BBC Four look backs at ‘When Darts Hit Britain’

BBC Four is to chart the growth of darts from a pub game to a fully fledged televised sport in a special documentary to be broadcast on December 15.

With the help of nostalgic archive footage, Bullseyes and Beer: When Darts Hit Britain will tell the story of how a traditional working-class pub game became a national obsession during the 1970s and 80s.

The hour-long film, part of the channel’s acclaimed Timeshift series, also looks at the key role television played in the early years, from the days of Yorkshire TV’s pioneering Indoor League, brainchild of the ‘voice of darts’ Sid Waddell, to regular coverage on the BBC and ITV during the sport’s original heyday, all of which helped elevate the game’s larger-than-life players into household names.

Narrated by Downton Abbey and Happy Valley actress Siobhan Finneran, the BBC Four film charts the game’s surprising history, its cross-class and cross-gender appeal, and the star players that, for two decades, transformed a pub pastime into a sporting spectacle like no other.

One of the many anecdotes and stories featured in the documentary includes how the meteoric rise of Keith Deller in 1983, the year in which he beat Eric Bristow in the World Championship final, inspired and influenced one of the leading novelists of the decade, Martin Amis.

The documentary will include contributions from darting legends Eric Bristow, Bobby George and John Lowe, who all recall playing darts for high stakes during darts’ formative years as a popular past-time.

Interviews from the archives with other legendary figures from the sport will feature during the film, including names such as Welsh darts star Alan Evans and former world champion Jocky Wilson.

There will also be contributions from 16-time world champion Phil Taylor, who won his first title in 1990, as well as veteran BBC commentator Tony Green, top female player Maureen Flowers and the ‘curator of darts’ Patrick Dee.

Part of BBC Four’s Timeshift series, a documentary strand which ranges widely over Britain’s social and cultural history, its narrative-led storytelling will offer a richly immersive experience into the true story of the growth of darts as a spectacle for thousands of spectators and millions of TV viewers ever year.

In a bonus for darts fans, the premiere of Bullseyes and Beer: When Darts Hit Britain on Monday, December 15, on BBC Four at 9.00pm will be followed by another special archive programme featuring a young Eric Bristow.

Arrows follows filmmaker John Samson on the road with a 22-year-old Bristow, then one of the rising stars of darts, who later became a five-time world champion during the 1980s.

This 1979 film from the archives depicts Bristow between major competitions as he travels around the pubs and working men’s clubs of Britain, challenging the local heroes and playing exhibition matches, with the ‘Crafty Cockney’ taking on all-comers and breezily faces down a belligerent local radio host.

Bullseyes and Beer: When Darts Hit Britain will be available to watch shortly after transmission on BBC iPlayer on all devices and viewers can watch it for up to 30 days after broadcast.

For more information on the BBC Four documentary, including preview clips and a picture gallery, visit the official BBC website.

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Monday 15th December

Bullseyes and Beer: When Darts Hit Britain

9.00pm-10.00pm  BBC Four

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Arrows

10.00pm-10.35pm  BBC Four

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