Back in the days before the rise of the Gastro Pub – basically before the 1990s – the choice of food available in your local British boozer was usually rather limited. If you were lucky, you could buy a limp sandwich or a meat pie. Perhaps a pickled egg or similar. And of course, you could buy snacks, though they too were limited – crisps came in the standard flavours and were decidedly unexotic – no artisan producers back then. And there were nuts, of course, the king of beery accompaniments to this day.
The market leaders in pub nuts were Big D, which launched in 1967. Big D’s selling point – beyond being pretty much all there was on offer – was the display stands, which had the bags of salted peanuts covering a photo of a sexy woman – usually model Beverly Pilkington. The photos were often suggestive enough to hint at bare breasts beneath the packets, and canny landlords would make sure that the nuts were removed in such a way as to keep the ‘naughty bits’ covered until the last-minute, thus encouraging the lecherous drinker to buy more in the hope of a cheap thrill (this was the 1970s, so bare breasts were everywhere, but Big D knew the psychological pull of the tease).
The Big D displays finally fell under the sword of feminism and neo-prudishness – in an age where entire websites exist to tut angrily at ‘sexist’ pump clips and smutty T-shirts at beer festivals, it’s hard to imagine displays like this being tolerated now. But in 1978, Big D and the displays were at the height of their popularity, and so a Big D calendar that combined two predominantly male interests – sexy dolly birds and sport – was a no-brainer.
The 1979 Sporting Nuts Calendar saw a scantily-clad Pilkington posing with various sporting heroes of the day. They included Henry Cooper, Eddie Kidd and Alex ‘Hurricane’ Higgins, all looking suitably awkward. To obtain the calendar, you had to collect tokens – presumably, a nut purchase was also required. These leaflets came in new display boxes that had none of the tease factor of the original displays, so the calendar offer must’ve been seen as enough of a come-on by itself.
Outside the glitzy world of pub snacks, Beverley Pilkington was a popular glamour model in the 1970s, appearing on Page 3 and gracing the covers of numerous LPs, including four Top of the Pops albums. There’s a remarkably exhaustive look at her career here.
Interestingly, Big D continued to produce calendars right up to 2013 – though none have been as iconic as this one, and the crowning of glamour model Rosie Jones as the new Miss Big D in 2010 looks to be a painfully embarrassing affair all round, and probably the sort of laddish event that we are now told by our glorious leaders has no place in British society.