Monday 26 May 2014Editor's Choice
While the Gloucestershire Cheese Rolling has a history dating back to at least the 1800s, health and safety concerns saw the event officially cancelled since 2010, creating local and even international uproar from fans of the local tradition. But that hasn’t stopped loyal competitors taking to the hill, and thousands of spectators showing up, to create their own unofficial versions of the world-famous spectacular over the last four years.
And unless new organisers announce an official version of the event for 2014, Monday 26 May 2014 will undoubtedly see the fifth unofficial Gloucestershire Cheese Rolling in a row, with hordes of fearless contestants chasing a weighty 8lb Double Gloucester cheese (or plastic version, as was used in 2013) down a death-defyingly-steep hill.
The slope on Cooper’s Hill in Gloucester, the setting for the world-famous event, is in fact so steep that very few contenders manage to even stay on their feet, instead tumbling head-over-heels down the hill in a desperate effort to catch the coveted dairy prize.
While in reality the cheese can never actually be caught – with a brief headstart it soon reaches breakneck speeds – the race winner is the first person to cross the line at the bottom of the hill. Some contenders sadly don’t make it all the way down though, and instead lie in wait for the St John Ambulance crew who have previously been on-hand during official versions of the event to fix-up the daredevils or whisk them away to the local A&E.
The highest injury toll in recent years occurred in 1997 when 33 competitors were treated for everything from splinters to broken bones, and in 2005 races were delayed as ambulances delivered victims to the local hospital before returning to wait for the next batch of casualties. Spectators have also be known to receive their fair share of injuries – one year an off-course cheese took out an innocent bystander – although such occurrences are rare.
While the 2014 details may not be confirmed until the day, in previous years four official downhill races have been held, including one ladies’ race, each involving around 20 to 40 competitors who will line-up and anxiously await the master of ceremonies’ commands before setting off.
The winner of each race traditionally receives a Double Gloucester cheese, supplied by Smart’s Farm for more than 20 years, as well as enjoying local and even international fame. Children also have the opportunity to get involved on the day in between adult races, but not downhill – instead taking part in a much safer up-hill race.
Growing in popularity every year, SoGlos’s videos of the 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2013 events have been watched more than seven million times on websites around the world. So the Gloucestershire Cheese Rolling 2014, albeit in its unofficial form, is expected attract thousands of visitors for one of the world’s wackiest spectator events.
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