DJ and live event host, Tom Finkill has been connecting communities during Covid with his weekly quiz, Never Gonna Quiz You Up. He talks to Carmel Thomason about adapting to a year of virtual events and why quizzes are bringing families together like never before.
How have you had to adapt your work during Covid?
Tom: “For the past 18 years, I have been privileged to be able to make a career in hosting and DJing Live Events and Private Parties around the UK. I am proud to have built up a business, and reputation, where my diary is booked a number of years in advance. With the completely unforeseen chaos of Covid-19, the Events Industry was stopped in it’s tracks, and all live events, weddings, corporate engagements and the like were forced to cancel. For the first few weeks, we didn’t truly know how long we would be put on the side-lines before returning back to work, and just used the opportunity to stay home and be together as a family.
“However, as days became weeks, and with us watching the world rapidly dissolve, I wanted to do whatever I could to try and help whoever I could. I’m not a doctor, I’m not a nurse, I have no medical credentials, but what I do have is the ability to entertain and hopefully bring a smile. So we decided, initially, to offer a Live Reading each evening, of a children’s book over Facebook Live, alongside my wonderfully crazy co-host, my five-year-old daughter, Sofia”.
Can you tell us a bit about Sofia’s Bedtime Stories?
Tom: “Sofia’s Bedtime Stories came about as a want to give something back to the community, as a way to entertain children that may not have as many literary resources as we do. We’re blessed to have accrued a large amount of children’s stories and books over the years, and wanted to be able to share them with families that might not have heard them before. It also gave Sofia the opportunity to interact on a social basis with other children who would send her messages, and ask her to give them a nightly “shout-outs”, and it ended up a nightly routine that she looked forward to. I wanted to do something entertaining as a family. Sofia’s Bedtime Stories attracted about 100 families each night that watched us live, and heard stories ranging from children’s classics to new adventures… We are also really proud of the fact that we also drew the attention of some of the books’ authors and illustrators who shared our experience online with their social media followers, and interacted with us on a nightly basis”.
What was the idea behind Never Going to Quiz You Up?
Tom: “From the initial concept of entertaining children throughout lockdown, came an overwhelming amount of messages from people saying that they had watched SBS, and would we do something to entertain the adults… Well, how could I refuse? So I posted a one-line message on Facebook saying: ‘Would anyone like a quiz?’, and was completely blown away by the amount of people that got in touch saying: ‘OMG, YES!’. I’d hosted Live quizzes in the past, so knew it was something I could do, and using technology, could be distributed instantly around the world. So, we came up with the very retro-based name ‘Never Gonna Quiz You Up’, and launched on Facebook Live in early April, sensationally attracting over 300 teams to our first live show. Looking back at it, it was so primitive – I didn’t even have a tripod; I held the camera for nearly two hours as we broadcast, and read questions – but it was just so heart-warming to be able to give something back, on a completely free basis, to an incredible amount of people… who really seemed to enjoy it! Little did I know, it would become a huge part of my life, from that moment on”.
What will you remember most from that time?
Tom: “Every Thursday became a brand new tradition, not just for me, but for the amazing players that would join us each week. We would start by posting our ‘Picture Round’ online at 7.30pm to whet people’s appetite for what was to come; head outside at 8.00pm to acknowledge and support our incredible doctors, nurses and staff with the NHS Doorstep Clap and head back inside to go LIVE at 8.15pm. It was something that just took on a life of it’s own.
“I’m so happy to say that I’ve forged bonds with individuals and teams that played each week, and got in touch to say how much they were enjoying the shows, how much it had brought their families closer together, family teams would play against other family teams and connect in a time where they may have not had interacted as much as before. I received an amazing number of letters, cards, and gifts from people – which was completely unnecessary; I was just happy to bring a smile. But one of the most heart-warming reports came from the Grandmother of a family who played every week, that told me that ‘Never Gonna Quiz You Up’ had brought her grandson back from the brink of suicide, and truly reunited him with his family. The boy was in a very dark place in his life, with the Covid-19 situation adding to the pressures, however the routine of family quizzing fun, where I could actually interact with them through the screen, had brought them closer together, and how much it had helped. That was everything to me, and I’m so glad that I managed to help people, if even in a small capacity.
“I was also so honoured to have been nominated for a Pride Of Bury Award as a Community Hero. To be recognised for the effort was truly humbling, and something that I still can’t truly believe.
“As well as our community effort towards charity”.
What has happened to Never Going to Quiz You Up now?
Tom: “Throughout the first national lockdown, I ran Never Gonna Quiz You Up for 16 weeks, completely free of charge, including a full Week of Zoom inspired Elimination Final Rounds, before taking a few weeks off to re-group and restructure the way the quiz was run. At this time a lot of people were heading back to work, and we felt it was time to put a pin in the ‘Pen and Paper format’ and look towards making the concept more interactive. In August we launched, Never Gonna Quiz You Up 2.0, which is now played on a Public Online Forum each week, where players can answer the questions instantly via their smartphones. It’s fun, fresh, different and easy to play, and regularly attracts 60+ teams who return each week, who pay £5.00 to play, with the chance of winning a fantastic prize, and interacting with their family, even if they aren’t physically together.
