Dairy Despots: British Police Threaten 86-Year-Old Cheese Maker

by Ian Tuttle

The “Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Rolling and Wake” is a sporting event unlike any other. Each spring for two centuries, hundreds of competitors have gathered in Brockworth, Gloucestershire, in southwest England to chase a cheese wheel one foot in diameter the 200 yards down Cooper’s Hill. Very rarely does someone catch the cheese, which can roll at speeds topping 70 mph.

This year, though, there might be no cheese to chase. The Telegraph reports that British police visited the home of 86-year-old Diana Smart, the farmer who has been making the event’s hunk of Traditional Double Gloucester for the past quarter-century, and threatened her with liability for any injuries that may occur during the race if she supplies the cheese in the coming year:

Mrs. Smart said the “heavy handed” police visited her home last week and told [her] in a “threatening” manner she would be responsible for any injuries caused – and so has pulled out.

“They threatened me, saying I would be wholly responsible if anyone got injured,” she said. “I’m 86, I don’t have the will or the cash to fight any lawsuits. It’s crazy.”

British authorities revoked the event’s government endorsement after 2009, deeming the event too dangerous for official sanction: Several people require medical treatment each year for anything from dislocated shoulders to broken ankles. Since 2009, the cheese has rolled unofficially.

You can watch the Cheese-Rolling (including via helmet-cam) and meet Diana Smart here. (Content warning: Video includes skimpily clothed chubby men and extreme Anglophilia.)

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