Patrick Chaplin: Darts History

'Capital Arrows' for the Capital Darts

If you are a resident of London or a visitor to the capital and looking for a game of darts and have no idea where to start looking then look no further.

‘The Bachelor of Darts’ Justin Irwin

Right: ‘The Bachelor of Darts’ Justin Irwin

Even though the dartboards of central London are disappearing at an alarming rate, Capital Arrows, a dart pub guide published on line in 2010 by writer and darts devotee Justin Irwin on his website www.bachelorofdarts.com, will help you find the venues that still provide for this most traditional of pub games.

Justin Irwin has revealed that despite a huge rise in interest in watching the sport, with eleven London pubs closing each week and many landlords finding it difficult to justify space for a board, the cries of ‘one-hundred-and-eighteee’ may soon be consigned to London’s history, alongside the click of dominoes and clatter of skittles (50 years ago there were 200 London pubs with skittle alleys; now there is just one). Justin told me, “Large-scale organised national darts began in London in the 1920s. The board that is used throughout the world is known as the London board. At this rate, however, darts in London pubs will have vanished before its’ 100th birthday.”

‘Prince Arthur, Old Street, Hoxton (Photo:     Justin Irwin)

Prince Arthur, Old Street & Hoxton
(Photo: Justin Irwin)

The guide was conceived following a conversation Justin had in a revamped bar, formerly a well-known darts pub. Justin said, “The barman told me that darts had been banned from pubs due to health and safety; I spent an hour telling him how wrong he was, and a minute to come up with the idea for the guide.” The good news is that Justin found 100 pubs in the very centre of the capital which still have a board but unfortunately found another thirty that have either closed down or removed their board in the last eighteen months.”

The guide was launched to coincide with Britain’s biggest indoor sporting event, Whyte & Mackay Premier League Darts, which began at the O2 the same day.

Darts legend Bobby George said: “I started out playing in pubs, and many players – including 2010 Lakeside World Champion Martin Adams – still turn out for their local pub team. All players come from the pub, and that's where players learn to love the game. Most breweries know that darts is good for business and enjoyment in their venues - I have been involved in John Smith's 'People's Darts' initiative for the last two years - and I hope Capital Arrows can help encourage more people to play the sport. The pub is the ‘mother’ of darts - so it's cheers to darts in pubs. May the darts always be with them.”

Barry Hearn, Chairman of the Professional Darts Corporation, said: “London has shown an incredible appetite for seeing the world’s best players ‘live’, with record crowds at Alexandra Palace for the Ladbrokes.com World Darts Championship and record sales of tickets for the Whyte & Mackay Premier League Darts at The O2, and at the Wembley Arena. The sport of darts on both the playing level and also as a fan has grown immensely in recent years, to the stage where we are now the UK’s biggest indoor sport. The PDC hopes that Capital Arrows helps to stem the decline of dartboards in central London pubs."

Daniel Pearce, managing editor of The Publican said: "Anything that can put a positive focus back on pubs in 2010 will be warmly welcomed by the industry - and Capital Arrows definitely falls into that category. Darts is one of the classic pub sports, and most pub-goers will be aware that it is undergoing a real renaissance. The guide will help the public connect with the best places to hit the bull’s-eye in London, both at the dartboard and at the bar."

Turners Old Star (Photo: Justin Irwin)Turners Old Star (Photo: Justin Irwin)

Justin hoped the guide would capture the interest of those thousands of new fans of the sport, responsible for the exponential rise in darts’ audiences, that darts players visiting London will seek out his guide and that pubs featured in Capital Arrows will see some increase in takings.

Capital Arrows is designed to ensure that Londoners and visitors alike can always find an available board in the very centre of the capital. More than 100 pubs are listed, the vast majority within two miles of Charing Cross. Pubs are grouped in geographical clusters and shown on an interactive map, with several alternatives within walking distance always offered. Users are encouraged to recommend additional pubs, and can also suggest supplementary areas.

This kind of guide should be prepared for other cities in the UK and I sincerely hope that other darts enthusiasts who care as much about the game as Justin does will do exactly that – and sooner rather than later please.

© 2010 Justin Irwin (with additional text © 2010 and 2012 Patrick Chaplin)

NOTE:

For those interested in learning more about the East End Fives dartboard and, perhaps more importantly where to play it can find the information on this website at East End Fives.