On the day when people across the UK will be flinging half-cooked pancakes around their kitchen with reckless abandon, organisers of the Shrove Tuesday race in Ripon were left with egg on their faces when they were forced to cancel their annual event on health and safety grounds.
The race involves the flour of Ripon’s youth (including local choristers) sprinting down a road in the North Yorkshire town brandishing a saucepan, tossing their pancakes as many times as possible to win points.
However, the demands of the local health and safety brigade look like they’ve finally put paid to the event. Such is the mountain of risk assessment and insurance forms that need to be filled out in advance, the locals just can’t be bothered volunteering to help out any more. And since the organisers must pay to close off the roads – to prevent passing motorists enjoying a surprise encounter with a flour-stained chorister – the expense has become prohibitive.
Clearly there are myriad risks with any food-based races. Imagine the trauma for spectators of taking a floppy flour-based snack in the eye when they’d only popped out for a pint of milk, for example. And nobody likes to see a small boy falling awkwardly and smacking himself in the chops with a frying pan.
But this is an historic event – its origins allegedly go back hundreds of years to a trick played by Saxon women on the invading Danes, who were drugged with alcohol-soaked pancakes and then stabbed to death in their sleep (one to bear in mind next time someone offers you a snack in a Ripon nightclub). As far as we’re aware, there have been no recorded pancake-linked fatalities.
What’s more, incidents like this will do nothing to dispel health and safety’s image as the sole preserve of humourless kill-joys. It’s bureaucracy gone mad, we reckon.
Not that everyone is planning to take it lying down. According to Ripon Today, down the road in Bedale the local community decide to argue the toss when their race was cancelled for similar reasons, and eventually persuaded organisers to stage the race along a different route (perhaps the original had distractingly-shaped landmarks in the choristers’ line-of-sight).
Could this be the start of the revolution? Or just another fuss over flipping nothing?