24 hours in London: 8 p.m.–10 p.m.
By Eric Clement
A woman whispers to the patron next to her and suddenly the entire bar erupts into chants of, “Get the paddle!”
This is the sentence for those who commit the crime of spewing answers out of turn at the Black Shire Pub’s trivia nights.
“We just provide the paddle. The paddling is up to them,” said Sonita Bird, the pub’s general manager before jokingly adding she does not want to be liable for such a beating.
The communal approach to bludgeoning customers is not unlike the atmosphere felt at the many trivia nights held at Forest City pubs every week.
At Black Shire Pub, people call each other by name and the two large plasma televisions over the bar go largely unnoticed as conversations carry on all around. Teams are in the every-man-or-woman-for-themselves format and people raise their hands in substitute of a Jeopardy buzzer.
|Photo by Eric Clement|
|Players rush to answer the latest stumper from quizmaster Sinclair Shuit at the Black Shire Pub.|
But this sense of community has not always been the case.
“I find Londoners socialize independently,” Bird said. “They don’t really chat with their neighbour.”
Bird, also the former owner of the pub, started the trivia nights to foster the sense of community present in her native Nova Scotia.
Now anywhere from 20 to 100 people attend the weekly quiz nights that are reminiscent of a giant game of Trivial Pursuit with one’s family.
Just as one question was read out, participants paused from the game, looked up and exclaimed, “Jeremy!” to a man walking in.
“It’s kind of like our home,” said 36-year-old Andrea Bennett.
The pub’s undisputed trivia-buff, Bennett said she has won about 20 quiz nights – a task requiring one to create and oversee the quiz the following week.
“We have anywhere from 200 to 300 questions,” she said. “The first few that I did, it was a lot of work. Probably close to 20 hours.”
But she says it’s worth it.
“Generally, I’m happy if I pay my tab with the winnings. That’s a pretty good incentive,” said Bennett.
Down Talbot Street a couple of blocks at the Coates of Arms pub, things are a little more formal.
Teams of two to seven players are handed two booklets at the beginning of the night. The first has blank spaces for the answers read out during the night. The second has a list of images and questions that teams can work on until the end of the game.
At the end of the night, cards are exchanged, points are totalled and winners are crowned.
“When we come, we come to win,” said 61-year-old Dean Hall, a member of the Mastheads trivia team.
The pub subscribes to a North American federation of trivia leagues called PubStumpers. The company provides the pub with weekly sets of questions and patrons can register and check their scores against other teams across the continent. Coates of Arms pays for this membership fee through different sponsors in the pub.
With so much competition, winning doesn’t come without a certain level of strategy.
“We firmly believe we win because of the different ages represented on our team and we’re all very well read,” said Barbara Hunter, 56, also a member of the Mastheads.
Whatever they’re doing, it’s working. The Mastheads have won the last three seasons of PubStumpers at Coates of Arms and have no intentions of retiring.
“We’ve been asked by our competitors why we do so well and our answer is that none of us graduated from Western,” joked Hall.
But Western University is no laggard when it comes to trivia.
The university recently launched an online trivia session via its Twitter account. @westernu tweeted questions at its almost 11,500 followers from March 5 to 7. The questions were asked in anticipation of Founder’s Day at Western and gave followers a chance to win school swag.
But according to pub goers, there’s no substitute for the bar feel.
“You can’t drink beer when you’re playing football,” said 34-year-old trivia devotee Ryan Ford.
The university’s Society of Graduate Studies also runs a weekly trivia game on Tuesday nights at the Grad Club, a restaurant on campus. Teams of one to eight – though this number is often stretched – fill in answers to questions over several rounds. The scores are then added up, and the team with the most points wins gift certificates.
Regardless of the location or the prize at stake, Bird said that people won’t stop answering questions anytime soon.
“People may not necessarily be regulars at any pub but they definitely are loyal to the trivia night.”