Cooper's Hill Cheese-Rolling and Wake
The Cooper's Hill Cheese-Rolling and Wake is an annual event held on the Spring Bank Holiday at Cooper's Hill, (grid reference SO892146) near Gloucester in England. It is traditionally by and for the people who live in the local village of Brockworth, but now people from all over the world take part. The Guardian called it a "world-famous event", and indeed, in 2013, a 27 year old American and a 39 year old Japanese each won one of the four races. The event takes its name from the hill on which it occurs.
The event is traditional. In recent years, it has been managed in a quasi-official manner, but since 2010 the event has taken place spontaneously without any management.
From the top of the hill a 9 lb round of Double Gloucester cheese is rolled, and competitors race down the hill after it. The first person over the finish line at the bottom of the hill wins the cheese. In theory, competitors are aiming to catch the cheese, however it has around a one second head start and can reach speeds up to 70 mph (112 km/h), enough to knock over and injure a spectator. In the 2013 competition, a foam replica replaced the actual cheese for reasons of safety. The winner was given the prize after the competition.
"The Cheese Rollers" pub are also known as cheesehens . They are in the nearby village of Shurdington, about 3 miles from Cooper's Hill, takes its name from the event. The nearest pubs to the event are The Cross Hands and The Victoria, both of which are in Brockworth, which competitors frequent for some pre-event Dutch courage or discussion of tactics, and after the event for convalescence.
This ceremony originally took place each Whit Monday before later transferred to the Spring Bank Holiday. Two possible origins have been proposed for the ceremony. The first is said that it evolved from a requirement for maintaining grazing rights on the common.
The second proposal is pagan origins for the custom of rolling objects down the hill. It is thought that bundles of burning brushwood were rolled down the hill to represent the birth of the New Year after winter. Connected with this belief is the traditional scattering of buns, biscuits and sweets at the top of the hill by the Master of Ceremonies. This is said to be a fertility rite to encourage the fruits of harvest.
Since the fifteenth century the cheese has been rolled down the hill, and people have competed to catch it.
Each year the event becomes more and more popular with contestants coming from all across the world to compete or even simply to watch. In 1993, fifteen people were injured, four seriously, chasing cheeses down the one in three hill.
On 24 March 2010, the organisers blamed backlashes that included death threats following an announcement of how the 2011 event would be run. The plans had been made to conduct the event under mounting pressure from the local council who stipulated it should include security, perimeter fencing to allow crowd control and spectator areas that would charge an entrance fee. The event proceeded without management.
"No-one's going to stop us doing it. They say it's not official but we are all Brockworth people and we're running the cheese today so it is official. We strongly believe in it."—Former winner Helen Thorpe in May 2011.
Richard Jefferies commented:
"Since we announced an entry fee, we have been bombarded with so much hostility and criticism, much of it at a personal level, including accusations of profiteering and some of the committee have even received threats."—Cheese Rolling Committee spokesman Richard Jefferies speaking in March 2011.
The 2011 event took place without management due to safety concerns over the number of people visiting the event, resulting in the 'Save The Cheese Roll' campaign.  Despite the cancellation and lack of paramedics, around 500 people showed up in 2010 to hold some spontaneous races, with six time champion Chris Anderson winning again. No major injuries were reported.
There used to be a similar tradition, much less frequently maintained, down the side of a coombe known as the Horse’s Manger on the White Horse of Uffington, Oxfordshire. A cart wheel was chased with a cheese as the prize.
An annual cheese-rolling event has taken place in Chester since about 2002 to promote the town's food and drink festival. The rolling takes place on the flat down an obstacle course. No injuries have been reported.
The cheese currently used in the event is 7-9 lb. Double Gloucester, a hard cheese traditionally made in a wheel shape. Each is protected for the rolling by a wooden casing round the side and is decorated with ribbons at the start of the race. Formerly, three cheeses were presented by parishioners, and the cheeses were usually rolled by them. A collection is usually made now to purchase them as well as sweets and also to provide prize money. The current supplier is local cheesemaker Diana Smart and her son Rod, who have supplied the cheese since 1988.
At one time, hessian covers were put on the cheeses. During the Second World War rationing was introduced, preventing the use of a cheese in the event. Consequently, from 1941 to 1954 a wooden "cheese" was used instead with a piece of cheese in a hollow space in the centre of the wooden replica.
