Posted: 26 August, 2016
Protests, Scandal, Dogs & Bloody Vegetarians
(Photo: Manchester Evening News)
The World Pie Eating Championships takes place every year and while it might lack some of the athleticism of Olympics events, its title winners are just as dedicated and fought off rivals just as determined. Here is its remarkable history, from dogs, anacondas, rugby players, vegetarians, numerous angry protests and idiot interns.
First held in 1992, the World Pie Eating Championship was the brain child of Tony Callaghan, owner of Harry’s Bar in Wigan, northern England.
The pies used to determine the world champion are made from local meat and potatoes and served at a consistent size and temperature to ensure fairness. Cube dimensions of the meat and potato pieces must be at least 1cm and meat must make up at least 66% of the contents (pastry excluded).
The inaugural winner was Dave Smyth who scoffed four pies in three minutes to claim the prize. The painter will go down in history as the World Pie Eating Championships’ equivalent of Edward Greeves Jr.
Originally the contest was not an annual event, so the second WPEC didn’t take place until 1995 when Dave Williams of Preston took home the crown.
1998 provided another Lancastrian winner as Scott Ormrod of Aspull, Wigan downed 11 pies in 30 minutes. Eleven. Impressive.
There was then a hiatus of seven years, presumably to let Scott Ormrod’s digestion resolve itself, until the next Championship in 2005. Anthony “The Anaconda” Danson, a weight trainer (from Lancashire, natch) stepped up and wolfed down seven pies in three minutes, a new world record.
A year later, controversy struck. Unsurprising given the fame and glamour the event was now attracting.
First, a campaign of “relentless pressure” was aimed at the World Pie Eating Championship by Keith Lorraine and Phil English of The Vegetarian Society. Under such force, Tony Callaghan allowed a vegetarian pie contest to run alongside the WPEC for the first time. It was a bit like the Paralympics (not that we’re saying vegetarians are in any way disabled).
Tony also had to change format after concerns were raised to meet government healthy-eating guidelines, which you wouldn’t have expected worried the organisers of a pie-eating tournament hugely, but there you go.
The new format gave each competitor one single pie measuring 12cm in diameter and 3.5cm deep. The vegetarian contest had pies of 10cm by 3cm.
Worst of all, the pies chosen had been imported from nearby Bolton rather than made in Wigan, which led to four men staging a protest outside Harry’s Bar at this foreign invasion compromising the integrity of the occasion. Later, in 2009, the pies were again sourced from outside Wigan, this time from Adlington, but no one could be fucked to protest.
In 2007, the winner was another Wigan local, as 42-year-old Adrian Frost set a new all-time record of 35.86 seconds.
However, scandal rocked the event yet again when the unimaginable happened – they ran out of pies before it was finished. Adrian Frost was named champion but there will always be a cloud over his achievement as a result of this fiasco.
It should be clarified though that the lack of pies was not entirely down to human error. A dog called Charlie was entered in the event and the night before the tournament he ate 20 pies and damaged a further 10 making them inedible. The fact the organisers still allowed Charlie to enter the next day is testament to their strong principles of fair play and sportsmanship.
By now, the WPEC was an annual event and its popularity was such that the 2008 event was broadcast live on the internet thanks to…ahem… “pie-per-view”.
Competition was rapidly improving too. In 2009 the winning time, set by Barry Rigby, was 45 seconds. By 2010 and 2012 the times had come down to 23.91 and 22.53 seconds respectively.
That 2012 was a gentleman by the name of Martin Appleton Clare, who returned last year to regain his crown in the 2015 Championships from Barry Rigby who rolled back the years to match his 2009 achievement in 2014.
However, the real talking point from 2014 was not Rigby’s win but the biggest controversy to ever hit the World Pie Eating Championship.
The contestants were all set to scoff but the pies they were due to be eating had been sent to a nearby divorce party (apparently they have those in Wigan, England). The guilty party was an intern, who failed to understand the importance and prestige of the pies he was delivering and accidentally sent them to ex-husband and friends.
This debacle was the subject of a reality television show in the UK “Judge Rinder”, who listened to the case of the Head of the World Pie Eating Championships but awarded him nothing.
The championships take place each December in Wigan town centre at “pie noon” (midday), starting with heats before a grand final. Rules updates have included the banning of Performance Enhancing Substances, namely gravy and even cough syrup to stop dry throats.
See, just like the Olympics.