London Travels – Culture: 2015 William Hill World Darts Championships at Alexandra Palace

One of the first articles I wrote for this website back in 2012, when we were on Blogspot, was a report on a night of darts matches for the Premier League when they came to Bournemouth on that occasion. When we moved over to our current domain, the article did not survive; as I was advised that all non-food/travel-related content should be removed.

But now that we are expanding our content in time for our third birthday, I am opening a branch of the travel section, entitled Culture, wherein we will hear from one or two new contributors in the near-future. Making a departure from the focus on food, the Culture branch will deal with subjects we would not normally consider – such as music, theatre, art and, in this case, sport.

The decision for my friend Tom Crocker and his housemate (an acquaintance of mine for nearly 13 years) Panashe Tauringana to allow me to join them on their excursion to watch a pair of sessions of this year’s World Darts Championships has been long in the making over the course of the year. With the most experience in handling them, I was the one left in charge of the hotel (a review of which will be following in a few issues time).

Alexandra_Palace_ExtMy interest and enthusiasm for darts and snooker has left me very familiar with Alexandra Palace as a venue (see pictured), though it was my first physical visit there

I must admit the sheer size of the “Fans’ Village”, which is situated in a foyer-anteroom hybrid, mainly consisting of food concessions and competition stalls. You can also get yourself a souvenir framed and signed photograph with some of the darting legends still with us, such as Eric Bristow, MBE.

The PDC World Championships don’t just take the big names from the darting world – the Phil Taylors, Michael van Gerwens and Adrian Lewises that everybody sees whatever event they attend. You also get the unknowns who happen to be veterans in their own countries, such as the Australian Lawrence “Loz” Ryder and the uncharacteristically-named Hong Kong star Scott Mackenzie. You also get the up-and-coming stars who no one has really heard of, such as Northern Irishman Daryl “The Dude” Gurney. A couple of these were débutantes at this event, but I couldn’t name names to that effect, and a few were even younger than me!

Ally_Pally_View_from_StandThe elegance of the outer building, which has been open to the public since 1875 following a rebuild, and the size of the foyer-anteroom do truly bely the nature of the auditorium from which the matches are broadcast. When one watches the Snooker Masters, which is also broadcast from Alexandra Palace, I suppose the difference in scale between the two sports have an effect on the mind and the eye. It was truly a culture shock to walk into a London venue and to find quite a small auditorium, with green, plastic seats. When each session can go on for almost five hours at a time, it can be quite uncomfortable, especially when one is used to the comfort of Windsor Hall in Bournemouth’s International Centre, where we go for the Premier League matches. Still, as you’ll see pictured, from where we were sat, there are still good views of the games going on.

Darts events always attract an eclectic collection of people, the vast majority of whom, it seems, are there with the ulterior motive of having a massive piss-up whilst occasionally glancing at the scores. Football culture seems prevalent in the stands, with a variety of colourful and imaginative chants (half of which I can’t decipher with my deaf ears). The chants themselves emanate a lot of disruption for the darts players, I believe – I always like to see how they are being affected by it on-screen. Some of them appear to thrive in it, whereas others, such as Gary “The Flying Scotsman” Anderson, seem to suffer. His ability with checking out on his doubles was atrocious on Saturday.

When the games get a little long-winded, such as the five-set drag that was the face-off between Justin Pipe and the aforementioned Lawrence Ryder, the chants pick up and the attention departs from the darts. From this, I noticed a bit of class warfare breaking out between those sitting in the stands, who appeared to represent the working class, shouting “Boring, boring tables” and those sat at the tables below, who stood (or rather, sat) for the upper class, who replied “You can’t afford the tables.” I took grave exception to that, because if I’d had my way, we would have been sat at the tables too.

Cheese Krakauers

Cheese Krakauers

During this particular game, Tom and I took the time to go to one of the concession stalls for a bit of lunch – in this case a German Sausage – namely a Cheese Krakauer (see pictured), which was priced at £5, much better value than the burgers being sold nearby at £10 per! They were a delightful flavour as the cheese is actually within the sausage, and really juicy.

Hawaiian Pizza

Hawaiian Pizza

They weren’t the only meals we had that day – upon coming to the evening session, Tom and I went to the Marconi Servery Pizza Bar for a small pizza. It was £7.50 each for an American (i.e. Pepperoni and Jalapeños) and a Hawaiian (Ham and Pineapple) (see pictured). Once again, of good quality and good value.

That’s more than could be said of the alcohol prices. At such events, drinks are purchased with tokens, which in turn are exchanged for cash. Unless one is a beer or cider drinker, which unfortunately I am not, you may as well go the entire event completely sober. A single-measure spirit-and-mixer drink, such as a vodka and coke is worth three tokens, which in turn cost nearly £7.

I think that if darts had not been such a valued and important part of my family life and upbringing, I would not enjoy it. The culture and the overall atmosphere are such that I can’t help feeling a little opposed to it. At the same time, it is exciting and electric and highly enjoyable. Nevertheless, I believe my next trip to Alexandra Palace will not be next year.