In May, 2013, a police inspector warned the 86 year-old cheese maker, Diana Smart, that she could be held responsible for injuries. Chief Superintendent Nigel Avron of Gloucestershire Police also made these comments: "If you are an organiser in some way or some capacity you could potentially be held liable for something that took place at that event".
Due to the steepness and uneven surface of the hill there are usually a number of injuries. A first aid service is provided by the local St John Ambulance (Gloucester, Cheltenham and Stroud Divisions) at the bottom of the hill, with a volunteer rescue group on hand to carry down to them any casualties who do not end up at the bottom through gravity. A number of ambulance vehicles attend the event, since there is invariably at least one, and often several injuries requiring hospital treatment. Cooper's Hill Cheese Rolling has been summarised as "twenty young men chasing a cheese off a cliff and tumbling 200 yards to the bottom, where they are scraped up by paramedics and packed off to hospital."
The race of 2005 was delayed while the ambulances returned from the hospital, all of them having been required to transport casualties from previous races. Nevertheless, it was one of the most popular events in recent years, with many more participants than were able to run in the four races.
Cheese-rolling in popular culture
- Dave Allen brought cheese rolling to a wider audience than just locals, when he visited during his 1970s series, Dave Allen At Large.
- Cheese Rolling was prominently featured in the first episode of the (UK) channel Five series Rory & Paddy's Great British Adventure, broadcast on 13 August 2008, and was described as "the grandaddy of weird sports" by the titular Rory McGrath and Paddy McGuinness.
- Cheese rolling appeared in the television series ER, Season 14 Episode 8, "Coming Home", where a motley bunch of cheese rolling enthusiasts (with accents of dubious accuracy) have a dispute, allowing Morris to demonstrate the Judgement of Solomon.
- The Cheese Rolling festival was briefly mentioned in episode 6x03 of Gilmore Girls "The Ungraduate" in which Logan Huntzberger speaks of his time in Gloucestershire with his friends Finn and Collin. Logan shows his bandaged hand where he had injured himself during the cheese rolling festival.
- Cheese rolling is an online game on the virtual pet site Neopets and carries the same rules.
- The Maccabees video for their song "Can You Give It" features the 2009 event and winner.
- On July 28, 2009, the ESPN programme E:60 covered a five-race event at Cooper's Hill which took place on May 4, 2009.
- In March, 2010, a video game which pays homage to the event titled "Cooper's Hill" was released for the iPhone and iPod Touch.
- Cheese Rolling. BBC Gloucestershire, 2005. Retrieved 31 May 2013. Archived here.
- "American flies in to win Gloucestershire cheese rolling contest". The Guardian. 27 May 2013. Archived from the original on June 2013. Retrieved 29 May 2013.
- "Coopers Hill cheese-rolling fans hold unofficial race". BBC News online. 31 May 2011. Retrieved 31 May 2011.
- "Cheese-maker warned against supplying Gloucester cheese-rolling". BBC News Online. 24 May 2013.
- Anon. "Cheese Rolling on Coopers Hill, Exhibition", Gloucester City and Folk Museums, Gloucester, 14 July 2012.
- "Gloucestershire cheese-rolling off due to safety fears". BBC News. 12 March 2010. Retrieved 30 April 2010.
- http://www.webcitation.org/6H1ZAIEDz Archived here
- Cheese rolling in Chester. BBC Liverpool, 15 March 2006. Retrieved 31 May 2013.
- "Double Gloucester". British Cheese Board, 2013. Retrieved 31 May 2013. Archived here.
- More Cheese Rolling Facts and Information cheese-rolling.co.uk 15 June 2010. Retrieved 28 March 2009. Archived here.
- Quoted in Return to edam, Sydney Morning Herald, 13 November 2008. Retrieved 31 May 2013. Archived here..
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Cheeserolling.|
- Video of cheese heading straight for an amateur cameraman on YouTube.
- Video of girl tumbling down the hill at a past event from YouTube.
- Official website of the Cheese Rolling event
- BBC Gloucestershire multi media features
- SoGlos.com videos and event preview
- www.cheese-rolling.co.uk - Unofficial website focusing on the history of the event through to the present day.