Cooper's Hill Cheese-Rolling and Wake

Coordinates: 51°49′48″N 2°09′29″W / 51.82991°N 2.15812°W / 51.82991; -2.15812
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

51°49′48″N 2°09′29″W / 51.82991°N 2.15812°W / 51.82991; -2.15812

A view down Cooper's Hill, from the start point of the race to the finish (where the dog-walkers are). The face of the hill itself is concave, and hence cannot be seen from this angle. The bottom posts are signs from the local council requesting that, to avoid soil erosion, people do not walk on the face of the hill. The posts are removed for the annual event.

The Cooper's Hill Cheese-Rolling and Wake is an annual event held on the Spring Bank Holiday at Cooper's Hill, near Gloucester in England.[1] Participants race down the 200-yard (180 m) long hill chasing a wheel of Double Gloucester cheese. The event has a long tradition, held by the people of the local village of Brockworth, but now people from all over the world take part. The Guardian called it a "world-famous event", with winners coming from Australia, Belgium, Canada, Egypt, Japan, New Zealand and the United States.[2][3]

The most recent event was held on 29 May 2023.[4]

For 2024 the event takes place on May 27 and normally takes place on the last Monday in May.[5]

Format[edit]

From the top of the hill, a 7–9 pounds (3–4 kilograms) round of Double Gloucester cheese is sent rolling down the hill, which is 200 yards (180 m) long. Competitors then start racing down the hill after the cheese.[6] The first person over the finish line at the bottom of the hill wins the cheese. The competitors aim to catch the cheese; however, it has around a one-second head start and can reach high speeds, enough to knock over and injure a spectator. Multiple races are held during the day, with separate events for men and women.

In the 2013 competition, a foam replica replaced the cheese for safety reasons.

History[edit]

A race on 27 May 2013

This ceremony originally took place each Whit Monday, but was later moved to the Spring Bank Holiday. The first written evidence of cheese rolling is found in a message written to the Gloucester town crier in 1826;[7] even then it was apparent that the event was an old tradition, and it is believed to be at least six hundred years old.[8][9]

Two possible origins have been proposed for the ceremony. First, it may have evolved from a requirement for maintaining grazing rights on the common.[8][10] Second, there may be 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.[11] This is said to be a fertility rite to encourage the fruits of harvest.[10]

In 1982, a team of students from the University of Bristol filmed the 31 May event[12] using film cameras, with one camera overcranked to produce slow motion.[13]

In 1993, fifteen people were injured, four of them seriously injured, chasing cheeses down the hill with its one-in-three gradient (18.4 degrees).[10]

In 2009, it was cancelled due to concerns over health and safety. In 2010, a group of journalists and local residents threw a smaller version, keeping in with tradition, to keep grazing rights.

In 2011, the event was officially cancelled due to safety concerns over the number of people visiting the event, resulting in the 'Save the Cheese Roll' campaign.[14] [15] Despite the cancellation, the event continued unofficially with around 500 people attending.

"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 cheese today, so it is official. We strongly believe in it."

— Former winner Helen Thorpe in May 2011.[16]

The event is traditional and takes its name from the steep hill on which it occurs. Until recent years, it was managed in a quasi-official manner by nominated locals, but since 2010 the event has taken place without any management.[16] This has led to concerns over the safety of the event.

In 2020 and 2021, the cheese-rolling event was cancelled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.[17] The cheese-rolling event returned on Sunday 5 June 2022,[18] ending a two-year absence.[19] The spring bank holiday was moved to June 2, followed by an additional bank holiday, to create a four-day jubilee weekend in celebration of Elizabeth II's 70 years of reign.[20]

In 2023, Cooper Cummings from Washington (state), USA, set the record for the fastest ever time in a race of 13 seconds, as recognised by Guinness World Records.[21]

Cheese[edit]

Undated photo of the master of ceremonies holding the cheese

The cheese currently used in the event is 7–9-pound (3–4-kilogram) Double Gloucester, a hard cheese traditionally made in a circular shape.[22] 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.[10]

