Saturday 10 December 2016

Cheese rolling festival to change

Published 14/01/2011 | 14:46

Female competitors chase a cheese down Cooper's Hill in Brockworth, Gloucestershire
Female competitors chase a cheese down Cooper's Hill in Brockworth, Gloucestershire

The quintessentially English tradition of cheese rolling could be turned into a two-day festival to head off health and safety fears.

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Organisers say the event has to change but locals fear it may turn into a "cheap" commercial event.

With a history dating back to at least the 1800s, it sees people chase an 8lb Double Gloucester cheese down a near-vertical grass slope in Gloucestershire, with few contenders managing to stay on their feet.

Cheese rolling has become so popular that two years ago around 15,000 spectators turned up at Cooper's Hill, Brockworth, near Gloucester - a site only suitable for 5,000. Last year's event was cancelled because of fears over traffic and crowd safety.

The cheese rolling committee said the event needed to expand into a professionally-organised festival with live bands, country crafts, traditional games and overnight camping.

Committee spokesman Nigel Thomas said: "The event really needs to change dramatically if it is to survive. In its present form it attracts just too many people for us to handle safely."

The committee has now brought in an event management and public relations firm to organise a completely new event.

However Nigel Cooper, chairman of Cranham Parish Council, said: "If it's ticketed it will just become a mini-Glastonbury, with cheese rolling as a side show.

"It used to be all about the cheese rolling - it was just what it was. Now it's going to be some cheap commercialism. I saw someone said they'd been a victim of their own success, and that may be, but this is a fun, quaint, very English tradition that could only ever happen here.

"It's always been a free event, with a small charge for parking, but just a lovely way to spend a family bank holiday, watching people chasing and tumbling after the cheese - it's an old tradition and famous around the world."

Press Association

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