Famous Stilton Cheese Rolling cancelled due to lack of interest, costs and safety threat

The famous annual Stilton Cheese Rolling event has been cancelled this year, with organisers citing a lack of interest, spiralling costs and the threat to public safety.

Monday, 22nd January 2018, 9:44 am
Updated Monday, 22nd January 2018, 5:12 pm
Stilton Cheese Rolling 2017: Anna's team in action EMN-170105-193001009. Picture: David Lowndes

In a long Facebook post outlining the reasons behind the decision to cancel the event in the village off the A1, the Stilton Community Association said it had made up its mind after months of discussion.

The factors which swayed the organisers to cancel the annual May Day event included:

. A lack of enthusiasm - there have not been enough teams in four years to make it a real contest

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. The team who ran the races retired after last year’s event and have not been replaced

. The costs of putting on the event escalate every year. In recent years the event has just about broken even

. There are “serious security problems.” Organisers say as there will not be a police presence they have to employ professional security. Moreover, the event has had a “reputation of a pleasant, family friendly day out,” they said, but in recent years “the atmosphere has changed and the issue of under age drinking has threatened our safety.” That problem includes verbal abuse of volunteers

. Parking problems which cause congestion beyond Norman Cross.

The organisers added: “We are sorry to disappoint all those who have taken part, some for many years. We regret the loss of revenue by both local businesses and village organisations, and we have the task of cancelling many attractions that come year after year, but it appears times have changed and perhaps some other people will come forward with new ideas.

“We want to thank so many people who, over more than 30 years, have been generous with their time and assistance. We hope some of them will want to take up the challenge and Cheese Rolling will be back in 2019.”

The Stilton Parish Council website says no-one knows how far back the tradition of rolling cheese goes.

But explaining how the event became a tradition in the village, it adds: “By mid-20th Century Stilton had become a rather quiet place having been by-passed by the A1.

“The inns and businesses had seen a big drop in their trade, so the enterprising landlord of one of the pubs decided to revive an ancient tradition. Or so he told everyone!

“He could be seen rolling a Stilton Cheese along the road outside his pub. People came to stand and watch and eventually joined in. And so the sport began – again.”

The competition sees teams of four take part in a knockout competition, with all members of the team having to roll the cheese at least once.

Reacting to the news North West Cambridgeshire MP Shailesh Vara, who regularly attended and spoke at the event, said: “This is a sad day for the many people who have regularly enjoyed the activities of our famous Stilton Cheese Rolling. For many it was the highlight of the bank holiday weekend.

“A big well done is due to all those who made the event possible over so many years, giving fun to so many people. I’m sure many people will agree with me that we hope the event will return in the near future.”