Date: 27th-29th August, 2021
Location: Mercure Daventry Court Hotel, Sedgemoor Way, Daventry NN11 0SG, UK

After the 2020 show had to be cancelled due to the pandemic, UKPinfest was back at the Mercure Daventry Court Hotel for 2021.

The Mercure Daventry Court Hotel - home of UK Pinfest
The Mercure Daventry Court Hotel – home of UK Pinfest

Held over the bank (public) holiday weekend at the end of August, UKPinfest is a pure pinball event featuring over 100 pinballs, a few vendor stands and multiple tournaments. It’s as much a social event as a pinball-playing one and, after missing out on so much in 2020, everyone was eager to see all the familiar faces again and catch up on everything that’s happened over the past two years.

To help facilitate that, the hotel has two bars – one in the lobby and another in the main show hall. There is a separate restaurant serving breakfast for hotel guests and a pop-up hot and cold food service in the bar at lunchtime and in the evening. Food could also be ordered at the bar throughout the day.

The reception desk in the lobby
The reception desk in the lobby
The bar area and entrance to the show
The bar area and entrance to the show
The pop-up food service in the lobby
The pop-up food service in the lobby

With reasonable weather over the weekend, the courtyard area was also a popular place to gather and socialise.

The courtyard at the Mercure Daventry Court
The courtyard at the Mercure Daventry Court
Seating and tables were available on the patio
Seating and tables were available on the patio

Back in the lobby, four of the latest pinball machines were brought in just for the show, provided by Pinball Heaven. We arrived on Friday lunchtime just as they were being set up.

Setting up the machines in the lobby
Setting up the machines in the lobby

The left two games – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and The Mandalorian (Premium) were for the youth and adult High Score Tournaments respectively, while the The Avengers – Infinity Quest and the second The Mandalorian (this time a Pro) were on pay-to-play for charity at a cost of £1 ($1.38/€1.17) per game.

The High Score Tournament and pay-to-play pinballs in the hotel's lobby
The High Score Tournament and pay-to-play pinballs in the hotel’s lobby
The two High Score Competition machines
The two High Score Competition machines

Access to the main show hall is via a corridor to the right of the bar area.

This way to the show
This is the way

However, to the left of the banner above is a smaller room which was used to host the Classics Tournament.

The classics tournament room
The Classics Tournament room

The Classics Tournament was run by Shaun Harvey and featured eight solid-state pinballs. They were:

Devil Riders
Elektra
Fireball II
Joker Poker
Meteor
Paragon
Raven
Super Orbit
Classics Tournament machines
Some of the classics tournament machines
Some of the Classics Tournament machines
Players in the classics tournament
Players in the Classics Tournament

Qualifying took place throughout Saturday after which the top two scorers on each machine moved on to the play-offs which were played on Sunday morning.

Shaun manages the player registration and scores
Shaun manages the player registration and scores
Trophies for the classic tournament
Trophies and medals for the Classics Tournament

Continuing down the corridor towards the main hall (a.k.a. the Danetree Suite), we come to the show registration desk.

The UK Pinfest registration desk
The UKPinfest registration desk

It was here you could usually find show organiser Philip Murphy as he answered questions and greeted guests.

UKPinfest organiser, Philip Murphy
UKPinfest organiser, Philip Murphy

Admission was by way of different coloured wristbands depending on the type of entry purchased. Adult entry to the show cost £20 ($27.50/€23.33) per day for the Saturday and Sunday daytime sessions. These ran from 10:30am until 6pm on Saturday and from 10:30am until 4:30pm on Sunday.

Entry for both days cost £35 ($48.20/€40.80), while there were also evening sessions on Friday and Saturday priced at £10 ($13.80/€11.70) each. A VIP pass covering all sessions was also available at a cost of £50 ($68.80/€58.40).

Once visitors had received their colour-coded wristbands, they could enter the main hall and find the 101 pinballs set on free play.

