It was supposed to be an online pub quiz for the locals at the Greenfield pub in a small town in Lancashire, UK, now shut due to the coronavirus lockdown. By the day of the quiz, the Facebook event set up by 38-year-old Jay Flynn had more than half a million people ‘interested’, and more than 200,000 actually took part.
By setting the Facebook event to ‘public’, Flynn, a sales advisor, inadvertently launched a global phenomenon. “I was expecting maybe 30 or 40 people to turn up for it,” he told Euronews. “It was just surreal, we had over a couple of hundred thousand turn up to the first one, and it has just spiralled from there.”
Since that first event on March 26, Flynn’s virtual pub quiz has accrued 111,000 subscribers on YouTube, where he hosts it, along with more than 135,000 likes on Facebook where he publicises it, through ‘public’ events.
Asked why his quiz has garnered so much attention, he said: “That’s the million dollar question. Even people who are doing virtual pub quizzes themselves are getting in touch, asking how are you doing so well, how have you gotten so many subscribers? I honestly don’t know. For whatever reason, when people shared it in the early stages it obviously captured the public imagination.”
Flynn is not just providing people with the challenge and social connection of taking part in a pub quiz while they are stuck inside. Some of his followers started suggesting he now had the platform to raise money for good cause. While he makes clear that nobody is expected to donate, he set up a JustGiving page for the NHS Charities Together for those that want to give something. His initial target was £15,000. Once again, he slightly underestimated how successful his virtual project would be.
“I had to move the original target within the first few hours,” he said. “I’ve set it at £150,000 and I’m leaving it at that, if it goes over that, that’s beyond my wildest dreams.” As of Tuesday evening, the total stands at more than £93,000.
“We’re all looking out for each other, we’re all helping out where we can,” he said, adding the community of his town, Darwen, had now turned into a much bigger community on his online channels.
Having hosted pub quizzes in actual pubs previously, he knows what he’s doing, but putting on a quiz for hundreds of thousands of people online added some unexpected pressure. “Trying to write 50 questions a week and finding that balance is the biggest challenge,” he said.
“It’s making sure the quizzes are relevant and keeping everybody entertained across all knowledge levels.”
When the lockdown is over, he wants to use his newfound platform to get people back into pubs, “a sector that was struggling even before the outbreak”.
“It would be great to meet some of these people and shake their hand and say thanks for their support,” he added.