Date: 5th & 6th November, 2011
Report by Dave 'The Taxman' Edwards
The Replay Expo 2011 show is staged annually at Norbreck Castle Exhibition Centre, Blackpool, and this year’s event included, for the first time, Northern Lights Pinball - the largest pinball show ever to be staged in the north of England. It was held over a two day period on Saturday 5th and Sunday 6th November, 2011.
An idea originally conceived the previous year by Nigel Lunt, when 11 pinball machines were included as part of Replay Expo 2010, this year’s event promised so much more.
Situated right on the seafront, with a tram stop just across the road giving easy access to Blackpool centre for shops and restaurants, this was a perfect location for pinball fans and families alike. And just for good measure, blue skies and unusually warm weather welcomed visitors on the opening day.
Northern Lights, as part of the Replay Expo 2011 show, was situated immediately behind the main hall, giving pinball a distinct yet easily-accessible area. The thoroughfare of machines gave visitors plenty of opportunity to test their skills on each and every one of the 59 machines which were set up.
Opening times for both days were from 10am to 7pm.
The organising committee lead by Mark Robinson, whose motto for the show was “build it and they will come”, saw many weeks of hard work in organising the event come to fruition as the doors opened on the Saturday morning and a surge of eager visitors flooded in to both shows.
It wasn’t too long before every pinball was being played with others waiting patiently to take their turn, a situation that lasted throughout the two days.
Who says pinball is “dead”?
A total of 47 machines were located in the main thoroughfare, providing both seasoned and newbie players with a range of game opportunities to spark their enthusiasm.
The organisers' aim was to make this a fun pinball day not only for the established players, but also to encourage some of those video games people from the main hall next door to try out pinball - possibly for the very first time. This was a strategy that certainly seemed to be working, judging by the number of new faces crowding down the main pinball aisle.
The list of machines available for play in the main thoroughfare is as follows:
As well as the main pinball thoroughfare, a side room with 12 additional pinball machines - designated 'Pinball thru the Ages' - allowed visitors new to the hobby to understand some of the key developments, as well as being able to play and enjoy the machines.
Each pinball included a white card describing the particular features which, at the time of manufacture, were considered significant in the evolution of pinball games as we know them today.
An information and help desk provided a focal point where the show organisers could be found selling raffle tickets and the usual pinball related items, whilst registering those people eager to enter the various competitions.
One particular area of interest that attracted many enquiries were a number of old framed playfields which had been cleaned and polished, suitable for hanging on walls. All the inserts were fitted with LEDs of various colours which enhanced their appearance, particularly in a darkened room. Darren Ball must be thanked for bringing them to the show.
Just so you wouldn’t miss them, all the organisers wore a black T-shirt with a distinctive logo on the reverse, and were always on hand to answer visitor enquiries and offer assistance.
As the organisers' aim was to make this a family fun event, the competition side of things was deliberately kept low-key so as to make the maximum number of machines freely available for everyone to play at all times.
However three competitions were staged over the two days, and these proved highly successful for both experienced players and newbies alike.
Played on the Saturday, the machine chosen for this competition was Dracula at £0.50 ($0.80) per game, with as many games as you wanted. After a fairly tight competition, the in-form player of the weekend turned out to be Garry Speight.
Also played on the Saturday, the machine chosen for this competition was Funhouse at £0.50 per game, with as many games as you wanted. This provided a competitive but friendly competition, and the eventual winner was Leo Marshall.
The Sunday version was played on Star Wars Episode One, with free entry for all the youngsters taking part. The winner was a local lad from Blackpool who showed the opposition a clean pair of flippers.
This was played on the Saturday, with two electronically connected machines allowing simultaneously play by two contestants on a knockout basis.
This proved exceptional popular with all the players over several knockout rounds, culminating in an exciting final between Garry Speight (the eventual winner) and a most worthy opponent in Andy Foster.
In keeping with the fun theme of the show, the final produced a cup final-like atmosphere with support for both players, creating much excitement.
This was the organisers' way of saying a big "thank you" to all those people who brought a pinball to the show and made the whole Northern Lights Pinball experience possible.
Each machine was given a unique number and those numbers were then entered into the draw. The draw was taken on Saturday evening by people asked to select a number at random from a bag. The results were as follows:
One of the longest serving members of the UK's pinball community who has been ever-present at pretty much all the UK pinball shows, was presented with his very own 'Poibug Pinball' neon sign in recognition of all his hard work, and to celebrate his 40th birthday.
A number of sponsors and supporters added greatly to the enjoyment of all those who attended the two-day show by making donations and contributions which were very much appreciated by the organisers, especially as all profits would be going to charity
In addition to those listed below, the organisers also wished to thank PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, who are the leading non profit public broadcasting network based in the USA.
One of the most important aspects of the weekend of pinball was to raise money for charity. The organising committee selected, for this years charity, the Teenager Cancer Trust, who were kind enough to have an desk open throughout the Sunday session to provide information and answer questions on this very deserving cause.
If you were unable to get to the show and would like to donate you can do this by logging on to www.teenagecancertrust.org.
Replay Expo 2011 including Northern Lights raised in excess of £1000 ($1600) for charity - a truly brilliant effort from all those who attended.
© Pinball News 2011