A ‘Save the Cheese Roll’ campaign to ensure the survival of the ancient cheese rolling tradition at Coopers Hill, near Gloucester, has been launched.
The Cheese Rolling Committee has decided the event must expand into a professionally organised, ticketed, two day festival with live bands, country crafts, traditional games and overnight camping, in order to survive.
The cheese rolling, traditionally held on Spring Bank Holiday Monday, was the victim of its own popularity in 2009 when 15,000 spectators turned up to a venue equipped to hold only 5,000, resulting in the cancellation of the 2010 event due to fears over traffic and crowd safety.
The Save the Cheese Roll campaign was launched at the Royal William pub, near the site, on January 20, when the committee unveiled details of the new-look event and plans to win major sponsorship to cover the increased costs involved.
The committee has now called in Cheltenham based Events and Management Services to organize the new-look two-day festival for 2011 and has appointed Moose Marketing and PR to handle marketing and help raise sponsorship.
Cheese Rolling Committee spokesman Nigel Thomas said: “The event really needs to change dramatically if it is to survive. In its present form it attracts just too many people for us to handle safely.
“So we have brought in E&MS to organize a completely new event to include elements of the old Coopers Hill Wake and Moose to co-ordinate publicity and sponsorship.”
Peter Allison, director of E&MS, said: “We will be looking at ways to include live music and country crafts and we are planning to change the date from Spring Bank Holiday to the weekend of June 11/12.
“We would also like to reintroduce the ‘wake’ series of rustic games and competitions, like shin kicking, tug of war, dancing for ribbons, wrestling for a belt, grinning through horses collar for a cake, ducking for oranges, bobbing for penny loaves, climbing the maypole and coconut shies.
“We have been in continuous talks with police and emergency services, highways agency and local authorities and we are also in consultation with the immediate Cooper’s Hill community.
“Whatever happens, we are determined to make it a family orientated event with proper parking, crowd control and traffic control, with public safety as a priority.
“All this will cost money so, inevitably, we will have to charge an entrance fee for the festival and it will have to be over two days to make it financially viable.”
Mark Owen MD of Moose said: “We are now actively seeking sponsorship at both national and local level to offset the considerable costs involved.
“This will be a tremendous opportunity for sponsors to get local, regional and worldwide exposure, as the event is televised around the world. More than seven million Germans alone watched the last event on their national television.
“It also has a big following in Japan, America, South Africa and France with competitors coming from as far afield as Canada and New Zealand.
“Although we are not officially launching until Thursday we already have a number of sponsors in the pipeline, including Gloucester Quays designer outlet and Gloucestershire First county economic partnership.”
Nigel Thomas added: “Whatever the format, we are determined not to lose the atmosphere, heritage and tradition which have made this such a special event.”
David Owen, of Gloucestershire First, said: “The survival of the cheese rolling is absolutely vital to the county economy as it not only attracts thousands of visitors to the area but also puts the county on the international tourism map.”
For more information on cheese rolling visit the cheese rolling website holding page at www.cheeserollingfestival.co.uk Tickets go on sale via the internet in March – details to be released in due course.