It was only a matter of time before this year’s annual cheese-rolling festival made it into the tabloid newspapers as a prime example of how ‘elf ‘n’ safety’ had gone truly mad. As has been covered before by numerous blogs on a number of occasions, this event was cancelled last year because the event had grown to big for the location. Traffic congestion and parking were particularly problematic and forced the organisers to postpone the event whilst they looked at making suitable arrangements in order to hold the event again. At no point did health and safety play any part in the cancellation of the event.
Well, the event is now returning with the relevant changes having been made, but the media narrative remains the same: ‘That stinks! Uproar as ancient cheese-rolling festival organisers charge £20 entry (and blame elf ‘n’ safety)’. The headline is a long way from being accurate. For starters, the nature of the event has changed and the £20 charge is being levied for entrance to a day’s worth of entertainment – described as ‘rustic games and competitions’.
The Daily Mail is quick to identify the motivations behind these changes:
there’s no surprise that the twin evils of elf ‘n safety [sic] and commercial gain are to blame.
Ignoring the Daily Mail’s laughable complaint about commercial gain – coming from a paper that will write almost anything for the same reason – it is not surprising that nowhere in the article is the claim about health and safety backed-up. All that is mentioned is that the local authorities demanded that the organisers have in place a ‘comprehensive traffic and crowd control plan, limiting the amount of people on the hill'; something that fits in with the reason that the past event was cancelled: the event had outgrown the location and the informal way in which it was run.
This restriction of spectators amounts to 5,000 tickets being available per day to people wanting to watch or participate in the cheese-rolling on the hill – whilst an enclosed area at the bottom of the hill will remain free to the general public with the races being shown on large screens. The organisers justify the charge by pointing out the cost of staging an obviously popular event:
‘Once you try and restrict the spectators, you have to introduce perimeter fencing and security arrangements which are unfortunately all very expensive and we have to find a way to pay for it.’
Nothing here is striking me as unreasonable. This isn’t about health and safety, or even people trying to make a bit of money, it just seems to be about an event that has grown over the years until there was no choice but to organise it more formally.
As for the ‘uproar’ mentioned in the headline the Daily Mail found a veteran cheese-chaser who said:
I don’t think the hardcore fans will pay £20 per day.
All in all this is just another story rammed into a creaking media narrative that struggles so much for real evidence that ‘elf ‘n’ safety’ has gone mad that it has to resort to silly headlines and unsubstantiated claims. All written from behind the safety of the ‘Daily Mail Reporter’ byline. Whoever wrote this should really question just what it has come to when they write articles that they simply do not want to attach their name to.