A quiet night testing your general knowledge at a pub quiz in Buckingham could put you up against some of the best brains in the business. With the 2016 Mastermind Champion and a team that bested the Eggheads last year, the town can boast a host of celebrities of the televised quizzing scene.
Not only do Alan Heath, who conquered Mastermind with his tiebreak performance and unparalleled understanding of the Thunderbirds television show in 2016, and Roger Perkins, University of Buckingham lecturer and leader of the Mitre pub quiz team, which took the Eggheads to task in April, regularly take part in local quizzes, they also contribute in no small part to the Town V Gown competition, held at the Royal Latin School in November.
Each year, staff from the university go head-to-head with a team of resident quizzers, entertaining a packed audience and raising money for charity.
This year’s event, featuring Speaker of the House MP John Bercow as quizmaster, saw the Town team narrowly triumph over the Gown.
Alan Heath, who alongside his wife, Heather, referees and scores the competition, explained its premise.
He said: “Mr Bercow wasn’t very keen to answer questions but he was keen to ask them, that sort of formulated the format of the quiz.
“We wanted to make it a simple one which could be administered without anything like buzzers and the things you find on TV – a little too complicated.”
“In Buckingham itself the standard is very high, I was really very impressed by the quizzing fraternity here.
“Clearly, when the Knights Templeman of the Mitre Pub are winning Eggheads - that’s indicative of the high standard at the Mitre and beyond.”
Roger Perkins, who captained the Eggheads team as well as the Gown’s quartet, believes that the best is yet to come from a town now famed for its quizzing abilities. But how does Buckingham top consecutive national victories?
Roger said: “Well, if any of our winning team ever decided to become an egghead, as has happened in the past, or if the University of Buckingham was to put a team into University Challenge, which has never happened before, we could keep our streak going.
“There’s a pub quiz on a Monday night in the students union, but the rules are not taken as seriously as they are at the Mitre.
“Buckingham has a really good pub culture.
“So many pubs have darts teams, pool teams and quizzing is best done in a pub environment.”
Under the lights at the Lillingstone Trust Community Laboratory in the Royal Latin School’s Discovery Centre, the atmosphere at the Town v Gown isn’t that different from a local pub quiz, thanks to “healthy and friendly competition.”
Roger would welcome the competition growing in scale in the coming years and welcomed the prospect of a trophy for the winning team, provided it was “something small and discrete like the ashes.”
Alan agrees that a University Challenge team might be logical next step for a university town looking to continue its run of quizzing victories.
He said: “There’s no reason why the University of Buckingham couldn’t partake in University Challenge, I would love to see that.
“I think I’ve been on most quizzes now, actually, the one that I really miss not being on was University Challenge but I think my days are numbered for that one.
“It’s so easy to get on TV these days, there are several quizzes and quizzes for every level so if you really wanted to it shouldn’t be too difficult.
“There’s an art in setting questions.
“If they’re too difficult and nobody gets them right it’s not a very interesting quiz, and the same if they’re too easy.
“If I can get about 75% of my questions answerable by 75% of the audience, I’m probably in the right ballpark.”
Despite it being, in the words of Alan, “quite difficult to make any money” out of quizzing, the £3,200 raised for the Buckingham Area Community Advice Bureau (BACAB), which offers confidential and important advice to anyone free of charge, at the Town v Gown event makes it all the more worthwhile.
Jane Mordue, chair of the BACAB said: “Some of the people that most need the help of Citizens Advice simply cannot make it into the bureau. They are too frail or cannot otherwise leave the house.
“Thankfully, our CAB operates a home visiting service to help them get their lives back again.
“Originally funded by the Big Lottery, we now rely entirely on donations from local people and local businesses.”
Town v Gown will be back in 2018, on November 16, with Mr Bercow and Mr Heath committed to returning for another bout of general knowledge – but who will be celebrating next year?
Will another Buckingham individual or team claim victory on the national quizzing stage in the next 11 months? Plenty of time to revise.
To find out more about the BACAB head to www.bacab.org.uk
Thank you to Martyn Thompson (www.m-art-ym.com) for sharing photographs