Since 1988, the cheese has been supplied by local cheesemaker Diana Smart and her son Rod from their Churcham farm, although Diana Smart has now retired.[6][23][24] In May 2013, a police inspector warned the 86-year-old Smart that she could be held responsible for injuries.[6] Chief Superintendent Nigel Avron of Gloucestershire Constabulary 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".[6] In recent years, organisers of the event have felt compelled to use a lightweight foam version for safety reasons. In the second race of 2013, Australian Caleb Stalder managed to catch the fake cheese and claim victory despite being some way behind the leaders.[25]

Injuries[edit]

Due to the steepness and uneven surface of Cooper's Hill, there are usually several injuries each year. [26] St John Ambulance have previously provided first aid cover at the event, however this stopped in 2012 when the event was no longer being officially managed.[27]

Canadian competitor Delaney Irving won the ladies race in 2023, despite finishing unconscious, and only learning of her victory in the medical enclosure.[28] A total of 6 competitors were transported to hospital by Ambulance treatment following the event. [26]

Cooper's Hill Cheese Rolling has been summarised by a previous participant 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".[29]

There is no official medical provision on site, leading to concerns from the Local resilience forum about the safety of the event. [30]

Results[edit]

Winners of the Cooper's Hill Cheese-Rolling & Wake
Year Race 1 Race 2 Race 3
(Women's race)
Race 4 Race 5
(from 2006)
Notes/Reference
1952 Tom Holliday Hugh Atkinson Hilary Cooke [31]
1953 Tom Holliday Ronald Ray Rosemary Cooke [31]
1954 Michael Price Eric Avent Elke Ellaway Hugh Atkinson [31]
1955 Michael Price Hugh Atkinson Rosemary Cooke Roy Holliday [31]
1956 Michael Price Hugh Atkinson Rosemary Cooke (new record 3 wins) Glyn Jenkins [31] Rosemary Cooke sets the record of 3 wins in the ladies race.[31]
1957 Izzy John Hugh Atkinson June Wheeler Frank Faulkner [31]
1977 Tony Hendzell David Lawlor Megan Morris Rory Martin [31]
1978 Tony Hendzell John Lowe Janice McGrory Stephen Gyde [31]
1979 Stephen Gyde Stephen Gyde Candice Phillips Tony Hendzell [31]
1980 Stephen Gyde Stephen Gyde Mandy Day Stephen Gyde [31]
1981 Kevin Gyde Kevin Gyde Amanda Turner Andy Fuller [31]
1982 Stephen Gyde Stephen Gyde Amanda Turner Kevin Gyde [31]
1983 Colin Hill Stephen Gyde Amanda Turner (joint record 3 wins) 'Digger' Gardener [31] Amanda Turner sets joint record 3 wins in ladies race.[31]
1984 Stephen Gyde Steven Brain Claudia Dart Ian Campbell [31]
1985 Stephen Gyde Stephen Gyde Leticia Burns Costas Logothetis [32][31]
1986 Steven Brain Steven Brain Leticia Burns Stephen Gyde [32][31]
1987 Steven Brain Stephen Gyde Rebecca Haines Steven Brain [32]
1988 Stephen Gyde Stephen Gyde Rebecca Haines Steven Brain [32]
1989 Paul Andres Lawrence Farlow Kathleen Underwood Julian Pritchard [31]
1990 Steven Brain Stephen Gyde Jacqueline McGinn Steven Brain [32]
1991 Stephen Gyde Stephen Gyde Christie Sweeney Stephen Gyde [32][31] Stephen Gyde sets all time record at 21 wins, then retires.[31]
1992 Terry Sawczuk Stuart Heggs - Rob Preece Star Royles [31]
1993 Rob Preece Rob Preece - Jamie Barnes Andrew Deveson [31]
1994 Rob Preece Andrew Deveson - Star Royles Craig Carter [31]
1995 Stephen Brain Jonathan Smith Claire Carter Darren Yates [33][32]
1996 Steven Brain Harry Hancy Marie Andow John Shelton [31]
1997 Steven Brain Steven Brain Tina Rimmer Craig Carter [34][35]
1998 Peter Astman Amelia Hardwick [36] 2 races abandoned for safety, due to 33 injuries the previous year
1999 Steven Brain Steven Brain Helen Thorpe Steven Brain [37]
2000 Steven Brain Steven Brain Kirby Shepherd Craig Brown [38]
2001 [39] Event abandoned due to foot-and-mouth disease; however, a single cheese was still rolled down the hill to maintain tradition.
2002 Simon Fowler Craig Brown Saskia Thomas Jack Williams [40][31] Event took place on Tuesday due to Queen's Jubilee celebrations
2003 [41] Event abandoned due to volunteer safety team being diverted to Algeria following their earthquake; a solitary cheese was rolled by the committee a few days later to retain tradition.
2004 Nepal Padam Shreer New Zealand Marc Ellis New Zealand Dionne Carter Aaron Walden [42][43] Race 1 winner - British Army Gurkha. Race 2 winner - former New Zealand All Black Marc Ellis.
2005 Jason Crowther Chris Anderson New Zealand Dionne Carter Aaron Walden [1][44] Images and references by BBC.
2006 Jason Crowther Craig Fairley New Zealand Dionne Carter (joint record 3 wins) Chris Anderson Andrew Brewin [45] 5th race added for more competitors.
2007 Jason Crowther Aaron Walden New Zealand Jemima Bullock Alan Morris Chris Anderson [29][46]
2008 Chris Anderson Peter Mackenzie-Shaw Flo Early Craig Fairley Australia Wade Sansom [47]
2009 Chris Anderson Wales Scott Bevan New Zealand Michelle Kokiri-Gisbon Chris Anderson Australia Josh Geitz [48][49][50]
2010 Chris Anderson Craig Fairley Tanya Silverman Chris Anderson [51]
2011 Chris Anderson Chris Anderson Jo Guest Chris Anderson [52][53][16]
2012 Chris Anderson Chris Anderson Lucy Townsend Craig Fairley [54]
2013 United States Kenny Rackers Australia Keleb Stalder Lucy Townsend Ryan Fairley Japan Tomoaki Tanaka [25][55][2]
2014 Joshua Shepherd Ryan Fairley Lucy Townsend (joint record 3 wins) Sheldon Ronald [56][57] Ladies Joint Record 3 wins (equal)
2015 Chris Anderson Ryan Fairley Keavy Morgan Chris Anderson [58]
2016 Chris Anderson Chris Anderson Flo Early Ryan Fairley[59] [60][61]
2017 Chris Anderson Chris Anderson Keavy Morgan Chris Anderson [62]
2018 Chris Anderson Christopher Parperis Flo Early Chris Anderson [63][64][65][62] Anderson sets new all-time record 22 race wins
2019 Max McDougall[66] Ryan Fairley Flo Early Canada Mark Kit[67] [68] Flo Early sets ladies all-time record 4 wins
2020 Event cancelled due to COVID-19 pandemic. Cheese still rolled to maintain tradition.[19]
2021 Event cancelled due to COVID-19 pandemic. Cheese still rolled to maintain tradition.[69][70]
2022 Chris Anderson Jamie Evans United States Abby Lampe Belgium Robbe Gabriels (joint winner) Egypt Amr El Shourbagy (joint winner) [3][71] Anderson new all-time record 23 wins[21]
2023 Matt Crolla United States Cooper Cummings Canada Delaney Irving Japan Ryoya Minami [28][72] Cummings set record for fastest race time 13 seconds[21]
2024