Philip opens the doors and invites the first guests inside
Philip opens the doors and invites the first guests inside
The Danetree Suite viewed from the rear of the hall
The Danetree Suite viewed from the rear of the hall
A row of machines from London Pinball
A row of machines from London Pinball
More classic pinballs
More classic pinballs
Another row of machines
Another row of machines
More of the UKPinfest games
More of the UKPinfest games
A Pinball Brothers Alien next to a Heighway Pinball Alien
A Pinball Brothers Alien next to a Heighway Pinball Alien
Players enjoying the selection of machines
Players enjoying the selection of machines
Players enjoying the selection of machines
Players enjoying the selection of machines
Players enjoying the selection of machines
Players enjoying the selection of machines
Players enjoying the selection of machines
Players enjoying the selection of machines

Here’s the list of machines set up in the free-play area:

AC/DC
Addams Family, The
Aerobatics
Alien (Highway Pinball)
Alien (Pinball Brothers)
Attack from Mars
Austin Powers
Avengers, The – Infinity Quest
Avengers, The – Infinity Quest
Banzai Run
Batman (Stern)
Batman 66
Baywatch *
Black Knight
Black Knight – Sword of Rage
Black Knight 2000
Black Knight 2000
Blue Chip
Cactus Canyon
Champion Pub, The
Circus (Zaccaria)
Cirqus Voltaire
Count-Down
Creature from the Black Lagoon
Deadpool
Demolition Man
Doctor Who
Dracula, Bram Stoker’s
Eight Ball
F-14 Tomcat
Farfalla
Fathom
Fish Tales
Flash Gordon
Flintstones, The
Genie (Gottlieb) *
Getaway, The – High Speed 2
Getaway, The – High Speed 2
Gigi
Goldeneye
Harlem Globetrotters
Hook
Indiana Jones (Stern)
Indiana Jones (Williams)
Indiana Jones (Williams)
Iron Maiden (Stern)
Johnny Mnemonic
Jokerz!
Jurassic Park (Stern)
Lethal Weapon 3
Lethal Weapon 3
Lord of the Rings
Lucky Strike
Machine, The – Bride of Pinbot
Mata Hari
Medieval Madness
Metallica
Monster Bash
Mr. & Mrs. Pac-Man
Munsters, The
Nautilus
No Good Gofers
Orbitor 1
Pharaoh
Pirates of the Caribbean (Stern)
Police Force
Queen’s Castle
Revenge from Mars
Revenge from Mars
Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends
Riverboat Gambler
Riverboat Gambler
Roadshow
Robocop
Shadow, The
Simpons Pinball Party, The
Ski Jump
Space Station
Spider-Man
Star Trek – The Next Generation
Star Trek – The Next Generation
Star Trek (Bally)
Star Trek (Data East)
Star Trek (Stern)
Star Wars (Data East)
Star Wars (Data East)
Starship Troopers
Strikes and Spares
Swords of Fury
Tag Team
Taxi
Terminator 2
The Machine – Bride of Pinbot
Tommy, The Who’s
Total Nuclear Annihilation
Transformers
Tron
Turf Champ
Twilight Zone
Wizard!
X-Files, The
Free play machine list

The main UKPinfest Battle Tournament organised by Wayne Johns and Paul Garner was run at the back of the hall. This used ten machines with qualifying taking place all day Saturday and for two hours on Sunday morning, before the play-offs and final on Sunday afternoon.

Participation cost either £10 for registration and one entry of three games, or £20 for registration and four entries. Unlimited additional entries could then be purchased for £5 each.

The UKPinfest Battle Tournament machines
The UKPinfest Battle Tournament machines
The organisers used the Drains Tournament System to track scores for qualifying
The organisers used the Drains Tournament System to track scores for qualifying
Qualifying for the UKPinfest Battle Tournament
Qualifying for the UKPinfest Battle Tournament

All entry fees were returned to the players, with the winner receiving 35% of the prize pool, second place got 20%, third got 15% and fourth 10%.

Winners will receive trophies and cash prizes
Winners will receive trophies and cash prizes

Here’s the list of machines used in the UKPinfest Battle tournament:

Avengers, The
Avengers, The – Infinity Quest
Batman (Stern)
Getaway, The – High Speed 2
Hot Wheels
Indianapolis 500
Iron Man
Jurassic Park (Stern)
Led Zeppelin
Wizard of Oz, The
UK Pinfest Battle machines

Along the side wall were three NBA Fastbreak machines used for the NBA Challenge which cost £5 to enter. These were provided by Northern Lights Pinball with the tournament run by the Scottish Pinball Association.

