Published on December 10th, 2013 | by Alastair Gilmour


The pub quiz – The answer to wet Wednesdays

The pub quiz means different things to different people. Cheers dips its toe into a phenomenon

Welcome to the pub quiz. The first round is on the pub quiz itself, so listen carefully: Why are pub quizzes so popular?

Are they a socialising thing or just a drinking club? Do you have to be super-brainy to enjoy them? Do people enter purely to win money? Will I show myself up on the music round? Can I phone a friend?

The answers are many and varied and worthy of PhD study – which someone, somewhere will surely have done – but the short answers are that they are hugely enjoyable and a great social occasion peppered with as much competitiveness as you yourself want. That could be lots or none – and they foster such a friendly atmosphere that nobody really cares at the end of the night anyway. Wel, hopefully.

And a definite no to cheating, as The Schooner, Gateshead’s landlord Dave Campbell says: “Anyone caught using their phone will be dragged out by the whatsits.”

Even the highly-competitive Sunderland Quiz League has relaxed is rules recently to attract wider audience participation. Currently with seven member pubs and clubs, it’s the North East’s premier general knowledge quiz league, but not everybody wants to get super-hyped up to answer questions on a wet Wednesday night.

“We believe our current champions, Penshaw Catholic Club, can claim to be the region’s top team,” says league secretary Chris Brewis. “Our new format has created a more relaxed atmosphere which, in turn, has successfully attracted some new players and we are always keen to have new teams or individuals joining us.

“We also play an annual match against the York CIU Quiz League – founded in 1946 – who have a certificate from the Guinness Book of Records acknowledging them as the oldest league in the world. The score in the annual series now stands at 8-8.”

Pub quizzers are particularly inventive when it comes to naming teams – much like the Tyneside five-a-side football leagues that feature teams such as Real Ale Madrid and Win Late On.

Quiz fans Chris Jones, Andrew Johnson and James Crowe compete under the name of Black Sheep. As in the beer? “Yes, because we keep on winning,” says James.

“We all work together so it’s nice to get together outside work in a nice place with a nice atmosphere,” says Chris, although a few pints each seems to be a decent enough excuse to go out. Do they fire questions at each other at work to limber up? “Not really,” says Andrew, “but James says we should listen to Radio 4 more, although pub quizzes usually cover a lot of areas and not just current affairs.”

The Black Sheep reasoning is one that goes across the pub quiz sector. We noted quotes like:

“Pub quiz night is a fun night out.”

“It’s a way for like-minded people to get together, plus it tests your knowledge.”

“You get to socialise with people from work and some of us have a competitive nature.”

But there surely can’t be many pub quizzers as dedicated as Dan Fullard, who plays for the Museum Vaults in the Sunderland Quiz League.

He says: “I attend three to four quizzes a week in local pubs, I run a successful quiz blog and travel the country playing in quizzes. I’m also appearing on this year’s Brain of Britain and Only Connect, having just been on Eggheads. I also publish quiz books.”

Now, here’s one to file away: The world’s largest pub quiz, according to the Guinness Book of Records, was held in Ghent, Belgium, on December 11, 2010 with 2,280 participants.

Pub quizzes are such a social phenomenon that pub companies and brewers have long nibbled at them by way of sponsorship and promotion. For example, Budweiser Budvar has been targeting “thinking” drinkers in a London-wide pub quiz with a difference.

The brand has been sponsoring special Budvar-related quiz nights at 12 pubs across the capital with the winning team from each event challenging in the final for a VIP trip to the Original Budweiser Budvar brewery in the Czech Republic.

“Budvar has got loads of history, loads of provenance, and all kinds of fascinating, quirky stuff that makes it a natural as a quiz subject,” says Ian Moss, Budvar UK marketing controller. And the good news is, the format is set to be unveiled on Tyneside early next year. We’ll announce detailed plans in February’s Cheers, but interested stockist pubs are being contacted by Budvar’s Jonathan Barnes.

A ‘niche’ quiz sounds right up the Sunderland Quiz League street, as Chris Brewis says: “I like to think of our quiz as an evening’s conversation punctuated with the occasional question. But what I really love about quizzes is those where the questions tell you something interesting.

“There’s a good chance you won’t know it but you can work it back. For instance, who was given an honorary knighthood in 1923 and stripped of it in 1940?

“So we thought of someone we decided we didn’t like in 1940. Hitler maybe… no he wasn’t ‘around’ in 1923, but Mussolini was, he came to power in 1922.

You go through the process of deducing the answer. It really is what’s great about pub quizzes.”

And just about the only place you can flaunt that sort of knowledge is at the pub quiz.

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Alastair Gilmour

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