Multiple winners[edit]

Men's race[edit]

  • Chris Anderson – 23
  • Stephen Gyde[32][73] – 21
  • Steven Brain[32][74][75] – 18
  • Islwyn "Izzy" John[76] – 13
  • Ryan Fairley – 5
  • Hugh Atkinson – 5 [7][31]
  • Rob Preece – 4
  • Craig Fairley – 4
  • Michael Price - 3 [31]
  • Tony Hendzell - 3 [31]
  • Kevin Gyde - 3 [31]
  • Aaron Walden – 3
  • Jason Crowther – 3
  • Tom Holliday - 2 [31]
  • Star Royles – 2 [31]
  • Andrew Deveson – 2
  • Craig Carter – 2
  • Craig Brown – 2 [32]

Ladies' race[edit]

  • Flo Early – 4 (2008, 2016, 2018, 2019)
  • Rosemary Cooke – 3 (1953, 1955, 1956)[31]
  • Amanda Turner – 3 (1981, 1982, 1983)[31]
  • Dionne Carter New Zealand – 3 (2004, 2005, 2006)
  • Lucy Townsend – 3 (2012, 2013, 2014)
  • Leticia Burns – 2 (1985, 1986)[31]
  • Rebecca Haines – 2 (1987, 1988)[32]
  • Keavy Morgan – 2 (2015, 2017)