The NBA Challenge machines
The NBA Challenge machines

Two of these machines were linked and head-to-head matches were played by the 24 players who were split into six groups of four, with everyone playing a game against the other three people in their group. The top two players in each group then continued to the play-offs on Sunday morning. The remaining NBA Fastbreak machine was used as a spare in case of any issues with the other two machines.

The NBA Challenge tournament begins
The NBA Challenge tournament begins
Trophies for the top players in the NBA Challenge
Trophies for the top players in the NBA Challenge

There was an additional competitive event held on Friday and Saturday nights. Neil McRae of Domino Arcade organised the free Stall Ball competition on a The Shadow machine.

The Shadow was used for Stallball
The Shadow was used for Stall Ball

In Stall Ball, players line up to play the machine. As it becomes their turn to play, they have to lock a ball in either a ball lock or a saucer without draining.

Playing Stall Ball
Playing Stall Ball

Once they do that, they leave the machine and return to the back of the line to play again. If they drain, they are out of the competition.

Part of the line to play Stall Ball
Part of the line to play Stall Ball

There was a long line to play each night, but once the competition began the line moved pretty fast, and as more players were eliminated the line became shorter until just two players remained. As soon as one of them drained, the other was the winner. Neil provided a nice selection of prizes, with the winner receiving a new iPhone.

We have a winner!
We have a winner!

There were a few vendors present at the show. Jonathan Melleney’s 1 Stop Pinball has a selection of new and used parts.

1-Stop Pinball's stand
1 Stop Pinball’s stand

Jonathan also brought a beautiful Turf Champ horse-racing pinball.

Turf Champ on the 1 Stop Pinball stand
Turf Champ on the 1 Stop Pinball stand

London Pinball and the Flip Out London pinball club also had a stand at the show selling merchandise and reclaimed parts. They also brought a bunch of machines for guests to enjoy.

The Flip Out London and London Pinball stand
The Flip Out London and London Pinball stand

The Special When Lit pinball club brought some machines along too, as did Steve Padgett from Electric Circus.

Special When Lit brought quite a few machines
Special When Lit brought quite a few machines

Outside the main hall, Chris Brimacombe had his regular impressive selection of reclaimed pinball parts.

Chris Brimacombe's parts selection
Chris Brimacombe’s parts selection
More of Chris's parts display
More of Chris’s parts display

Sunday morning brought the play-offs and finals of both the Classics Tournament and the NBA Challenge along with a final chance to qualify for the UKPinfest Battle tournament’s play-off rounds held later in the day.

Play-offs in the Classics Tournament
Play-offs in the Classics Tournament
Play-offs in the NBA Challenge
Play-offs in the NBA Challenge
The last chance to qualify for the UKPinfest Battle tournament
The last chance to qualify for the UKPinfest Battle tournament

The Classics Tournament final was between Andrew Foster, David Dutton, William Dutton and Alan Jones.

The four finalists: William Dutton, David Dutton, Andrew Foster and Alan Jones
The four finalists: William Dutton, David Dutton, Andrew Foster and Alan Jones

It was a three-game final, played on Paragon, Raven and Meteor with 4-2-1-0 scoring for first to fourth place on each machine.

Andrew Foster starts on the last game of the final - Meteor
Andrew Foster starts on the last game of the final – Meteor

It was a very close final, but the eventual winner was David Dutton with Andrew Foster second, Alan Jones third and William Dutton fourth. Along with a trophy and medal, David won a £275 cash prize. Andrew’s prize was £205, Alan’s £135 and William’s £70. Tournament organiser Shaun Harvey presented the trophies and prizes.

Classics Tournament winner, David Dutton
Classics Tournament winner, David Dutton
Second place, Andrew Foster
Second place, Andrew Foster
Third place, Alan Jones
Third place, Alan Jones
Fourth place, William Dutton
Fourth place, William Dutton

Qualifying players who didn’t make the final all received medals.

Classic Tournament qualifiers with their medals
Classic Tournament qualifiers with their medals

The final rounds of the NBA Challenge also took place on Sunday morning, although these were played out in the main hall.

The top two from each of the groups of four made it to the play-offs. They were: Daryl Brock, Neil Derek, Andy Brock, Dave Morgan, Graeme Haynes, Kevin Donovan, Dave Bush and Martin Fox.

