Just What Exactly is the World Gurning Championships?

In some circles, ugly is beautiful. Ugly is winning. Ugly is the way forward. Where do you go when you want to celebrate all things ugly and misshapen? To the World Gurning Championships, of course. For this group of individuals, and for the many spectators, ugly is the only way forward. In the World Gurning Championships the winner is the one who can pull the ugliest face. Here’s what you need to know about the peculiarly English tradition.

What is Gurning?

In British culture a “gurn” is a twisted facial expression; the verb “to gurn” describes the action of making such a face – the complete opposite of Poker Faces. A classic gurn is a projection of the lower jaw outwards, until the bottom lip covers the top lip, and making the eyes seem smaller and squinting. But there are all kinds of gurns, and the competition for the best gurner rewards the best.

Where to Find the World Gurning Championships

The World Gurning Championships take place in Egremont, Cumbria, where the competition is part of the town’s annual Crab Fair. It has been taking place for centuries. In fact, the origins of this fair are way back in 1267, when the Lord of the Manor gave out crab apples to the people of the town. Today there are many events taking place at the fair, but the most famous is the gurning competition.

 Winners in the World Gurning Championship

Last year the 16-times winner of the gurning crown was knocked off his post by a newcomer – Gordon Blacklock defeated the reigning king of the gurn, while a resident of Egremont, Clare Spedding, won the title for best female gurner. The reigning women’s champion, Anne Woods, who had won the title for 28 years sadly passed away in the spring. Participants for this year’s contest can register on the day, right before the competition takes place.

Rules for the Gurning Competition

There are some rules for people looking to make it big in the gurning world and triumph at the World Gurning Championships. You cannot use make-up to make yourself look uglier. Although you can use false teeth if you need them – and manipulate them. In the competition, participants have to put their faces through a horse collar and pull their face so it distorts, and looks as ugly as possible.

Thousands flock to the town to see this spectacle, and it is testament to the quirkiness of the event and the good humour of all involved that this championship has been such a long-running fixture on the local calendar – and celebrated much further away, too.