Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Skittles - Not Just A Pub Game

The current trend for all things 'Pop-Up', including shops, restaurants, and even pubs, is like most new ideas, simply an old idea renamed for a new generation. The fact is, Pop-Up pubs have been appearing at Village Fetes and other community events for generations, named simply, and in the parlance of the time, the Beer Tent. The traditional credentials of this age-old Pop-Up Pub phenomena are often enhanced by a range of traditional Pop-Up Pub Games, with Skittles in all its myriad forms being a particular Fete-day favourite.

There's a fair bit of gaming crossover between pub and Fete, with all manner of games making the transition to the village green on the day. It's perhaps surprising that traditional Fete games like Splat The Rat, Roll A Penny, and the Coconut Shy haven't made the transition from Fete to pub game in the same way. Though maybe not! Having said that, the pub game of Aunt Sally has much in common with the Coconut Shy, and originated itself as a fairground game.

Of course skittles play at Fetes is much less competitive than pub play, often with a more random element due to the terrain, and primarily for the purposes of fun and local fund raising. It can also be a great introduction to the game for youngsters who may never have encountered skittles in a pub environment before.

The table shown above is a small handmade version of a Northants/Leics Skittles Table which makes a regular appearance at Caldecott Fete. This is probably the only similar table in active use in the county of Rutland, where skittles has all-but disappeared from its increasingly upmarket and food-led pubs.

The game shown here is a lovely old 'Country Skittles' set, raising money and giving pleasure at Braybrooke Fete in Leicestershire. The 'cheeses' are similar to those used in the Leicestershire Long Alley tradition, making this an ideal trainer game for the local pub game! Setting pins like these, which are often top-heavy, can be difficult on an uneven grassy surface, but this set is purpose made for the job and come complete with a set of spiked metal discs which can be inserted into the turf for the pins to sit on.

For every Northamptonshire or Leicestershire Skittles Table still residing in a pub, and there are hundreds, it's likely that just as many are now in private hands, sometimes located in parts of the country which are very far from the games Midlands home. This W T Blacks table is in the ownership of a local resident of Little Bowden near Market Harborough in Leicestershire, and has featured at every one of the village Fetes in recent years. A similar pub table is still in active use at the Cherry Tree in the village.

Skittles at Barrowden Fete in Leicestershire is a mix-and-match of Ten Pin Bowling Alley pins and a set of old Lignum Vitae Bowls. The bias on these Bowls presumably makes for a more challenging game. The Fete takes place on the village green, and in the shadow of the Exeter Arms which is home to a brewery and the local league game of Pétanque.

The table shown here proved a popular draw with the youngsters at the annual Feast Day in Stoke Albany, Northamptonshire. I've no idea where this table originally came from. Certainly the Fox Inn at the adjacent village of Wilbarston still has a well used table, so maybe this example came from Stoke Albany's pub, the White Horse which underwent an extensive refurbishment some years ago.

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