Date: 29th & 30th June, 2013
This regular annual gathering in the village of Swavesey brings together pinball fans and their families from across the UK for a weekend of casual play and socialising, mixed in with a little competitive play, a prize raffle and some enjoyable refreshments in the British summer sunshine, all to raise money for charity.
The Swavesey Pinball Weekend is not a large show, nor is it intended to be. It's the quintessential pinball get-together, where a few friends, under the stewardship of Mark Squires, bring their machines along for others to enjoy.
Setting-up began early on Friday, with more machines and people arriving throughout the day. By 10pm, ten of the expected thirteen machines were in position in the pub's back room, ready to be played. They were:
Dave Edward's beautifully refurbished Indianapolis 500 had been kitted-out in F1 livery, while Martin Ayub's cobweb-draped Scared Stiff featured Dr. Pinball's DMD Extender with a top mounted 22-inch monitor showing the game's display.
All the machines stood up well to being played almost solidly for two days, although the first problem reported on Friday night suggested not all the issues would be conventional ones.
In addition to the games in the back room, Will - the White Horse's Landlord - had his Night Moves cocktail pinball set up in the bar area for those wanting to watch the variety of sports being shown on the pub's TVs.
As always, there was no entry charge at Swavesey, but the machines were set up as though in an arcade, on pay-per-play. Each game cost £0.50 ($0.75, €0.60) and machines were on either 3 or 4 balls per game. The proceeds from the machine takings would be combined with raffle ticket sales and individual donations and split between the events two nominated charities - the local EACH (East Anglia's Children's Hospices) and the national British Heart Foundation.
As with all the other key elements of a Swavesey weekend, the weather didn't disappoint. Both Saturday and Sunday were warm, bright and sunny, allowing full use of the patio and beer garden at the rear of the pub.
To keep everyone refreshed, the hand-pulled Pinball Wizard real ale made a welcome return at the bar before finally running out during Sunday lunchtime. Other real ales, lagers, ciders, wines and soft drinks were also available.
The final three machines arrived on Saturday. Farfalla and Hot Wheels turned up in the morning, and Metallica Pro at lunchtime. For most people, this was their first look at Stern's latest machine.
Plays on Metallica were more expensive at £1 each, but there was still a queue to play throughout both days.
There were two competitions running with separate prizes awarded each day.
Dirty Harry had the 'Do You Feel Lucky, Punk?' timed high score contest. Players could start a regular 3-ball game and choose the moment to enable the flippers. They then had 160 seconds of flipper time to get the highest score they could.
Backing onto Harry was Farfalla - one of the two Zaccaria machines this year - which hosted a more-regular high score competition, named 'Look at me, I'm a Butterfly!'.
High scores for both competitions were written on Post-It notes and stuck on the wall. Entry costs £0.50, just like most of the other games.
When the competitions closed each day, the top three scorers won a selection of attractive prizes, with the best scorer on each machine winning a Nokia Lumia 620 smart phone.
Mark Potter and Jim Lindsey made the top scores on Dirty Harry and Farfalla respectively on Saturday, while Nick Marshall and Craig Pullen did likewise on Sunday.
The main competitive event was the UK Pinball Cup which was held at 1pm on Sunday and was totally free to enter.
This follows the format of the F.A. Cup football competition, where players are randomly paired to play a sudden-death head-to-head game, with the winner progressing to the next round and the loser out of the tournament.
Before getting to those matches though, two elimination rounds were held. In the first, four-player groups were randomly drawn on a random machine to play a single game with the top three players continuing. Then, more four-player groups were drawn but this time only the top two progressed to the last sixteen.
All draws were made using numbered balls pulled from a box by Stan Simpson. The numbers were then read out by Mark, and the names confirmed by tournament organiser Nick.
There were a number of surprises in the elimination rounds, with several big names who were expected to be in contention for the top spot going out early on.
Once the two elimination rounds were completed, the remaining sixteen players took part in the head-to-head sudden death matches.
As sixteen became eight and then four, the last four were Dave Langley and Ivan Miles from the top half of the draw, with Martin Ayub and Ryan Pullen from the bottom half.
In the semi-final, Ivan beat Dave and Martin beat Ryan, making the final match to be held on Metallica between Martin and Ivan.
In the end it was an easy win for Ivan, with Martin never getting a good ball. In the play-off, Ryan beat Dave top claim third place.
Here are the final positions for all 43 players:
Once the UK Pinball Cup prizes had been awarded, Sunday's raffle draw took place.
Thanks to the large number of prizes donated, there were two raffles held this year - one on Saturday and another on Sunday. The major prize each day was a new Nokia smart phone.
Tickets costing £1 ($1.53, €1.18) each or 6 for £5 were being sold by Gary Flower throughout Saturday and Sunday. All proceeds from the raffle were split equally between the event's two chosen charities.
Once the raffle draw was over, guests could continue playing on any of the machines until they began to be dismantled around 5pm.
Sunday afternoon also saw a few aerial visitors make a brief appearance thanks to the British Grand Prix which was being held at the not-too-distant Silverstone circuit. First the Red Arrows display team flew over, followed by a Lancaster bomber from World War II. There were also some unusual earth-bound visitors as a steam traction engine pulled up outside while the crew enjoyed some lunch, before puffing their way down the high street.
By the time all the events had been completed and the pinballs packed up for their homeward trips, a total of £1,625 ($2,364/€1,823) had been raised from the raffle, machine takings and donations send in, meaning £815 went to EACH and £810 to the BHF.
Just before the Swavesey Pinball Weekend took place, news came through that the White Horse Inn pub is up for sale. Hopefully this won't be the last pinball event to be held here and we'll be back in 2014, but either way it was a hugely enjoyable and relaxing way to spend the weekend amongst pinball friends old and new.
© Pinball News 2013