Gravy is good for many things. Serve a Sunday roast without it and you’ll likely be excommunicated from the dinner table. Learn to make it properly and you’ll be a family hero for generations to come. When in the right hands, there’s no limit to what a deep, brown, meaty juice can’t accomplish.
Such is our dedication to gravy that there are plenty of people who are determined to pair it with absolutely anything. The Canadians like to slosh it over chips and cheese, while the Americans would rather use it to drown whatever it is they call a biscuit. None of these countries, however, come close to the manic obsession of the English. Not content with pouring it on our food, there is one particular town that has decided to take gravy worship to heights hitherto undreamt. For the gravy fanatic, the ultimate pilgrimage is North West, for the World Gravy Wrestling Championship. Sport just got saucy.
The event, which takes place every year in the small Lancashire village of Stacksteads, does exactly what it says on the tin. Hosted by the Rose ‘N’ Bowl pub, the competition pits contestants against each other in an inflatable arena, full of Lancashire’s signature sauce.
The criteria for winning are complex. Wrestlers must compete for a total of two minutes in each bout, battling each other as well as their distractingly delicious surroundings. Points are awarded for fancy dress, comedy effect, entertainment and, last and almost definitely least, actual wrestling ability.
The result is an eclectic array of colourful characters, united by a passion for all things gravy. This year, for instance, saw competitors travel from across the country to do battle in the broth, while a neonatal nurse from Manchester claimed the women’s prize. When the dust/gravy had settled, all participants were hosed down by volunteers from the local fire department.
Though the wrestling is obviously the main draw, the thousands of spectators that flock to Stacksteads have plenty to occupy themselves with throughout the day. The event boasts a BB gun shooting range, cheerleading contests, bouncy castles and craft beer producers - all adding up to a recipe for an awesome day out.
Now in its 11th year, the event isn’t just an excuse to roll around in the Lancashire rain. Each wrestler is actually competing to raise money for a charity of their choice, and the proceeds can reach into the thousands of pounds. Beneficiaries this year included the East Lancashire Hospice, as well as many other worthy causes.
Spending your weekend covered in sticky sauce might not be your ideal way to relax. There are doubtless many people who would do all they could to avoid being dragged to an event as debauched, yet distinctive as this one. But, one look at the soaked champions, raising a thoroughly basted fist to the sky in victory, is all you need to tell you that, for gravy buffs, there is no other event that should top the bucket list. Gladiators, we salute you.