“I’ve also expanded the business to include ‘Never Gonna Quiz You Up: Corporate Edition’ and ‘Never Gonna Quiz You Up: The Alternative Christmas Party’ which I’m humbled to say is Sold Out until the end of the year. I have been booked by an amazing amount of clients, including ITV for their own Virtual Christmas Party, which is really exciting, and we regularly have celebrities and Olympic Gold Medallists play in our show”.
Is the quiz family friendly?
Tom: “I’d love to think Never Gonna Quiz You Up is for the entire family. There is absolutely no age limit, so young and old alike can answer an array of questions. My son, Charlie, and daughter, Sofia, absolutely love to be a part of our family team, with my wife, Gemma, on a weekly basis. Their team plays against both sets of their grandparents, as well as cousins, aunties, uncles and school friends, so there is truly something for everyone. I wanted it to bring families closer together, and hopefully that’s what I’m achieving.
Do you do themed quizzes?
Tom: “I love a good theme when it comes to a party, so I thought I’d implement this into the quizzing nights as well. We’ve had Harry Potter Week, Disney Week, In To The Wild, Fancy Dress, Black Tie, Back To School, Winter Woolies and so many more. As a family we’ve dressed up like characters from movie favourites like the Wizard Of Oz, Beetlejuice, Top Gun and Ace Ventura to name just a few, all in the name of entertainment. I’m so happy to say that we have formed amazing bonds with companies that were attracted to our show including the truly awesome TruffleShuffle.com, JunkyardGolf, TenPin, Restaurant Bar & Grill, some sensational eating establishments as well as the truly wonderful Monopoly Events, who host an amazing array of Celebrity Comic-Cons all over the UK to huge crowds. Working alongside them we have just wrapped on a 17-show stint of quizzes all focussed on the TV Show ‘The Vampire Diaries’. With the chance for the winners to be on-stage with the cast of the show at Comic-Con Liverpool, we attracted just shy of 1,600 players over the course of the run. Simply amazing!”
What are the prizes?
Tom: “Throughout Lockdown, the kindness and generosity of companies, near and far, was truly bewildering. We had donations of meals out at incredible 5-star venues, overnight stays at gorgeous hotels, prize packs from Manchester’s incredible gin distillery, Zymurgorium, to name just a few. Wonderful support was offered by the team at TenPin, who sponsored the show for a number of weeks, offering physical prizes of Dominos Pizza Deliveries, Slush Puppy Machines, bespoke cakes etc. There have been so many incredible people that I’d love to publicly thank for their support, how long have you got haha.”
What charities have you been supporting?
Tom: “On the Final Episode of the First Season of Never Gonna Quiz You Up, I mentioned that we would like to see if we could garner a few charitable donations, as the show had been free of charge for 16 weeks. What came was unbeliveable!
“My daughter, Sofia, was diagnosed with DDH or hip dysplasia, which means that she now has to undergo a number of major surgeries throughout her life. Last year, she very bravely went under the knife at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital for three major surgeries in one sitting, and was fitted into a full-body spica cast, throughout the Spring/Summer of 2019. Being unable to move, walk or even just roll over, was a truly turbulent time that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. It was incredibly difficult to watch, and heart-breaking with every moment that she was there. The hospital was tremendous with their support, before, during and afterwards with her physiotherapy. We wanted to give something back, so I suggested to our players that they may make a small contributory donation to the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital Charity.
“Initially I thought if we could raise £100.00, that would be amazing. We surpassed that within the first 20 minutes of the donations page going live… and it would go up, and up, and up. I simply couldn’t believe how generous people were being, just for playing my little Thursday Night quiz show. We had individual donations of £50, £75, and even some over £100.00. I would just like to thank each and every person who contributed, donated and played – they are the true heroes. We raised a massive £2,150 for RMCH. Thank you so much. This will go towards helping young people throughout the trauma of being in hospital, especially throughout the pandemic when resources were very low indeed.
“Since starting the new show, we’re also proud to say that we’ve held Charity Evenings to assist Macmillan Cancer Support, The Christie and Child Bereavement UK. If I can help in any way, I certainly will.”
How can people get involved?
Tom: “I’d love to invite anyone to join us to play in one of our weekly online quizzes. All you need to do is drop me a Private Message saying “Let’s Get Quizzical” to my Facebook page at facebook.com/DJTomFinkill or search Never Gonna Quiz You Up to find us. We’re one big, supportive community who join together each week for a little virtual interaction, family bonding and crazy quizzing. Come and play against other teams that have fast become friends, and invite your friends to join in too… if anything is certain in this new, crazy world it’s that we’re ‘Never Gonna Quiz You Up‘”.