By Albert Ray,2014-08-13 13:34
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    (Please check dates before publication)

New Additions to this year’s list (not necessarily new events):

    1. Burns supper 2009 and the 250th anniversary of the birth of their national bard, Robert Burns. 25 January 2009 and throughout 2009

2. Swamp soccer world championships, 27 and 28 June 2009

3. The world egg throwing competition, 28 June 2009

4. World toe wrestling championship, July 2009. Date TBC

5. The Gathering 2009 and Highland Games, 25 and 26 July 2009

6. The world gravy wrestling championships, 31 August 2009

7. World stone skimming championships, September 2009, date TBC



    When: 6 January 2009 (the twelth day of Christmas)

    Where: Haxey, near Epworth, North Lincolnshire

    Time: Fool‟s speech outside St Nicholas Church at 2pm and Main Hood thrown at 3pm on Hood Field, Cross Hill, Haxey, near Epworth.

    PR Contact: Katie King, Media & PR Assistant, East Midlands Tourism, tel: +44 (0) 115 988 8539 Email:

To the spectator, this event is like a rugby scuffle, this is called the sway, in which a leather tube

    (that represents the hood) is pushed to 1 of 4 pubs where it remains until the following year's game. It is a tradition that dates back to the 14th century when Lady de Mowbray, wife of landowner John De Mowbray, was out riding one day and her silk riding hood was blown away. Thirteen farm workers in the field rushed to help and chased the hood all over the field. It was finally caught by one of the farm workers, but being too shy to hand it back to the lady he gave it to one of the others to hand back to her. She thanked the farm worker who had returned the hood and said that he had acted like a Lord, whereas the worker who had actually caught the hood was a Fool. She was so impressed by this act of chivalry and the resulting chase that she donated 13 acres of land on condition that the chase for the hood would be re-enacted each year. This re-enactment over the centuries has become known as "The Haxey Hood".


    When: 9, 10 and 11 January 2009

    Where: Whittlesey, Cambridgeshire

Time: 10.30am 3.15pm

    PR Contact: Brian Kell, tel: +44 (0)1733 208 245 or Janice Kent, East of England Tourism, tel: 01284 727 487



    Teddy bears have a place in most children‟s bedrooms. However straw bears are a little more unusual. Once a year, at the Whittlesey Straw Bear Festival, visitors can see a real-life straw bear. He will be part of an elaborate parade around the town centre attended by a host of dancers and musicians including Morris Dance teams and sword dancers. The bear is actually a man covered from head to toe in a straw costume. During the 19th century, straw bears - men or boys clothed in a layer of straw - were a familiar sight on Plough Monday (The first Monday after 6 January). The straw bear is said to be a throwback to Pagan times. The bear dances to encourage crops to grow in the spring. It was an uncomfortable costume, with lengths of tightly twisted straw bands prepared and wound up the arms, legs and body of the man or boy who was chosen. Two sticks were fastened to the shoulders and met at a point over his head. Straw was then wound round them to form a cone above the „bear's‟ head. A tail was provided and a strong chain fastened around the armpits. The bear danced in front of houses

    and gifts of money or food or beer were given in return.


    When: 25 January 2009 and throughout 2009

    Where: various locations

    PR Contact: Kirsty Innes, VisitScotland, tel: 0131 472 2227


    Web: and

    In 2009, Scotland celebrates the 250th anniversary of the birth of their national bard, Robert Burns, with a year long celebration of events and festivals. The year officially launches on the poets birthday on 25 January with a range of Burns Night events from traditional Burns night suppers to

    exciting contemporary festivities filled with music, dance and light.

    A traditional Burns Supper always includes an entertaining rendition of Burns poem, Address to the Haggis. The person reciting the poem begins with a knife in hand and when they say the line “His

    knife see Rustic-labour dight”, they dramatically cut the haggis casing, making sure to spill out some of the tasty haggis filling inside.

    The recital ends with the reader raising the haggis in triumph during the final line Gie her a haggis!, which the guests greet with rapturous applause.



