Threats and hostility finally kill off Cheese Rolling Festival
The organisers of the traditional cheese rolling on Cooper’s Hill have decided to call it a day after running the gauntlet of threats and abuse over the proposed introduction of a £20 entrance fee.
At a meeting on Tuesday night, the Cheese Rolling Committee decided that the public backlash to the new two-day paid-for formula has made the event unworkable.
Individual committee members have reported being subjected to verbal abuse, being spat at in the street and threatened with violence both to themselves and their homes.
It is feared that the event, whose roots go back hundreds of years, will now die.
Ironically, the cheese rolling has been a victim of its own success, as the last event in 2009 attracted a crowd of about 15,000 to a venue equipped to cope with only 5,000.
For that reason the 2010 event was cancelled over worries about health and safety and traffic management and it was decided to revive the tradition for 2011 as a properly organised and controlled two-day festival with races and the re-introduction of the wake games.
But the outcry against the introduction of a £20 entry fee was the final nail in the coffin for the committee, which is composed of residents of the Cooper’s Hill area.
Cheese Rolling Committee spokesman Richard Jefferies said: “We have decided very reluctantly that expanding the event to create a ticketed two day festival is unworkable.
“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.
“People have been spat at in the street, received verbal abuse in shops and at school gates and there has even been talk of bricks through windows and houses being burned down.
“We have also endured a torrent of on-line criticism and abuse from cowards who failed to identify themselves by hiding behind false identities. It has been horrific.
“We find these insults, accusations and threats hurtful, frightening and totally unjustified. The committee members have always given freely of their time and effort for years without making a brass farthing from it.
“In the past we have always cleared the ground of any rubbish or dangerous broken glass beforehand, cut back the grass and gone over it afterwards to pick up the litter.
“There is no way the event could have carried on in its existing form. When it was last run in 2009, about 15,000 people turned up to a venue that cannot really cope with more than about 5,000.
“It was absolutely chaotic, the traffic jams were horrendous and that is why the local authorities told us the event had to change.
“The lion’s share of the money raised by the sale of tickets would have gone towards the extensive costs of running the actual event. A significant amount of money had been raised through sponsorship but not enough to offset the whole cost of running the event.
“We would like to take the opportunity to thank Event and Management Services and Moose Marketing and PR for their excellent professional support and also the County Council, Police Authority and Highways Agency and of course the sponsors who had signed up. We hope they all understand our actions.”
For updated information visit www.cheeserollingfestival.co.uk
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25 March 2011
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