and testament ‘ is up-to-date!) make sure that you won’t need that pair of jeans ever again and ……… GO!!!!”
What are you waiting for?!!
… well, now you’re waiting for the Health and Safety Department to allow the event to continue!