The real-life inspiration for Phoenix Nights’ Brian Potter and the fire that destroyed his club

Richard Bevan
Richard Bevan
4 Min Read

The late Bob Potter, OBE, long-time owner of the renowned Lakeside Country Club, Frimley Green, Surrey, has emerged as the real-life muse behind the iconic Phoenix Nights character, Brian Potter. Potter’s passing at 94, announced by the World Darts Federation (WDF), marks the end of an era but leaves a huge legacy at the ‘home of darts.’

Bob Potter’s Lakeside Country Club, often hailed as the ‘home of darts,’ was not just a venue; it was a cultural phenomenon. Established in 1972, the club rose to fame by hosting darts and other events, drawing international spectators from the US, Canada, Australia, Germany, Finland, and Holland in extravagant costumes. The Lakeside’s carnival atmosphere, unique to the world of darts, created an unparalleled blend of entertainment.

In 2004, Bob Potter claimed that his life and Lakeside had inspired the character Brian Potter in Peter Kay’s comedic masterpiece, Phoenix Nights. “Phoenix Nights? Peter Kay – he’s doing me. It’s the sayings, innit, fire, and how he operated – it was all Lakeside. There’s too many alike things there,” expressed Potter.

Bob Potter’s Lakeside Country Club became known as the home of darts.

Bob Potter was a trailblazer in live entertainment venues, sowing the seeds for Phoenix Nights

The Lakeside not only showcased darts but also hosted top showbiz acts, witnessed the presence of royalty. Tributes poured in from the world of darts, with Bobby George remembering Potter as an iconic figure and darts referee Huw Ware highlighting his crucial sponsorship of the BDO World Championship.

Bob Potter’s journey began in the post-war era, evolving from a dance band drummer to a showbiz impresario. He built an empire, managing three dance bands and booking legendary acts like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. In the 1970s, Potter’s vision materialised as Lakeside, which quickly became a hub for music, comedy, and darts.

Bob would book many stars for the Lakeside, including Bruce Forsyth.
Cliff Richard was a frequent visitor to the country club
Darts legend Bobby George led the tributes to Bob in a touching memorial.

Unlike the acts on Phoenix Nights, The Lakeside stage witnessed performances by music legends such as Sir Cliff Richard, Marvin Gaye, and Shirley Bassey, alongside top comedians like Tommy Cooper, Morecambe and Wise, and Jim Davidson. The royal family, including Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Princess Margaret, and the Duke and Duchess of Kent, frequented the club. Margaret Thatcher herself praised it as one of her favourite places for Tory party jollies.

Tributes flooded in for the mastermind behind the Lakeside

However, tragedy struck in November 1978 when a fire nearly destroyed Lakeside. Undeterred, Bob Potter, without insurance, led the club’s resurrection, working tirelessly for a year. The parallels between Lakeside’s struggle and the Phoenix Nights storyline were unmistakable.

Allegedly, the fire in Phoneix Nights was inspired by a real-life fire at the Lakeside in the 70s.

In April 2023, at 94, Bob Potter passed away after a short illness. A dynamic figure, Potter’s impact extended beyond entertainment; he supported charities and received accolades for contributions to the industry. In 1993, Queen Elizabeth II made Bob a Grand Water Rat and an OBE.

As we reflect on Bob Potter’s life, the Lakeside remains a testament to his vision and dedication. Rumours about a new Phoenix Nights series continue circulating, keeping alive the spirit of the iconic Brian Potter and his much-loved club.

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