The British are a veritable mine of weirdness, but this festival might just take the cake. For this week’s dose of wacky, we present to you the the Gurning World Championship, which is essentially a contest to see who can pull the most hideous facial contortions. Yes, really.


A gurn is a distorted facial expression, and gurning contests are actually a British rural tradition. But the Gurning World Championship at the Egremont Crab Fair in Cumbria is said to date all the way back to 1267, when the most gruesome effort was honoured and framed in a horse’s collar. King Henry III had just granted a Royal Charter for a weekly market and an annual fair to celebrate crab apple season. Gurning is said to have its history in crab apples too, and apparently became famous because people would grimace on eating the bitter fruit.

This contest is no joke, and the competition is pretty fierce. Contestants traditionally frame their faces with a horse collar – known as “gurnin’ through a braffin”, and obviously, the wackiest one wins. General trend seems to show that the elderly have an advantage, since they have skin that moves around more. Having no teeth is an added bonus, because it adds flexibility around the jaw area, and you have greater room to maneuver with your gurns.

Gurners are quite famous in England. Peter Jackman became England’s best known gurner, having won the world championship four times, debuting in 1998 with a face called ‘Bella Lugosi’. He takes gurning so seriously that he even had all his teeth removed in 2000 for better elasticity! Tommy Mattinson has won the title 15 times, and Anne Woods claimed the women’s title 28 times.

(Image Courtesy: Egremont Crab Fair & World Gurning Championships/Facebook)

When: 18th-19th September, 2015
Where: Egremont, Cumbria

Images via: Egremont Crab Fair & World Gurning Championships/Facebook &