Reporter: Hello Callum. Welcome to VOV’s Culture Rendezvous. What is the history of the race?
Callum: The exact origin of the cheese rolling isn't known, but is believed to have started in the early 1800s. Some say the tradition goes as far back as the ancient Romans, who used to have a fort on Cooper's Hill and are credited as the first people to send objects hurtling down its steep slope. The practice is believed to have roots in pagan rituals. It is thought that bundles of burning brushwood were rolled down the hill to represent the birth of the New Year after winter.
|The cheese rolling race in England (Photo: The Telegraph)
Reporter: How is the game played?
Callum: The cheese currently used in the event is 7–9 pounds (3–4 kilograms) Double Gloucester, a hard cheese traditionally made in a circular shape. To start the game, the Master of Ceremony will shout out loud: "One to be ready!", "Two to be steady!", "Three to prepare!", "and four to be off!". And, after that countdown, all the contestants hurl themselves down the incredibly steep slope on Cooper's Hill after the cheese roll. The first person over the finish line at the bottom of the hill wins the cheese. Actually the aim is to catch the cheese. But it’s quite difficult, because it has around a one-second head start and can reach speeds up to 70 miles per hour.
Reporter: It sounds dangerous, doesn’t it?
Callum: It is. Due to the steepness and uneven surface of Cooper's Hill, there are usually a number of injuries each year. There was 1 participant described the race 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". Up until 2009, the Cheese-Rolling was an official event. But it was called off over concerns for the safety of the spectators. This, however, hasn’t stopped the locals from continuing the tradition. Regardless of the risks involved and the pressure from local council to address them, Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Rolling keeps coming back every year. As a safety precaution, the cheese was replaced by a foam replica in 2013.
|Chris Anderson is a 13-time winner (Photo: The Guardian)
Reporter: Are there any medical service on duty to help those who are injured during the race?
Callum: Of course, yes. A first aid service is provided by the local St John Ambulance(Gloucester, Cheltenham and Stroud Divisions) at the bottom of the hill. Members of the local rugby club and Young Farmers volunteer their services by acting as 'catchers' for any participants who lose their balance and also are on hand to carry down any casualties requiring first aid who do not reach the bottom.
Reporter: I can say that despite its dangerousness, the event is quite exciting and funny. Is there any fun things that ever happened?
Callum: There is a fun fact about the cheese. There has been only 1 person who made the cheese for the competition since 1988. That’s Ms. Diana Smart in Churcham, Gloucestershire. She uses milk from her herd of Brown Swiss, Holstein and Gloucester cows. She is the only person in Gloucestershire making Double Gloucester cheese using traditional methods. In 2013, the police warned beloved cheese maker, Diana Smart, that she could be held responsible if anyone was injured while chasing her cheese down the hill. As a result a foam cheese was used for one year, but real cheese made a triumphant return in 2014.
And one more fact. During the second world war rationing prevented the use of real cheese for the event. From 1941 to 1954, a wooden 'cheese' was rolled down the hill with a small piece of real cheese in the centre. The Ministry of Food had to give special permission to use cheese in this way.
Reporter: Thank you so much for your fascinating story about the Cheese Rolling race in England. We hope to see you again soon.