I was pleased to see that the cheese rolling went ahead on Coopers Hill on Monday despite dire warnings by the police.
The event has taken place since the early 1800s but, like other wacky British traditions, in this age of global media it has become a worldwide sensation and people flock from all around the world to witness our insanity. Coopers Hill doesn’t lend itself to big crowds and especially not all of their cars, so it became a victim of its own success.
First there was an attempt to commercialise the event and, when that failed, it was cancelled.
But what the police and council didn’t reckon on was that the sort of people who are crazy enough to throw themselves down a one in three hill tend not to take too much notice of those trying to enforce rules on them. And as long as there are crazy people throwing themselves down a one in three hill people will come to watch and there’s not a lot that you can do about it.
And so the cheese rolling has continued ‘unofficially’, and I think that is good. This is a local mad-cap tradition and to commercialise it seems wrong. Making it an unofficial, subversive event feels more in keeping somehow.
The police tried to stop it, warning that anyone who could be deemed an organiser will be held liable for any damages, going so far as to stop cheese maker Diana Smart selling her famous Double Gloucester cheese for the event.
So, the problem comes down to liability. This is a real problem in these days of ‘where there’s blame there’s a claim’, but surely in an event like this, no matter who the organisers are, there is no blame. If someone decides that they want to chase a cheese down a one in three hill they have to be all too aware of the danger and have only themselves to blame and therefore no one to sue; if the law thinks otherwise then it really is an ass.
So let the cheese rolling continue – it is going to happen anyway, so by all means police the area to stop excessive parking and criminal damage. Keep it unofficial, let Diana provide the cheese, and, for the love of the gods, let there be a St John’s ambulance presence.
Oh yes, and make sure that local champion Chris Anderson gets given leave by the army so that we don’t have all these foreigners swooping in and winning!