In England, a children’s pancake race was cancelled when insurance premiums soared and risk assessors demanded 25 marshals for the 50-yard course. Traditionally, women run with a frying pan and pancake, flipping a certain number of times as they go.

Children at Okehampton Primary School in Devon had been looking forward to the annual event on Shrove Tuesday next week.

But the 80-yard run in the town’s Red Lion Yard has had to be cancelled because a risk assessment had revealed that 25 marshalls would have to line the race route to ensure public safety.

And last year’s £75 public liability insurance bill has rocketed to £280.

With publicity, the premium is down and the race is on again with a limited number of participants, a limited number of spectators and a mandatory “first aider” with a first aid box. A firm that makes crepe pans will pay the insurance premium.

A much more dangerous custom is the Shrove Tide Football Match held in Ashbourne, Derbyshire.

Here the men of Ashbourne play football through the streets of the town, in a no rules (thankfully murder and manslaughter are barred), free-for-all. It is the world’s oldest, largest, longest and maddest football game. The game takes place between the Up’ards and Down’ards (two mills three miles apart which form the goal posts) . . .

Via Samizdata.

About Joanne


  1. Here on Long Island, the affect of insurance companies on high schools sports has been ever increasing. Many schools no longer have gymnastics programs, pole vaulting has been disallowed at many tracks, and diving has been severly affected. Premiums for all athletics has surely been increased as well.

    Now, blame… I’m not going to defend insurance companies, or lawyers or ‘sue happy’ parents. They’re all to blame at some level. I’m guess that if people don’t sue, laywers don’t have cases and insurance companies don’t pay. No pay, no premiums. It’s not quite that simple, but it is the essence of the problem.

  2. Maybe the event could’ve had a warning sign: “Hurrying people with frying pans crossing” or “Watch for skillets!”

    Or the whole thing could have been out of the news if the sponsors had just told the insurance company to blow it out their ass and gone without coverage.

  3. Walter Wallis says:

    Wonder what the premiums would be on the Burro Flapjack Race they used to hold in Death Valley. Contestants had to catch a wild burro, load a pack on the burro with a diamond hatch, lead the burro 100 yards, build a campfire, mix pancake batter, fry the pancake and feed it to the burro. Ed “Hard Rock” Hale, the record holder while I was desert bound, held the record of around 3 minutes.

  4. Do you suppose that this brain rot is linked just to the english speaking countries, or is is worldwide?

    Society is rapidly screwing itself into a situation where we are going to be able to accomplish less and less while we search for the absolute zero risk environment.

  5. While I find it annoying, there is another side. The lawsuits generally have succeeded because society believes that it takes a tremendous amount of money to compensate for an essentially ruined life (with well publicized exceptions of large settlements for trivial injuries). Even in the McDonalds “hot coffee” case, the woman was suffered serious permanent injury.

    So, if we as a society find life so valuable, then doesn’t it make sense that we defacto prohibit (through insurance rates, etc.) activities that might have been considered acceptable in less safe times.

    It is said that those who never age would avoid any risk whatsoever. Perhaps the loss of life-destroying activities (with whatever detriment it has to who we are as a people) is inevitable and we become a longer-lived society.

  6. Here’s a question: How will a society which increasingly avoids all risks fare in competition with a society which has no such orientation? Isn’t the answer obvious? Don’t the outcomes, in the long run, include economic failure and, eventually, military defeat?

    In the novel “A Canticle for Liebowitz,” a character muses that the desire to maximize security and minimize suffering can lead, when taken to extremes, to minimum security and maximum suffering.

  7. But Tom, wouldn’t that be just soooo boring. You sound like King Kiljoy at the ‘wet blanket’ party. Quantity of life is good, but so is quality. We’re becoming a nation of ‘weenies’!

    David said it so much more eloquently .. but you get the idea.

  8. the desire to maximize security and minimize suffering can lead, when taken to extremes, to minimum security and maximum suffering

    Very true. It’s like businesses faced with disruptive innovation. Their choices are to embrace that which will destroy their current business (but *may* allow them longer-term survival) and or carry on with a successful model that eventually runs into the ground. Guess what 90% of them choose?

    The reality is that economic success often carries the seeds of its own destruction. You play to win, but the point of winning is to allow you to avoid the circumstances that forced you to play (and risk loss) in the first place.

    As is obvious, there’s a parallel in our schools. The whole point in our achieving success is so that our children don’t have to risk failure. But without that risk of failure, they cannot achieve success.

    I’m not trying to say this is a good thing. To be honest, I see (in the long run) success breeding failure as almost inevitable. It’s why I tend not to blame any given component of the system (litigators, lawyers, the courts, students, teachers, etc.). We’re only fulfilling our genetic programming, and to my mind, it’s amazing that it has carried us this far.

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