In her latest column on local sports clubs Bobbie Makonie hits the bullseye with a local darts team
It is believed the game of darts originated in the 19th Century as a pastime for soldiers in the battlefield.
However, much of the modern game is played in public houses, and Waltham Forest Darts League is no different.
On Mondays they have a ladies-only night, and they’re now the only such team left in the borough. For much of that time the team was headed up by Val Barrett, a darts enthusiast and the league secretary for 35 years, but Val unfortunately died last year, leaving husband Glenn Payne to pick up the mantle.
Glenn now volunteers as the results and league secretary to honour Val’s legacy. He has been playing darts since he was 15 and taking part in the Waltham Forest Darts League for 45 years. I asked him; what initially attracted him to the game? “The beer,” jokes Glenn.
Teams consists of six players and up to four reserves. They play twice throughout the season, home and away, with different pubs across the borough hosting each team until the end of August.
While darts remains a popular spectator sport with superstars such as Phil Taylor and Michael van Gerwen, uptake among the younger generation is low for both men and women. Pub closures across the country haven’t helped. Many players now struggle to find traditional spaces to play the game.
A number of local leagues have been dissolved in recent years and this is why recruitment of new members of all ages in Waltham Forest is so important to Glenn: “The last thing Val would want was for it to fold.”
He also offered some words of encouragement for anybody sceptical about picking up the game: “It doesn’t matter if you’re not any good, anybody can learn. It doesn’t matter the standard, it’s just a night out.”
Darts provides an opportunity to improve concentration, confidence and hand-eye co-ordination; while an added incentive for parents of younger players is the prospect of developing solid mental arithmetic skills.
Carol Corless, the league treasurer, has been playing in the league since 1984. She described the tough work of ‘chalking and calling’ (the term for scoring the game) and explained that despite winning the league multiple times, for her it’s more about getting out of the house. “Some people take the competition more seriously than others but overall it’s a good social thing,” she tells me.
Interested players do not have to form a team before joining the league, as individuals can be assigned once expressing interest. Fees are £80 per team each year. For more information: