Monday, 20 June 2011

Fashions Of The Indoor League

I'd like to share some images from the first ever episode of 'Indoor League', a pub sports show which ran from 1973 to 1977. It's hypnotic, and I'm obsessed with it, although only the first series has been released on DVD to date.

The premise was straightforward: hire a hall in Leeds (first the Queens Hotel, then the Irish Centre); fill said hall with punters; organise darts, arm wrestling, table football, billiards and skittles tournaments; film the results and stick it on telly. Fred Trueman introduced, pint and pipe in hand, the mutton chopped embodiment of working class sportsman made good.

Nearly forty years on, it says some interesting things about working class life in the nineteen seventies, not least in the way the majority of people look: lumpy, pasty, tired, old. The 'fashions' are a long way from Mr. Fish, too: Glam never rubbed any sparkle over 'Indoor League', and the delicate touch of Vidal Sassoon is entirely absent. I find it fascinating, especially as I recognise most of the looks from my own childhood.

Here's Mr. Trueman in action. His ensemble, if I may call it that, is extraordinary: an ill-fitting symphony in browns. His hair hasn't seen a brush for a while, just the heavy stroke of a ham like hand dipped in Brylcreem or Suarfega. Fashion? He couldn't give a toss.

The young athlete at the Skittles Table is Philip Senior from Barnsley, a 'right young upstart' who is showing the older generation a thing or two. His shoulder length hair is his first challenge to authority, but his outfit, which features three variations on olive, is more conservative.We'll come back to Mr. Senior, I think.

I also like the judge to the right, wearing the regulation 'Indoor League' officials uniform of a double breasted bottle green blazer and a chunky yellow polo neck. The kid in the middle of the audience appears to be wearing a rainbow patterned knitted tie, which I like very much; the young man to his right may be wearing an open neck shirt and neckerchief, a very daring move indeed in this company.

These two sets of herberts are deadly table football rivals, Messrs Crane and Kelly and De Mauro and Elliot, respectively. Crane and Kelly are students, so look like shit, with sheets of thick, unkempt hair. They've both rolled up their acrylic sleeves to get on with the job - it's the most work they've done for a while. Elliot is sporting big glasses and a hand knit jumper, but it's De Mauro that catches the eye. Perhaps its the continental roots his exotic surname hints at, but his Dennis the Menace meets 'The Prisoner' is something almost approaching a fashion statement. The big blue Yorkshire TV badge should have a number on it, really.

Finally, meet Charlie Ellis from Bradford. Physically somewhere between Robert Shaw and Big Daddy, Charlie is rock hard enough to make a splash with big, bold primary colours: a rusty red airtex cardigan and a lemon sherbet long sleeved tee. Out of shot, some manly chunky gold finger wear. His striking fair hair hints at comb over, but his eyes dare you to fucking mention it.

We'll be back on the pub game catwalk soon. You can't say I didn't warn you.


  1. A friend of mine who comes from Stalybridge, were talking about this the other night. We ended up watching some on uTube.
    What we do remember is that at the end Truman would sometimes say
    "There's £100 riding on this one"

  2. hilarious.
    post of the year (so far)

  3. In my nightmares; Charlie Ellis is my replacement Dad, and uses my ears to clean his darts.
    I recall sitting slack-jawed through the first series of this Olympian spectacle.
    Your description of mr True-Man's appearance has made my week !

  4. I thought this was some sort of PoMo hoax, since I don't recall avoiding this in my square-eyed youth. I don't know what's more incredible - its existence in the first place or its release on DVD.

  5. I want to see more Charlie 'Quint' Ellis, although he is more 'Battle of the Bulge' era Shaw than 'Jaws'. Love this post, more 'Indoor League' please!

  6. keith naylor is now ebays top vintage darts reviewer. his ears are still growing and his red shirt has been replayed by a scunthorpe united billy sharp one. he will be 65 this year. he was 2 x eastern england champion and reached 2 national final stages. he won many county titles and wrote for bbc book of darts and darts world magazine etc,

  7. I was never of age to see this when broadcast, so don't actually remember it at all. From these pictures, though, it's kind of a cross over from, 'Wheel tappers and Shunters' Social Club', and, 'World of Sport.' Fred Trueman standing in for Dickie Davies.