Here at Dartsmad we like to pick up on the more unusual stories from the world of darts, therefore when a local member representing the Labour party in Birmingham’s Quinton Ward appeared in the Birmingham Evening Mail publicising his POD Brum campaign (more on that later), we contacted him directly to glean some more information.

(Photo – Birmingham Evening Mail)

DM: John firstly although the labour party has its roots in the working class, the thought of Councillors playing darts has never crossed my mind, are you alone in your passion for darts amongst your Councillor peers?

JC: No – the coverage in the press has smoked them out and they’re very supportive.

DM: I understand that you have been playing for a number of years, would you class yourself as a good player? Do you practise much or is it all about the social aspect of a match night? And do you follow the professional game?

JC: Sorry to disappoint DartsMad, but my political commitments have taken up most of my free time over the last 20 years or so and while I love to play darts to wind down and socialise, I’ve never been able to give the commitment to team darts. Nevertheless, I know I can hold my own at the oche. I don’t rule out team darts if it means saving a pub – that would be a public service!

So, yes, it’s more about the social side, definitely. My whole family plays, too (my wife reluctantly, I have to admit). But my daughter, Anna, is 22 and she’s a big darts fan. She loves playing and watching the sport. So does her generation – her boyfriend and her cousins all absolutely love playing darts.

I’m very proud sometimes when I can go out with my entire family – mine and the wife’s side – and we can spend an entire evening just playing darts and socialising. In the summer there can sometimes be 14 of us – straight up from the beach and onto the dartboard. Most of the 14 are under 25 years old. It’s based around social practice games usually, to get everyone involved and make it competitive. All of my nephews and nieces on both sides play,  apart from a nephew, Matthew,  who’s 4 and a niece, Jemma,  who’s 9 and we hope they’ll come up through the ranks  – but I fear for their future involvement if there are no dartboards.

DM: Tell us about the POD Brum campaign and your motivation to start it up?

JC: It came from the realisation that the pub dartboard was about to become an extinct species in our great city – and it’s happened over a very short time. We can’t let this happen to a great British sport. Participation at grass roots level has to be crucial to the sport.

In my ward only 6 years ago there were 10 dartboards in 9 pubs. But year by year, my darts mate Professor David Bailey (yes – professors play darts too!) and I have had to drift like refugees from one pub to another as the pubs or dartboards disappeared. Now there’s just one dartboard left in the entire ward. One other pub closed over the winter and that was what really made me think.

First, I want to raise the awareness level that this is happening. I think most pubgoers would not be happy. Even if you don’t play, it’s something you can recognise as part of British culture and British pub culture. Secondly, I want to get ordinary people becoming the eyes and ears to let the world know where the dartboards actually are that are left – and get them supported. Also, to identify where they have gone from and what’s there instead (cameraphones ready, please!). Also which unused or under-used areas they actually could go in!

I also want to make pubcos, proprietors and landlords aware of the importance of the dartboard (especially if they’ve got one in an area with very few) from a business point of view. If we could publicise where they are, they may very well get business.

I’m also a visiting lecturer at the University of Birmingham Business School and want to make the business case for darts, too.

I also wanted to stop the default position on a pub refurbishment – that the dartboard goes.

There is a disconnect between pubcos and the general public about darts. The creative guys and girls (the refurbishment types) are not linked in to the reality of the ordinary world and, indeed, the business marketplace, I don’t think. Darts is actually big business. To cut out the Pub from that entire infrastructure is madness from a business point of view.

I would ideally like POD eventually to go national. So PODManc, PodCam, PodLive, PODGlas, PODSwan – all welcome to me. It’s a grassroots campaign. By the way, and to show this isn’t just a Labour thing, I think Prime Minister David Cameron played darts a lot when he was younger, so I may write to him to get him to join!

DM: Great stuff, here is the link for our readers to join the POD Brum facebook group.

According to Neil Elkes story in the Birmingham Evening Mail, Wetherspoons spokesman Eddie Gershon said: “There is no set policy. We have about 800 pubs and I can count on one hand those that have dartboards and darts teams. It is usually because the manager and customers are very keen. You evoked that response after you challenged Wetherspoons at a recent planning meeting to implement a darts board at their proposed Yardley Pub. Did that application receive approval? and if so, do you know if a board will be provided?

JC: Yes it did. It was a good application – it was turning a disused and derelict old Woolworths into a pub. So I obviously made my decision on a planning basis with my darts cap off.

But it’s rare to get an application to start a new pub – the story is about them closing down or changes of use. So I saw my opportunity and pounced on the issue of attaching a planning condition to add a dartboard. It was tongue-in-cheek in that I knew we couldn’t add such a condition (at the moment at least) but it raised some awareness and the pubco reps where there, too, so I had a captive audience! By the way the application was deliberately for a ‘Quiet’ pub (no music or amplified sound) which I also welcome. So the addition of the dartboard I thought would be great in that environment.

