Login Register

Meet the rebel cheese rollers defying health and safety ban

By The Citizen  |  Posted: May 24, 2013

  • Rob Seex, former Master of Ceremonies

  • Rod Smart, 55, who helps run the family cheese business Smart's Traditional Gloucester Cheese at their farm. Rod was told by police not to provide the traditional cheese for the annual Cheese Rolling competition amid safety fears

  • Rod Smart, 55, who helps run the family cheese business Smart's Traditional Gloucester Cheese at their farm. Rod was told by police not to provide the traditional cheese for the annual Cheese Rolling competition amid safety fears

  • Cheese rolling in 2009

  • Diana Smart, cheesemaker, who was told by police not to provide cheeses for the rolling

  • The anonymous rebel cheeserollers

Comments (6)

Rebel rollers are ready to chase the cheese down Coopers Hill after police warned off a grandmother from supplying them with a Double Gloucester.

“I am not sure what we are going to chase, but we will be there,” said one, who did not wish to be named. “It's just really important that a cheese is rolled.”

The centuries-old tradition is set to go ahead, “unofficially” on Bank Holiday Monday, after Diana Smart hit national headlines.

As The Citizen revealed this week, she was told by police she could be liable for any damages arising from the event if she supplied a cheese as she had since 1988.

Related content

The story was picked up by national newspapers, TV and radio, and prompted outrage from many who believed the police were wrong to approach her.

Today, Gloucestershire Constabulary insisted they didn't “ban” Mrs Smart from supplying a cheese, but an officer told her and son Rod that in the absence of a recognised organiser, anyone who facilitates the event could be deemed to be an organiser by default and attract legal liability issues that come with hosting the cheese rolling.

It's unlikely to become an organised event again unless a big money backer steps forward with £250,000.

The Citizen revealed yesterday that Gloucestershire police had warned cheesemaking grandmother Diana Smart not to sell a round of cheese to the "unofficial" event. Now one of the former organisers has explained that the finances of putting on an organised event just don't stack up.

Rob Seex, who set the cheese rolling down the famous 200 yard hill from 1990 until 2009, won't be there on Bank Holiday Monday.

"When I started, the car park cost £1 a car and we needed 300 to 400 cars to pay for the event," he said. "When I finished we charged £5 a car and we needed 1,400 to 1,500 in the car park. It was the unofficial publicity that nobbled it. There's room for about 2,000 on the hill and the police told us there were about 14,000 there.

"We were told that it could queue back to the motorway and we could be liable for it. The costs of setting it up were about £250,000, which we couldn't do."

Since 2010, cheese rollers have held so-called "unofficial" chases down the hill on the late Spring Bank Holiday to continue the tradition which is documented to the early 1800s – but probably went on well before then.

There is no official medical cover but those taking part say it's up to the individual whether they want to chase the cheese. One of those intending to run said she understood why the organisers withdrew three years ago.

"But how can the police stop someone selling cheese and someone else running after it?

"No-one is forcing anyone to do it."

A police statement issued today said: "Following national news coverage and concerns from the public regarding an unofficial cheese rolling event in Gloucestershire we feel it is important to address inaccuracies and the key issues that the public have raised.

"Several months ago one police officer visited the son and mother who in the past have produced the cheese for both official and unofficial cheese rolling events.

"The purpose of this visit was to advise them that, in the absence of a recognised organiser, anyone that facilitates the event could be deemed to be an organiser by default. In this case that person could then attract the legal liability issues that come with hosting the cheese rolling.

"We felt, and still feel, that it is important that those who, by law, could be constituted as organisers of the event are aware of the responsibilities that come with it so that they can make an informed decision about their participation.

"The same information was given to others who could be deemed as ‘organisers’.

"Those that were visited by the officer thanked him for his time and the advice. In February they were also sent a letter confirming the information that had been given and encouraging them to contact the officer if they had any questions or queries.

"No one has been “banned” from making or providing the cheese."

