Hard cheese and the Henchicks

News that this year’s eccentric Gloucestershire Cheese Rolling has been pulled for fear of a mass influx of visitors is devastating for 83-year-old Diana Smart who makes the 7lb cheeses.

And it should give pause for thought to anyone involved in destination marketing too. Events-led tourism is high on the agenda for many of our clients, and of course is a great way to turn an “I’ll go there some time” place into a “must go – and go now” destination. The ‘holy grail’ is the homegrown event with a distinctive sense of place that will attract a niche segment of staying visitors.

But niche used to mean small: these days social media can take idiosyncratic local events to a global niche, attracting unprecedented crowds. Take the unexpected numbers queuing for 90 minutes to see 40 zebra finches playing electric guitars at London’s Barbican Curve Gallery – the ‘Jimi Henchicks’ as yesterday’s Sunday Times calls them. This quirky art installation, limited to 25 visitors at a time, has become a ‘must see’ for many, thanks in part to the internet: the YouTube video clip had over 600,000 hits in the first 4 weeks.