    When: 6 February 2009

    Where: South Nesting

    PR Contact: Deborah Kerr, VisitShetland, tel: +44 (0) 1595 693 434


    Up Helly Aa is a fire festival involving a torchlit procession, the burning of a Viking longship and a ceilidh which lasts late into the night. The festival heralds the end of winter and the beginning of

    spring. The burning of the Viking galley also commemorates the way a Viking warrior was cremated: by being pushed out into the sea in his trusty longship. A larger event is also held in Lerwick on 27 January 2009.


    When: 9 February 2009 (held on the first Monday after 3 February)

    Where: Throughout the town of St Ives

    Time: 10am 5pm at The Guildhall

    PR Contact: Jeremy Ward St Ives Town Council, tel: +44 (0) 1736 797 840 (no email address) Web:

    Hurling is one of the oldest forms of ball game and still takes place at St Ives in Cornwall on the first Monday after 3 February. The game is rather like rugby and the ball is made from apple-wood encased in sterling silver and weighs about 15 ounces (425g). In the past, the game was played in the town‟s streets and on the beach involving some 600 people including miners and fishermen. However, today the event is mainly enjoyed by schoolchildren. The ball is thrown from St Ives Parish Church wall at 10.30am and there follows a mad scramble for the ball.

    By tradition, the game was played for about an hour and a half. For the first hour the ball was kept within the town‟s boarded-up streets, but thereafter, the hurlers strived to break the silver ball away to the appropriate goal. The „Town‟ goal was a small stone trough, in the base of an ancient Celtic cross a mile to the south-west, and the „Country‟ goal was a similar distance to the north. The object of the game was to place the ball in the appropriate goal.


    When: 14 - 21 February 2009

    Where: Slaithwaite, West Yorkshire

    PR Contact: Stuart Render, tel: +44 (0) 161 627 7218

    Email: or


    Download the full program at

    A week of fun and story telling starting with an opening Ceilidh dance on 14th February. Lantern and story telling workshops take place from Sunday until Thursday. The event‟s street procession and theatre take place on 21st February 2009, starting at 6.00 pm. The Moonraking Festival is based on a village tale about two 19th century smugglers who were collecting barrels of the illegal „moonshine‟ drink from the canal. The smugglers hid the barrels and told the police they were trying to rake the moon‟s reflection out of the canal. Thinking they were fools, the police let the smugglers go and the „moonraking‟ legend was born. The highlight of the festival is a long procession of 2,500 villagers with some 200 bearing colourful lanterns made of willow sticks and tissue paper. The lanterns vary from year to year, depending on the theme of the festival, and can be shaped like magic lamps, glass slippers, fairies, pumpkin carriages and castles. The lanterns are made in the week preceding the procession. The theme in 2009 is Moon landing Moonraking in honour of the 40th anniversary of the moon landing.

    A moon-shaped lantern mounted on a float is towed along the canal before being "raked" out high in the air and placed on the bank, after which it is carried round the village, accompanied by jazz, carnival and brass bands. It follows a route along the canal bank, to Hill Top and down Crimble Bank back to the canal. At the canal there will be some more street performances with several men

    are dressed as gnomes, a woman as the moonraking fairy and two fancy dress policemen play the bagpipes. The women use rakes to help the lantern float along. A firework display completes the event.


    When: 24 February 2009

    Where: Olney, North Buckinghamshire

    Time: 11.55am race starts (family entertainment from 10am)

    PR Contact: Tony Evans, Olney Pancake Race Committee,

    tel: +44 (0) 1234 71 1 392


    The unique Olney Pancake Race literally stops traffic as energetic local ladies in traditional housewife attire (including skirt, apron and scarf), run through the streets of Olney. The 415- yard dash is run from The Bull Hotel in the Market Place to the Parish Church of St. Peter & St Paul in Church Lane. The race is started by the church warden at 11.55am using a large bronze „Pancake

    Bell.‟ Pancakes are tossed at the start of the race and the winner is required to toss her pancake again at the finish. At the end of the race, the runners and townsfolk go into the Parish Church for the great Shriving Service. The race has been run since around 1445 and since 1950, the contest has been an international event between Olney and the town of Liberal, Kansas in America. The race is run on a timed basis and the winner is declared after times are compared through a transatlantic telephone call from Liberal to Olney.


