Darts: Darts legends in Lancaster - Feature
Last weekend ^The Legends of the Oche^ visited Lancaster for an evening of darts, beer, jokes, fags, stories – and more beer. Our reporter GREG LAMBERT was privileged to spend time with darting greats ERIC BRISTOW, JOHN LOWE, BOBBY GEORGE – and, er, DUNCAN NORVELLE.
IT^S just under an hour before the doors open at Lancaster^s Grand Theatre and I^m supposed to be interviewing Eric Bristow. But he^s disappeared down the pub.
Seems you can take the booze away from darts players, but you can^t get darts players away from the booze.
In 2009, when Phil ^The Power^ Taylor is a multi-millionaire and darts is second in TV sporting popularity only to football, ^the new people^s sport^ has tried to clean up its image as just a ^pub game^.
Nowadays the superstars of darts are forced to sip nothing stronger than orange juice as they perform in packed 10,000-seater arenas.
Darts legends in Lancaster - Feature
Contrast that with 1980, when the World Darts Championship – fittingly sponsored by Embassy – saw Bristow beat Bobby George in a dingy Stoke-on-Trent club while the stench of smoke and ale filled the air as much as the tension.
Televised darts was popular back then too (viewing figures were 10 million for the 1980 final) and Bristow, George and John Lowe were – and still are – household names.
But 30 years ago, there was far less money for the top pros. For becoming World Champion, Bristow collected a couple of grand.
Now the likes of Taylor and Raymond van Barneveld cross swords – or rather arrows – for a six-figure pot in Sky Sports^ Premier League of Darts.
Such huge prizes seem rather unfair on those who came before them – the men who laid the foundations of TV darts.
Especially as three of yesteryear^s icons are now trundling around the country, re-living past glories on a nostalgia tour.
Having come to frostbitten Lancaster to see ^Legends of the Oche^, I am intrigued that Duncan Norvelle, camp comedian from the same 80s telly era, was picked as compere.
Breaking off from his sound-check, Duncan explains his unlikely role.
"I^ve been friends with John Lowe for 25 years," he smiles, in a surprisingly deep voice.
(Quick trade secret – the real-life Norvelle sounds nothing like his effeminate stage persona.)
"When I was doing the clubs I used to drink with John in his pub in Chesterfield. I^ve known Eric almost as long. These guys are my heroes.
"Bobby George is happy working with them. But he hates the pair of them. You ask him!"
I^d love to. But he^s down the Stonewell Tavern too, hunched outside the front door with his ^enemy^ Eric, both enjoying a ciggie...
The Barnsley comic continues. "When I used to play the pubs and clubs, before I went on stage I always used to have a game of darts."
Duncan Norvelle, who routinely pulls burly men out of his audience and forces them to "chase me", a darts fan?
"Yeah. I held the record on Bullseye for a celebrity – I scored 288 with nine arrows.
"I can even beat (John, Eric and Bobby) now!"
Story By : Pendle Today