What is urban axe throwing and where does it come from?
It started as a Canadian backyard sport that spread to the US. It reached some eastern European countries a while ago and, about three or four years ago, started appearing here in the UK. It basically involves throwing one-and-a-half pound axes at a target with three scoring rings. The closer you get to the central ring – the bullseye, if you like – the more points you score.
There are axe throwing centres springing up all over the country – why is it becoming so popular?
I think people are fed up with just going out drinking with their mates in the evening. They want something different; an alternative to the pub. It was a tough decision for us to not serve alcohol but it was the most sensible choice. We serve alcohol-free beers and ciders, so we still have that pub atmosphere, but we just didn’t want to take any chances – or give anyone an excuse for losing.
When did you throw your first axe?
I started throwing just over a year ago at Fury Events, an outdoor sports centre just outside Durham run by my now co-Managing Director Jack Beadle. I just fell in love with it. The idea of launching an indoor centre in Newcastle kept buzzing around my brain until I decided to just do it.
You’re now an axe throwing coach by night, but what’s your day job?
I’m a police officer. I was in the military, then joined the police and moved into counter-terrorism. I now work with British Transport Police which, inevitably, involves dealing with serious violent crime. If you’ve got a stressful job like me, target sports can be a great stress-reliever. You have to concentrate hard, so everything else just melts away. We had a therapist in who said she thinks axe throwing could be useful for her CBT patients because it keeps you in the moment, a bit like mindfulness.
Can anyone throw an axe or does it take a certain amount of strength?
You might assume that axe throwing is a sport for burly men, but actually men and women can compete on an even standing and about 50 percent of our customers are female. We should be taking delivery of some lighter axes soon, so we can lower the age range from 18 to 13. I’ve taught my eight-year-old daughter to throw in our garden and have worked with a client of 81 – it really is a sport for everyone.
What does a 90-minute session at Hatchet Harry’s entail?
We start with a safety briefing, then people are split across the lanes to start throwing. We usually get a bit of a competition going with a champion announced at the end of the session. We also wrap things up with a few trick shots, like throwing underhand or throwing two axes at once. Our aim is for everyone to leave with a smile on their face. And, so far, everyone has.
Is the social element of axe throwing as important as the sporting competition?
Probably even more so. We can cater for up to 36 people a session, usually made up of a mixture of individuals and groups. Everyone gets thrown together on the lanes and usually the fun and banter breaks down the barriers pretty quickly. We had three couples come in on date nights recently and leave as a six – they’d never met each other before but, after the session, they headed off for a night on the town as friends.
Hatchet Harry’s can be found at Arch 18, Forth Banks, Newcastle NE1 3PG; www.hatchetharrys.co.uk