    When: 27 February 2009

    Where: Yell

    PR Contact: Deborah Kerr, VisitShetland,

    tel: +44 (0) 1595 693 434


    Yell, the second-most northerly of the main Shetland Islands, hosts its own traditional Viking fire festival, Up Helly Aa, at the village of Cullivoe, on the island's north-east coast, overlooking the island of Unst. Whether a greeting for spring, or a celebration of the returning sun, the tradition of Up Helly Aa - held by a number of settlements across Shetland during January and February - fills the darkness of a winter's night from dawn to dusk with fire processions, participants wielding great blazing briars, and always ends up with a party through the night.



    When: 20 March 2009

    Where: Brae, Shetland Islands

    PR Contact: Deborah Kerr, VisitShetland, tel: +44 (0) 1595 693 434


    Brae's Up Helly Aa Viking Festival is the last one of the season, and is the last opportunity to enjoy the torch-lit procession and all night ceilidh.


    When: 29 March 2009, 12pm midday

    Where: Days Lock, Little Wittenham, Nr Abingdon, OX14 4RB (Oxfordshire)

    PR Contact: Elizabeth Williamson, President of the Rotary Club of Oxford Spires, tel: 01844 351549 - Email:


    When Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin first dropped a handful of sticks from a bridge into a stream and rushed to the other side to see which came under first, who would have imagined this would start an annual tradition? The 26th Annual World Pooh Sticks Championships organised by the Rotary Club of Oxford Spires is set to attract around 1000 - 2000 people. Individuals and teams of 6 compete in a knock-out style competition, with teams of six dropping different coloured sticks from each of the two bridges at the lock. The event is held in aid of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution and also Rotary charities.



    When: 10 April 2009 (held every Good Friday)

    Where: Greyhound Pub, Tinsley Green, Crawley, West Sussex

    PR Contact: Sam or Julia McCarthy-Fox, tel: +44 (0) 1403 730 602



    Marbles have been played in and around Tinsley Green for many hundreds of years. The tradition is said to date back to the time of Good Queen Bess when two men from Surrey and Sussex competed for the hand of a maiden from Tinsley, which is just on the border of the two counties. After being judged equal in all the major sports of the time such as archery and wrestling, one of them came up with the game of marbles and the tradition has continued ever since. The World Marble Championships date back to the 1930s. Some 20 teams from around world take part, and over the years, teams from Canada, the USA and Germany have taken part. The action is watched by hundreds of spectators. The game is played in a six-foot-diameter ring which is dusted with fine sand and set up in the Greyhound Pub car park. Some 49 marbles are then placed in the ring. There are six players in a team and each member has four marbles. The winner is the first team to knock 25 marbles out of the ring.


    When: 13 April 2009 (held annually on Easter Monday)

    Where: Gawthorpe, Ossett, West Yorkshire

    Time: 12.00 noon at the Royal Oak on Owl Lane, Gawthorpe and finishing at The Maypole on the village green

    PR Contact: Susan Walshaw, The Gawthorpe Maypole Committee, tel: +44 (0) 1924 260141. Email:


    The World Coal Carrying Contest is a test of stamina and muscle. It is held every Easter Monday and lifts the village of Gawthorpe out of obscurity and into the headlines. The race involves men carrying 50kg (one hundred weight) of coal over an uphill course close to a mile long starting at the Royal Oak, Owl Lane and finishing at the Maypole on the village green. The ladies race follows the same route as the men‟s – ladies carry 20 kg of coal. The current world record holder is said to be David Jones of Meltham with a time of 4 mins 6 secs. The World Coal Carrying Contest dates back to 1963 when a local coal merchant and the president of the Maypole Committee were enjoying a pint together. A friend burst into the pub and bet that he could race them with a bag of coal on their backs. Not to let a good idea go to waste, the secretary of the Maypole Committee who was listening to the challenge, decided to set the race for Easter Monday.