DM: I’m not the biggest fan of politics, and if your tie was blue there is a good chance we wouldn’t be having this conversation! However I have a suggestion…. that future decisions are decided by the throw of a dart! Nearest the bull perhaps? No? Ok I’ll move on…..

JC: Actually when there’s a tie in an election it’s decided in the UK by a turn of cards, or drawing straws or a coin toss – so, yes, let’s have a dartboard at every count!

DM: Having spent time in a fair few Wetherspoons in towns and cities throughout the UK, I would imagine that sadly (particularly in central areas and given the current binge drinking trend) offering drinkers a set of darts could result in all sorts of problems, would you agree?

JC: I’m not sure there’s that much in the way of a record of darts as weapons in pub aggro in the past or present and fearing a ‘pointy sharp thing’ is just ridiculous. Far more damage can be done by less pointy blunt things, I suspect. I’m sure a dart can be a dangerous weapon, but so can a chair. To be really dangerous you’d have to be accurate, have a superb wrist action and great follow through! Rare.

DM: True, there are pubs where it is suitable to have a board and for whatever reason they don’t, I guess it is these more community based type of pubs that you want to sit up and take notice of your campaign?

JC: Yes. I think there have been loads of local pubs where there’d actually be a bit more life in the place through preserving the dartboard and developing communal social games with a drink. Again, they should also be aware of the attraction of darts to younger members of the community – I honestly think Darts can be part of the solution, not the problem.

The rise of pub quiz in an interesting development (and admittedly may have had some impact on darts) but points to the lesson that people like a social gaming add-on in their pubs – and it brings people in.

DM: You also mentioned the popularity of darts, I believe in terms of spectator sports in the UK it is second only to football. Our new writer Mr Lenny Boyle recently wrote an article to reinforce that darts is actually a sport. Presumably as a player you subscribe to this theory?

JC: Definitely. It’s a activity that involves the same physical honing and excellence in the co-ordination of complex physical attributes that determines itself as a clear sport. I know it’s not the point, but I calculated how far I walked up and down the oche on an average night’s darts, by the way, and it was couple of miles – honest!

DM: Through your chosen career paths and work as a Birmingham Councillor you obvious have a desire to educate and provide opportunities, to that end are you aware of any Youth Darts initiatives in Birmingham? If not would you give your full support to anything that started up in the second city? Stockport College has a Darts Academy for 16-19 year olds and PDC player Steve Brown also runs his own under 16’s academy in Bristol, both of which I believe are very successful……

JC: I was born and brought up in Stockport and my dad used to be a lecturer at Stockport college, so I know all about that! I will look into replicating that provision here in Birmingham and I’m sure PODBRUM can help in that, and also help to identify where any youth provision is that I don’t know about at the moment. Again, we have to rid ourselves of the ‘sharp pointy thing’ issue – doesn’t seem to provide a problem with archery and javelin. I bet a lot of kids have a set of darts somewhere in their house or one of their relative’s houses, you know. Let’s get kids playing darts seriously. It’s a sport.

DM: Thanks for taking the time out to speak to use John and good luck with your campaign and your own darts. Would you like to take the DartsMad double 5? …10 quick fire questions, 5 darts related followed by 5 non darts? JC: OK

Darts used? – Anything from whatever’s in the car boot or glove compartment, but currently Unicorn – Sigma One 970 – 27g.

Favourite Double? – 19

Favourite venue? – Lakeside and the sadly demolished Golden Cup pub in Quinton

Favourite Player? – Coming from Stockport, the Silverback – Tony O’Shea! And Kirk Shepherd, the Martial Dartist from Birmingham!

Ideal Pro/Am partner? – Anastasia Dobromyslova

Favourite Band/Singer? – Show Of Hands

Favourite Food? – Italian

Favourite Drink? – Robinson’s Bitter

Jeremy Clarkson – perceptive or Prat? – Praceptive

Favourite Comedian? – Woody Allen

Editor’s note – whilst we would question the effectiveness of the thousands of Facebook campaigns that are out there, we admire any efforts to promote the sport we love and therefore urge you all to join the POD Brum Campaign.

In the meantime while we wait for the pubs to sort themselves out, don’t forget you can play online webcam darts from home against real players from all over the world at DartProLeague.com. Or why not pop down to your local Rileys and have a throw in one of their dedicated Dartszones.

2 Responses

  1. Davey Mars

    Good to see this being a political (abeit minor) issue. I leved in Suffolk Co for 4 years and every landlord (yes, I know all of them in my town) had nothing good to say about the anti-pub mentality in govt, how the pubcos were killing local trade and traditional pub life, and to poor trade-offs between darts and discos, jukeboxes and big-screen tvs and the “genericization” (if that’s new, I’m claiming it) of the old-time local.
    Nice to see someone who gets it.