Read more from Gloucester Citizen

Do you have something to say? Leave your comment here...

max 4000 characters

6 comments

  • Nerva  |  May 24 2013, 2:26PM

    Good to know that the local Plod is expanding from chasing criminals into the PR biz. Now that operation "DoubleGloucesterCheeseRollingatCoopersHill" has been 'exposed' in the Citizen, thanks to an elderly cheese-maker who was warned (or should that be 'advised') by Plod not to supply cheeses. The story was too good to miss by the national media, and all papers I have seen today, from the tabloids to the 'posh' titles have a little fun with this. Great PR for the event! So now Plod could be faced with increased traffic as the curious from far and wide head for Coopers Hill on Monday. What's the betting that the Plod will blame the media for all the extra traffic ...

    |   10
  • thomas1996  |  May 24 2013, 11:10AM

    The extra thousands of people are likely tourists & non-locals from way outside the area. I suspect like me the 3,000 who turned up last year & 500 the year before were Gloucester people who walked up. Surely all the police have to do is shut the main road in both directions for just a short time before and as the races are on as the car drivers are the extra people who turn up just before 12 and want to park on the road all the way up the hill. If the road was shut for ordinary traffic (the diversion down the hill is via Nut Hill) surely this would prevent all the latecomers clogging up the road and ultimately the hill itself.

    |   3
  • zorro  |  May 24 2013, 10:22AM

    last year approx 3000 turned up the cheese roll the crosshands pub opened the field which is huge and they filled it and charged 5 pounds and people walked up, there was no traffic problems at all there was no queues, there was no traffic management it was not needed, the cross hands staff managed there own car park it was simple and not complicated and I was outside the cross hands from 11 until it finished watching and monitoring, there was a police paddy wagon parked in the bus stop opposite the cross hands pub ? and it would move now and then and drive up and down the road, the roads at all times were not congested, so where are we coming from here, over the years the parking has been at the top of the hill so people did not have far to walk, walking up that hill is a feat in itself, and would put many off if the parking was at the bottom of the hill, so hence the field at the bottom could be used for people who feel they cant make the climb, its only the locals that know the other ways onto the hill, there was no injuries last year nor the year before, in fact there has been no injuries since its been so called unofficial, that does not mean there wont be in the future, I have spoke to alan bentley 2 months ago, and he is the county councils main man on the cheese roll, he is not interested in getting together with the locals to help, because it is about profit, the interest the county council showed after 2009, proves it, they were never interested before that .

    |   6
  • zorro  |  May 24 2013, 9:55AM

    there was never a problem until the year when they said 15000 people turned up which is an Exaggeration of the truth, so what changed in 2009 than what happened in 2008 or any year previous, nothing only that more people turned up than normal since then, those numbers have not turned up last year there was approx 3000, the year before 500, (this year we will see.) the numbers also depends on the weather, so every year it would be different significantly less if it rained, there is a field at the bottom of the hill that can be used to fill over crowding owned by the parish council. and they would watch it from there, if they dont like it they can go back home, so what does 250.000 pounds do for an extra couple of thousand people nothing, the powers to be the county council, after 200 years the county council eyes lit up and recognised for the first time there was a cheese roll on there doorstep saw a nice little earner and to promote the failed shopping complex at gloucester docks that cost the council millions, a pure waste of money, so tell me mr seex what is the 250.000 pounds for, when nothing has changed just 1 year more people than usual turned up

    |   7
  • NibNobs  |  May 24 2013, 8:45AM

    Walker100, They were talking about giant screens so that people can watch away from the hill itself. Problem is - few will want to watch them. They said money would also be needed to 'police' the event with private security stopping too many people getting up the hill. Problem is - there are so many different ways to get up the hill, it's near impossible to cover all of the woods without big fences needed for what is just a couple of hours. All the police have to do is close the road to all but non-emergency vehicles going up the A46 at the cross hands roundabout for 2 hours, that will put off non-locals who won't want to walk too far from their car. Bring your own cheese! See you up there at 12 noon on Monday

    |   15
  • Walker100  |  May 24 2013, 8:25AM

    Can someone please explain exactly what this £250k is spent on?

    |   12

      YOUR COMMENTS AWAITING MODERATION

       
       
       

      MORE NEWS HEADLINES