UK contest recognizes ‘most disgusting face’

2012 world championship gurning winner Tommy Mattinson (centre) with comperes Daniel Shutt (left) and Kevin Brown (right). Credit: R C Wainwright ARPS
The 2012 world gurning champion was Tommy Mattinson, center.
Credit: R C Wainwright ARPS

It’s that time again. The Egremont Crab Fair in Cumbria, northwest England, takes place this Saturday, with the World Gurning Championships the main attraction, in which people compete to see who can pull the most disgusting face.

This continues a tradition dating back to the Middle Ages, says organizer Steve Foster.

Metro: What are the best techniques for bending one’s face out of shape?

Foster: People with false teeth take them out and wrap their lips over their nose. It helps if you can do a really severe squint too. But there are as many techniques as there are competitors — some do a static gurn, others are animated or maniacal, some move and sway with the expression.

Brilliant. How did this get started?

This has been lost in the mists of time but it has been around for as long as anyone can remember. We have explored historic archives and believe it existed 400 years ago under the title Grinning Tobacco.

Do you believe this is a life skill of any value?

Financially gurners have done quite well. A 1970s champion became a celebrity who advertised crisps, and another was in a campaign for ulcer treatment. Over the years it has proved quite lucrative.

As the host nation, are British people best at it?

I would say so; we get a lot of foreign competitors but none have quite managed to win the trophy. I think it’s a local skill and the fact we practice more.

Has anyone ever done serious damage to their face like this?

Not that I know of.


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