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 the Cotswolds region of 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 event takes its name from the hill on which it occurs.
The event is officially on a hiatus, the 2010 event having been cancelled due to safety concerns. Despite this, an unofficial event was held and it is hoped to revive the official version in the future.
From the top of the hill a 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.
"The Cheese Rollers" pub 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 some convalescence.
Cooper's Hill is a stop on the Cotswold Way.
Accurate information is hard to come by, but the tradition is at least 200 years old. Each year the event becomes more and more popular with contestants coming from all across the world to compete or even simply to spectate.
The 2010 event was officially cancelled due to safety concerns over the number of people visiting the event, but it is hoped that it will be held on a June weekend in 2011, following the launch of a 'Save The Cheese Roll' campaign.
Despite the cancellation and lack of paramedics, around 500 people showed up in 2010 to hold some unofficial races, with six time champion Chris Anderson winning again. No major injuries were reported.
On 24 March 2011, it was announced that the event was to be cancelled for another year. 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. At this stage the future of the event remains unknown.
The cheese used in the event is Double Gloucester, a hard cheese typically manufactured in cylindrical blocks. The current supplier is local cheesemaker Diana Smart, who has supplied the cheese since 1988.
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.
Due to the steepness and uneven surface of the hill there are usually a number of injuries, ranging from sprained ankles to broken bones and concussion. 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 chase a cheese off a cliff and tumble 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.