Tar Barrels Race could be cancelled over insurance costs

November 3, 2010 | by | 7 Comments

The tradition of carrying flaming tar barrels which dates back to the 17th century could be extinguished over health and safety fears after the insurance bill soared – by 1150 PER CENT.

Tar Barrels Race could be cancelled over insurance costs

Participants have enjoyed the age-old custom of running through the streets carrying flaming tar barrels on November 5 for over 400 years.

It cost just £2,000 to insure the event 12 months ago, but that figure has now risen to £25,000 after one of the barrels exploded last year injuring a reveller.

Today organisers warned the traditional barrel race held in Ottery St Mary’s, Devon, could fizzle out unless a cheaper quote is found to insure competitors.

Organisers managed to get the quote down to £17,000, but warned they could cancel the event unless new investment is found.

The hike comes a year after several people were left injured when someone threw an aerosol into one of the barrels, which exploded showering onlookers with hot tar.

If the Tar Barrels Race is cancelled, it will join a growing list of country events being hit health and safety bureaucracy, after the Gloucestershire cheese-rolling was cancelled earlier this year.

St Mary’s Carnival chairman Graham Rowland said: ”One man burned his hand and is claiming compensation.

”Our insurers are brilliant, but the claim and legal fees could be high so the cover has to rise.”

He added that organisers have resorted to passing round a collection bucket at this year’s event in a bid to secure its future.

Tar Barrels Race could be cancelled over insurance costs

Graham added: ”Our barrel rollers will be collecting on the night and we’ve got more collectors. We’ve got to get money off the people who come.

”We’re planning on launching a campaign at this years event to encourage everyone who goes to the tar barrels to give £1.”

The tradition dates back to the 17th century, although its exact origin is unclear with everything from pagan rituals to the gunpowder plot.

Participants run through the streets carrying blazing tar barrels on their backs in Ottery St Mary’s as 20,000 people flock to the small town to cheer them on.

But last year dozens of spectators were left needing hospital treatment for burns after a metal can – thought to be an aerosol – was thrown into a barrel.

Around 30 people were treated at the scene and one victim has put in a claim for compensation for scars an loss of earnings.

Tar Barrels Race could be cancelled over insurance costs

Committee president Andy Wade said had they stuck with their original broker, a successful claim could have pushed the costs even higher to £25,000.

Mr Wade said: ”We managed to obtain insurance from another broker for £17,000.

”As far as we know the claim is still going ahead with the previous broker but we’ve heard nothing from the loss adjusters.

”It’s a very high amount for any organisation to raise, but there’s nothing we can do about it.”

In the past proceeds have gone to charity, but now organisers are forced to bank extra cash and hold fundraising initiatives to keep up with the raising premium.

Mr Rowland said: ”If everyone gave a £1 on the night, future events would be possible.

”Otherwise such a small community could never make such a huge amount of money in a year.”

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Comments (7)

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  1. Kyle0312 says:

    How about everyone who attends must sign a waver?

  2. Swns says:

    Hardly a “health and safety” issue is it? this is simply down to the insurers being what they always are, money grubbing gits.

  3. Hboschen says:

    I’ve been to this event a few years ago and there is an amazing atmosphere- I would be saddened to see this stop as I would like to go again. As always there is some unthinking idiot who spoils things for others. I can understand the premium going up as it has to be economically viable for the insurance company to take a gamble on something like that not happenening again, but surely some kind of deal could be made if the organisers introduced some precautions/ crowd information? As it wasn’t the fault of the actual event or the organisers, rather a very very stupid person who has alot of bad karma stacked up against them!

  4. tom says:

    no great fan of insurance companies, but they are a bussiness. and this sounds like a dead loss. if the participants are so eager, let them do it uninsured. no company in their right mind would underwrite that.

  5. American says:

    be more like america, and dont do stupd shit like this

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