Similar events[edit]

Cheese-rolling in Chester in 2008

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.[77]

Cheese-rolling in popular culture[edit]

The Cheese Rollers Pub & Restaurant, Shurdington 2019
  • Early 70's: The New Inn pub was renamed ‘The Cheese Rollers Bar & Restaurant’ in the early 1970's.[78] Located in the neighbouring village of Shurdington is named after the event, and has a collection of previous cheese casings along with photos and articles about the event.[78]
  • 1982: A short documentary film ‘Cheese Rolling Day May 31, 1982’, written and directed by James Hartzell, and filmed by University of Bristol students and friends, analyses the event happening that day.[13]
  • 1997: The cheese rolling event appears in episode 16 of the novel Mason & Dixon by author Thomas Pynchon. In the scene, Charles Mason himself is nearly struck by a large cheese-wheel rolling down the hill.
  • 2005: A children's computer game from Neopets named "Cheeseroller", involves different varieties of outlandish cheeses, rolled down a 120-metre hill in under 60 seconds, negotiating obstacles on route. Points are awarded for grade of cheese difficulty and speed of descent.[79]
  • 2007: 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.
  • 2008: Cheese rolling was prominently featured in the first episode of the UK television 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.[47]
  • 2011: Cheese rolling footage from SoGlos was used in Off the Air at the end of the series premiere episode "Animals".
  • 2014: The NPR news quiz show Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me featured cheese-rolling in a 'Not My Job' segment with skier Mikaela Shiffrin.[80]
  • 2018: The contest was the subject of the BBC One programme The Great Cheese Chase.[81] The contest was part of the German reality show Joko gegen Klaas - Das Duell um die Welt, where German former football Thorsten Legat was supposed to participate, but at the end refused to do so.[82]
  • 2019: The race was parodied in Disney Junior series Mickey and the Roadster Racers S2.E18 "Super-Charged: The Big Cheesy". Clarabelle Cow’s gift of jeweled dog collars for the queen gets stuck on the cheese wheel and Goofy and the gang chase it around London.[83]
  • 2019: Let's Roll is a short film directed by Chris Thomas[84] about a teenage girl Antonia (Amy Bowden) attempting to emulate her brother's successes in the cheese rolling. The film was screened at BAFTA-qualifying film festivals: Norwich and Edinburgh.[85][86]
  • 2019: Royal Mail issue a collectable stamps edition of UK Weird and Wonderful Customs which includes Bog snorkelling at Llanwrtyd Wells, World Gurning Championship at Egremont, Up Helly Aa in Lerwick, Burning the Clocks in Brighton, 'Obby 'Oss festival in Padstow, Samhain Celtic festival (Halloween) at Derry, Horn Dance at Abbots Bromley and Cheese-Rolling at Cooper's Hill.[87][88]
  • 2020: Netflix released a documentary We are the Champions, covers six bizarre events and competitions from across the world, starting with Cheese-Rolling at Cooper's Hill. The Cheese-Rolling follows Flo Early in her preparations for 2019 and her attempt to win the ladies race for the fourth time, which had never been achieved before.[89]
  • 2020: Channel 4 reality show Gogglebox featured the Netflix documentary named We are the Champions, following Flo Early's historical achievement in the 2019 ladies cheese rolling race.[90]
  • 2020: The Spanish folk metal band Saurom released a song about the cheese rolling called El Queso Rodante on their album Música.[91]
  • 2021: The game Animal Crossing: New Horizons has a special item called Double Gloucester cheese that is only available from May 22 to May 31, the period when this event takes place.[92]
  • 2023: The folk bands The Longest Johns and El Pony Pisador wrote a song about the cheese rolling called Wheels of Glory on their album The Longest Pony.[93]
  • 2023: Seize the Cheese! A New Musical, performed at New Wimbledon Theatre in November 2023, a poignant comedy about cheese rollers, written and directed by Mike Stocks with songs by Patrick Steed. The Cheese was played by Travis Wood, and the Keeper of the Cheese by Cathy McManamon.[94]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]