When: 13 April 2009 (Easter Monday)

    Where: Hallaton, Leicestershire

    PR Contact: Simon Gribbon, Leicestershire Promotions tel: +44 (0) 116 225 4000/4201 Email:

    In 1770, the Rector of Hallaton was allotted a piece of land on condition that he provided two hare pies, two dozen loaves of bread and a quantity of ale, which had to be scrambled for in public. The custom still survives today. On Easter Monday, a hare pie is baked using a 20-inch square tin and is paraded in a procession through Hallaton village from the Fox Inn to St Michael‟s Church. Slices are cut up, blessed and distributed at St Michael‟s Church gates by the rector. Immediately behind

    the pie in the procession are the bottles that are used for the Bottle Kicking match. The „bottles‟ are actually three small wooden kegs. Two contain beer and the remaining one is coloured red and white. The Bottle Kicking Parade moves through the village to the top of Hare Pie bank where the Bottle Kicking match takes place. The competitors are teams from Hallaton and nearby Medbourne who kick and man-handle the three barrels in an attempt to get them across respective boundaries. The goals are two streams a mile (1.6km) apart, and the aim is to kick two of the three bottles across the team‟s respective stream. It is a tough contest with the teams having to get the barrels across numerous hedges, lanes, ditches and even barbed wire to reach their touchlines.



    When: May through to end of September 2009

    Where: All over Derbyshire Tissington, Buxton, Buxworth

    PR Contact: Bernadette Wainwright, Chesterfield Tourism, tel: +44 (0) 1246 345 779 / 775 Email


    Derbyshire hosts this ancient ceremony that has undergone a revival recently with many towns and villages enthusiastically re-establishing the craft. Well dressings are mosaic pictures, built up from natural materials such as flower petals, seeds, leaves and berries pressed into clay which is held in a wooden frame. The shape of the frames vary depending on the choice of theme most are

    usually of a religious nature although recently, more modern themes have been adopted. When the well dressing is at the site of the well it is blessed by the local clergy. Dressings last about a week depending on the weather. Well dressing is thought to have originated from Pagan times, a ritual

    performed to give thanks for the supply of fresh water. Another school of thought claims that the Romans introduced the custom into Britain and another connects the celebration with various outbreaks of plague.


    When: 2 May 2009

    Where: Jubilee Gardens, Ely, Cambs Time: 11 am until 4 pm PR contact: Tracey Harding, Tourist Information Centre, tel. 01353 662062



    This slithery celebration brings to life the city's eel traditions with eel tasting, folklore and historical entertainment and displays.


    When: 25 May 2009, Bank Holiday Monday (always held on the second Bank HolidayMonday in May)

    Where: Coopers Hill, Brockworth, Gloucestershire

    Time: From 12pm

    PR contact: Chris Dee, Gloucestershire Tourism, tel: +44 (0) 1452 425 657

    Email: or


    A passion for cheese is a must for this annual event, which involves daredevils hurling themselves down the steep, grassy slopes of Coopers Hill, near Gloucester, in pursuit of Double Gloucester cheeses. There are downhill races throughout the afternoon including ones for men and for women. The race starts with the master of ceremonies rolling a 7- 8 lb (4kg) Double Gloucester cheese down the hill. Dozens of competitors run, roll and somersault down the hill after it. It‟s impossible not to fall over due to the rough uneven slope with a 1:2 gradient. The winners take home the cheeses as well as a few cuts and bruises.

    The event is very popular with international competitors, and nothing deters them hot, cold, wind,

    wet or any other combination of British weather in fact it all adds to the sense of spectacle.

