Coronavirus: Why quizzes are bringing people together under lockdown

By Giancarlo Rinaldi
South Scotland reporter, BBC Scotland news website

Image source, PA Media

Lockdown has led to an "explosion" in people taking part in online quizzes, according to Jane Allen.

She runs the British Quizzing Association, which runs events all over the world and writes and verifies about 30,000 questions every year for TV shows.

"Everyone loves a quiz and there are lots of ways of running them online, so a quiz is the obvious choice to get people together during lockdown," she said.

"There also seem to be a lot of kids running quizzes for their friends, which is great.

"What better way to learn while they're away from their schools?

"This gives them research skills, writing skills and technology skills, and a great sense of achievement and fun. It's brilliant to see."

'I've spoken to people I haven't seen for years'

Image source, Kenny Watt
Image caption,
Kenny Watt said quizzing had proved a "good distraction"

Kenny Watt, originally from Edinburgh, is one person who has been drawn back to quizzing during the lockdown.

A risk consultant with Aberdeen Standard Life, he is currently in lockdown in Middlesbrough with his wife Nikki, daughters Alice and Evie, and mother-in-law Sue.

"I ran pub quizzes in Edinburgh for about eight years... but I stopped when the kids came along as writing quizzes, working full-time and looking after young kids was exhausting," he said.

"I have hosted the odd charity quiz since though.

"When we went into lockdown I saw a load of friends who were teachers putting messages on Facebook about how they were happy to help people with home schooling and it made me wonder what I could do.

"I did not really have the skills to help with practical stuff but I still had the Facebook page for the old quiz so I thought I would see if I could help with some social stuff."

He created an event and sent details out to some former participants and a few friends.

It has now become a weekly event with between 15 and 30 people taking part and has also produced some unexpected benefits.

"I think it has helped me to have something I can focus on at night when I am writing the quiz," he explained.

"I am a fairly active person so the fact that I am only out once a day affects my mood, but this is a good distraction.

"I also have seen and spoken to some people I have not seen for years because of this.

"I have seen my cousin who lives in Sweden more in the last few weeks than the last decade."

'Part of the job is making it look easy'

Image source, Paul Diamond
Image caption,
Quizmaster Paul Diamond - known as Dr Paul - said he hoped to continue online quizzes after lockdown ended

For full-time quizmaster Paul Diamond, known as Dr Paul, the lockdown has meant big changes.

He started his events in Glasgow in the 1990s and ran them all over Edinburgh before the outbreak.

He said most quizmasters were self-employed and had lost their entire income due to coronavirus.

"I don't think there are many quizmasters who would describe the pandemic as a 'boost'," he said.

"However, new opportunities are arising."

Image source, Paul Diamond

One of them is hosting corporate events via video conferencing software which avoids some of the hassles - like travel and setup - of more conventional quizzes.

"I, for one, will be continuing to look for these kind of gigs even when the pubs are back," he said.

"The income has not, so far, matched what I made in the pubs, nothing like it - but I am trying to build this up."

He also said the lockdown may have been a bit of an eye-opener for the amateurs trying to organise their own events.

"Some people are running family quizzes and so on, but I think a lot of them are finding out how tricky it can be to write and run a good quiz," he said.

"Part of the job is making it look easy."

'We have a captive audience'

Image source, Scott Brayford
Image caption,
Thousands of people join an online quiz organised by Andrew Wildgoose

Andrew Wildgoose, known as Goose, started running pub quizzes while studying at Napier University in Edinburgh in 2011.

It started in the bar where he used to work, and has now expanded to a full-scale business.

"Before lockdown we ran around 45 weekly pub quizzes across Edinburgh and Glasgow, alongside regular corporate and charity quizzes," he said.

"We have five full-time staff members and had 12 part-time quiz hosts, who usually ran around three quizzes a week each."

He said their work had now gone completely online, with thousands of people playing.

Image source, Getty Images

It might not be the same as going out to the pub, but it has brought in a new audience.

"We have seen more people wanting to quiz with us," he said.

"I think because we have a captive audience we have seen people who might not have come out to the pub before.

"Along with businesses, families or groups of friends are always looking for something to connect them virtually during this time.

"It gives them more to talk and think about other than coronavirus."