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Saturday, September 18, 1999 Published at 17:45 GMT 18:45 UK


Ugly mugs gather at gurning contest

Smile for the camera: 1998 champion Peter Jackman does his worst

Competition is hotting up to find the ugliest face at the World Gurning Championships, as entrants contort their faces into grotesque shapes while wearing a horse collar.

Organisers say the game, taking place in Cumbria, has its origins in old tales about the treatment meted out by locals to so-called village idiots.

The horse collar, or braffin, would be thrown over the village fool, and he would pull faces in exchange for a pint of beer.

A colourful performance is expected, as it is the norm for competitors to snarl like a dog, look savage, paint their faces, make wild animal noises and thrash around uncontrollably.

Toddlers and pensioners are expected to take part in the championships, which has three categories - juniors, ladies and men.

[ image: Peter Jackman will provide stiff competition]
Peter Jackman will provide stiff competition
Alan Clements, organiser of Egremont Crab Fair, near Whitehaven, said: "Gurning championships have been around for most of this century in Cumbria but the world championships started after the Second World War. The fair is more than 730 years old.

"People make all types of faces and nothing will surprise us. But the werewolf look and the old-fashioned look copying Popeye the cartoon character is still popular."

The winner will receive a cash prize of 150.

Pipe smoking, Cumberland wrestling, morris dancing and a ferret show are among other attractions at the fair, which attracts about 10,000 visitors.

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