    Hundreds of people gather to watch this unique event, which dates back to medieval times. Common theories about the origin of cheese rolling include the idea that it began as a pan festival celebrating the onset of summer, while others maintain the festival is related to ancient fertility rights and hopes for a successful harvest.


    When: 25 May 2009, Bank Holiday Monday (always held on the second Bank Holiday Monday in May)

    Where: Tetbury, Gloucestershire (On Gumstool Hill between The Crown Inn and Royal Oak pub) Time: Afternoon (exact time TBC)

    PR Contact: Chris Dee, Gloucestershire Tourism, tel: +44 (0) 1452 425 657 or Peter Martin, tel: +44 (0) 1666 503791


The Tetbury Wool Sack Race is a gruelling competition run between two pubs in Tetbury The

    Crown Inn and the Royal Oak. The race has been given world record status and involves competitors running in pairs and fours up steep Gumstool Hill through the village of Tetbury carrying a large sack of wool. Men carry a 60lb sack on their backs and women carry a 35lb sack. The gradient in parts is 1:4, so it‟s heavy going for even the fittest competitor.

    The event attracts puzzled spectators from across the world and raises money for local charities. The race reflects the history of the area, when many of the Cotswold towns, including Tetbury, were noted wool towns. It‟s thought the race originally started when local drovers - egged on by

    drink and wanting to impress the ladies - raced each other uphill with heavy woolsacks.


    When: 29 May 2009

    Where: Dover's Hill, near Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire

    Time: 7.30pm

    PR Contact: Chris Dee Gloucestershire Tourism, tel: +44 ( 0) 1452 425 657 or Francis Burns, event Secretary, tel: +44 (0)1384 274041



    The Cotswold Olimpicks (Olympics) were started by a local barrister Captain Robert Dover in 1612 at Dover's Hill, above Chipping Campden. The annual event attracts thousands of spectators and features some well-known countryside games such as tug-of-war, obstacle races and wrestling as well as a few bizarre ones - the highlight being shin-kicking. The shin-kicking competition involves two contestants who first fill their trouser legs with straw to help reduce the pain. The players then hold arms and kick each other using steel toe- capped boots until one of the contestants is so bruised that he cannot stand the pain and gives in. The festivities close with a huge bonfire and firework display followed by a torchlight procession to the town square of Chipping Campden where Morris dancing and other entertainment takes place.

    The Olympics will be 40 years old when London hosts the 2012 Olimpicks. As hosts of the more senior event, the village of Chipping Campden (pop 2,500) wishes London success in hosting the modern Olympiad and would be happy to pass on any organisational tips.



    When: 13 June 2009 (held annually on the second Saturday in June)

    Where: The Bottle Inn, Marsham, Dorset

    Time: 6.30pm

    PR Contact: The Bottle Inn, tel: +44 (0) 1297 678 254


    An annual contest in which around 30 challengers are encouraged to eat more nettles than the current champion nettle-eater. Contestants are given two-foot long stalks of stinging nettles and have one hour to eat as many leaves as possible. The winner is the person with the longest length of empty stalk. The competition stems from a contest between two farmers in the mid-1980s as to who had the longest stinging nettles. A longest nettle night was established. One day, a contestant called Alex Williams brought in a nettle over 15-foot long and said if anyone had a longer nettle he

    would eat his. His nettles were subsequently beaten and he duly ate them giving rise to the annual nettle-eating contest. Now people come from all over Europe to watch or take part.


    When: 13 June 2009

    Where: The race starts from the square in Llanwrtyd Wells, Powys (the smallest town in Britain) at 11.00 a.m. and finishes at approximately 1.00 p.m. at the Victoria Wells Forest Log Cabins.

    PR Contact: Bernice Benton, Green Events Press Officer, tel: +44 (0) 1591 610 666 Email:


    The Man v Horse race has been running for 30 years. The spectacular course is 22 miles long and involves farm tracks, footpaths, forestry roads and open moor land. Riders compete against runners to be the first to finish the course. The Man v Horse Race was the brainchild of local man, Gordon Green, at the time when he was landlord of Neuadd Arms, after a discussion over a pint about the relative merits of man and horse.


