Walk on by – the girls who catch the eye

Karen Cookson
Karen Cookson
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It all started with the idea with adding a bit of glamour to darts – back in the day when beefy players were hardly the stuff of pin up posters.

Face it, if formula one racing drivers could have dolly birds draped around them ... why not the ordinary looking chaps notching up extraordinary scores on the darts board?

And the likes of Phil The Power Taylor – world champion 16 times at the last count – took it all in his stride.

He remains one of the most popular players with the walk on girls themselves – and model agency bosses who head hunt them.

“Darts players tend to be the nice guys of sport,” says Karen Cookson, a former Miss Blackpool herself, who runs the resort-based Angels Elite Model agency which was established in 1998 with her business partner Sue Knight.

Mother of two Karen helps oversee the choice of walk on models for selection by top sports fixture promoters. She also organises the annual Miss Blackpool contest – the first heats of which will be held at G Casino, this year’s main sponsors, starting on June 20.

But if you want to see what really sets the social networks alight – tune into Twitter after any World Professional Darts fixture at home or abroad.

Many of the tweets are about the girls themselves who walk on with the major players as part of the glam guard of honour.

The girls have their very own fan clubs and followers.

Karen, whose main agency offers models of all ages, shapes, sizes and genders for commercial assignments, from sofa shoots to beach wear, says the walk-on models have become the most sought after.

There’s an official Sky PDC Walk On Girls site on social networking website Facebook and a growing Twitter following too.

Karen admits: “I can’t believe how much it’s taken off. There’s so much interest in the girls.

The players themselves are gentlemen and the fans aren’t in your face either. But make no mistake they get a lot of attention.”

Models Karen and Sue were the very first walk on girls back in 1994 at the Winter Gardens.

“The darts promoters came up with this idea, when they came to Blackpool, of having two girls walking the players on. And it took off from the very start.

“You could dress the part too, either in swimwear, or matching waistcoats as the players or some costume with a theme, or in the colours of your player.

“It was busy in those days but I can’t believe just how far it’s progressed since.

“We now provide the girls for the premier league world darts, different events.

“I worked with Eric Bristow, Phil Taylor, Dennis Priestley, Alan Warriner and Rod Harrington. I used to like the outfit I wore with Alan – but loved the banter with Rod. Phil just always won!

“Because the guys are so down to earth – it’s not polo or tennis – it just turned into a real laugh.

“I remember we used to have to switch players because some times it would seem Sue had all the luck, her players had won, and then it would be my turn.

“We became a sort of mascot. Sue tended to stick with Dennis, I was always with Phil or Alan.

“The guys were always lovely with us. Today the girls wear evening dresses or short cocktail style dresses – they always look beautiful. There are big name sponsors involved too.

“It’s lovely to see the fans reaction to the walk on girls.

“They love to know which ones are being booked and they follow the different girls online.”

The undisputed queen of walk-ons is currently Daniella Allfree who’s based in Chesterfield but on the Blackpool books.

“She did the week in Blackpool and even did the Baywatch spoof locally with five girls on the promenade in red swimsuits. They were all freezing!

“She’s had a great response and has been travelling the world since. We have two different girls for each day of each event. Lots of Blackpool girls too. We send their pictures to the PDC – Professional Darts Corporation – and they pick out who they want. It’s become really popular but the girls always remember it’s not about them but the darts and the players.

“All the girls we book are level headed and down to earth and have a laugh.”

Karen also tries to accompany the girls on their travels. “As a mum I can’t travel too far but the Premier League darts goes all over and I’ll try to get to as many I can within reason.

“Daniella’s booked all the way through. She’s stunning and treated with respect.

“I think every girl who has done it has enjoyed it.

“Walk-ons are becoming bigger business. Snooker has taken some on.

“We still do our mainstream model work, bridal shows, photo shoots, fashion events. Organising Miss Blackpool also gives us the chance to recruit new girls.”