Is the day coming when we will have to kit out our rose queens with armoured cars in place of floats, reinforced glass between retinue and public, and CRB check the crowd lining the route?
Will each coin proffered by some snotty-nosed kid in support of the local brownies have to be disinfected before being chucked into a collection bucket – hermetically sealed?
Will the rose queens of St Bisclevfleetkirkthornly upon Wylde in years to come talk of the great boiled sweet travesty of 2011 which saw toddlers pursued by personal injury compensation lawyers after being pelted with jelly babies from a passing gala float?
It’s easy to jump on the “elf and safety gone mad” bandwagon – particularly with David Cameron promising to unravel health and safety red tape and restore sanity to our street parties – while dismembering the NHS, incidentally...
This week a local gala bit the dust because of the lack of volunteers and the rise in health and safety restrictions with insurers only covering the rose queen to ride on a tractor or float if strapped in by a safety harness (can’t see that catching on with HM the Queen) and organisers told they needed a traffic management plan in place to put up bunting.
There’s a fine line between common sense assessment of risk and cotton woolification. Last year a cheese rolling event in Gloucestershire was said to have been cancelled because so many organisers feared the 7lb cheese could do some serious damage – a sort of cheesy version of bull running in Pamplona. A rolling stone may gather no moss, but the rolling cheese story ran for ages until police confirmed it had more to do with traffic congestion causing problems.
Our much derided Health and Safety Executive has run a myth of the month for four years, debunking their alleged banning of conkers (without goggles), pin the tail on the donkey, snowball fights or pancake races which have to be walked, not run. They have refuted claims of bans on hanging baskets, Christmas decorations at work, new year charity swims, toothpicks in restaurants, or calls for trapeze artists to wear hard hats, and people not to clear snow.
They also stress “there are no regulations banning people from hanging bunting at village fetes.”
The executive also says it never banned panto casts from throwing sweets – but says organisers worried about the cost of compensation if anyone got hurt although “the chances of that happening were incredibly low.”
So, the real killjoy is not so much a nanny state as today’s compensation culture and local councils, charities, schools, and organisations running frightened of it. The real winners are the lawyers who pocket about two thirds of personal injury claims.
But at what cost to community spirit? And may it not be worth taking a risk in defence of some of our most cherished traditions?