    When: 27 and 28 June 2009

    Where: Swamp Soccer Arena in Strachur, Argyll, Scotland

    PR Contact: Stewart Miller, +44 (0)1369 830000 Email:


    The rules of swamp soccer are similar to regular football, with a number of exceptions. Each team has just six players (a goalkeeper & five outfield players) with unlimited substitutions. Games last for 24 minutes in total (12 minutes each way)…and fancy dress is allowed! The event has been

    featured by numerous national and international broadcasters.


    When: 28 June 2009

    Where: Takes place between Helpringham and Swaton on the B1394 which joins the A52 and A17 Roads, Halfway between Boston and Grantham in Lincolnshire, NG34 0RF

    PR Contact: Katie King, PR Assistant, East Midlands Tourism, tel: +44 (0) 115 988 8539 Email:


    Contestants have to construct a gravity-powered egg-hurling device to launch an egg to a waiting team member. To achieve points the team member must either catch the egg unbroken or get struck by the egg. As the egg can be traveling at speeds of up to 120 mph this is particularly tricky and relies upon a lob technique to reduce velocity. Distances to be achieved start at 30 meters but can be extended up to 150 in the knock out competition.

    Another activity that takes place on the day is the Russian Egg Roulette where two participants select from five hard boiled eggs and one raw egg - and they have to smash them on to their own foreheads. In 2008, BBC's Tom Fordyce, Ben Dirs, Paddy McGuiness and Rory McGrath took part.



    When: July 2009 (annual).

    Date TBC

    Where: Bentley Brook Inn, Fenny Bentley, Ashbourne, Derbyshire, DE6 1LF

    Time: Wrestling begins at 1pm. ?2.50 to enter; free to watch

    PR Contact: Katie King, PR Assistant, East Midlands Tourism, tel: +44 (0) 115 988 8539 Email:

    Going way back to 1976, the World Toe Wrestling Championship started at a pub in Wetton, Derbyshire UK. The locals of 'Ye Olde Royal Oak Inn' thought it would be a great idea to hold a toe wrestling competition, where the contestants lock their big toes together, and attempt to force their opponent's foot to the ground. The organisers have big intentions for the sport, and applied in 1997 for it's inclusion in the Olympic Games. Unfortunately for crazy sports fans it was not accepted. The Bentley Brook Inn in Derbyshire hosts the Ben & Jerry's World Toe Wrestling Championship - a feast of foot foolery, bad wrestling outfits and toeriffically treacherous puns. All proceeds from the event go to the Derbyshire charity When You Wish Upon a Star.


    When: 4 July 2009

    Where: Waen Rhydd peat bog, Llanwrtyd Wells, Powys, mid Wales

    PR Contact: Bernice Benton, Green Events Press Officer, tel: +44 (0) 1591 610 666 Email:


    The World Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling Championships are held in Waen Rhydd peat bog and attract about 40 riders. Started up by local man Gordon Green in 1998, competitors must cycle two lengths of a six-foot deep trench which is 45 yards long on a special lead-weighted bike. They must also wear a weighted backpack. The winner takes home a glass engraved goblet.


    When: 11 July 2009 (held on 2nd Saturday in July annually)

    Where: Village Green, Witcham, Cambridgeshire

    Time: Starts 1pm

    PR Contact: Ely Tourist Information Centre, tel: +44 (0) 1353 662 062 or event organiser, Steven Ball, tel: +44 (0)1353 777701

    Email: or

    Web: or

    This international event brings challengers from as far as New Zealand and the USA to compete for the World Pea Shooting trophy. Accuracy, not distance, is the aim of this competition, with contestants shooting a pea through a 12-inch tube, 12 feet towards a 12-inch target. Competition is fierce and laser-guided shooters for specialists are not uncommon, taking pea shooting into the 21st Century. Pea shooters and peas can be bought at the event.

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