The eventual winner was Kevin Donovan who best Daryl in the final. Kevin was presented with his winner’s trophy by Ailsa Clunie.

NBA Challenge winner, Kevin Donovan
NBA Challenge winner, Kevin Donovan
(picture: Scottish Pinball Association)

The NBA Challenge was over-subscribed with several youngsters amongst those who missed out. So, an ad-hoc Junior Division was formed and played out on Sunday morning.

The winner of that was Daniel Vince.

NBA Challenge Junior Division winner, Daniel Vince
NBA Challenge Junior Division winner, Daniel Vince
(picture: Scottish Pinball Association)

That left just the UKPinfest Battle tournament to complete.

Qualifying entries consisted of three games on machines of the player’s choice from the ten available. Scores were ranked on each machine and points awarded. The total of the points from all three machines made up the complete entry. Only the best entry for each player counted, but unlimited entries could be bought during the qualifying hours.

The top 24 players qualified for the play-offs, with the top eight getting a bye through the first round.

The play-offs consisted of head-to-head best-of-three matches on pre-selected machines.

UKPinfest Battle co-organiser Wayne Johns assigns players to their pre-selected machines to start the play-offs
UKPinfest Battle co-organiser Wayne Johns assigns players to their pre-selected machines to start the play-offs

After the first elimination round, the quarter-finals and the semi-finals, the four who made it to the final were Andrew Foster, Craig Pullen, Andreas Bernard and Paul Owen.

The four finalists: Andreas Bernard, William Dutton, Craig Pullen and Paul Owen
The four finalists: Andreas Bernard, William Dutton, Craig Pullen and Paul Owen
The games were all sanitised before the final began
The games were all sanitised before the final began

The three machines to be played in the final were drawn as The Avengers, High Speed 2 – The Getaway and Led Zeppelin.

William Dutton begins the final on The Avengers
William Dutton begins the final on The Avengers

There were some very close scores – especially on High Speed 2 – which meant that the winner would be decided on the final game, Led Zeppelin.

Craig Pullen had a narrow victory on High Speed 2 - The Getaway
Craig Pullen had a narrow victory on High Speed 2 – The Getaway

William Dutton won the third game with 365M which was enough for him to take second place. The winner, though, was Craig Pullen whose second place on Led Zeppelin with 349M earned him enough points to secure first place. Paul Owen was third and Andreas Bernard fourth. Along with a trophy, Craig took home a £610 cash prize for his victory. The second place prize was £335, third place received £250 and fourth place £165. Fifth to eighth places each received £80 cash prizes.

UKPinfest Battle winner, Craig Pullen
UKPinfest Battle winner, Craig Pullen
Second place, William Dutton
Second place, William Dutton
Third place, Paul Owen
Third place, Paul Owen
Fourth place, Andreas Bernard
Fourth place, Andreas Bernard
The 5th to 8th placed players: Louise Wagensonner, Peter Blakemore, Ian Wallace and Andrew Foster
The 5th to 8th placed players: Louise Wagensonner, Peter Blakemore, Ian Wallace and Andrew Foster

You can watch the qualifying games and the final of the UKPinfest Battle on the Pinball Live Twitch channel.

Although the show officially closed at 4:30pm, the final of the tournament ran until 5:30pm. Show organiser Philip Murphy then thanked everyone who contributed to making the show a success and drew proceedings to a close. The break down and clearance of the machines could then begin.

Philip thanks everyone for coming and for contributing to the show
Philip thanks everyone for coming and for contributing to the show
Time to pack up the machines and take them back home
Time to pack up the machines and take them back home
The majority of machines were taken back on Sunday night but some remained until Monday morning
The majority of machines were taken back on Sunday night but some remained until Monday morning

There was definitely some trepidation from visitors about attending a mass indoor gathering such as UKPinfest while Covid infections are still widespread, and time will tell how safe it ultimately was. However, although guest numbers were markedly down on the previous show in 2019, it was still both a social and financial success. There was clearly a huge appetite for the resumption of pinball gatherings, not only for the social side but also for the opportunity to play some of the more recent titles.

Interestingly, after having played the newest games we heard the same comments over and over; that the rules have become too complicated and unintuitive, that they are written by top players for other top players, and average players are simply giving up on ever hoping to learn them.

Fortunately, a show such as UKPinfest provides a wide range of games from electromechanical to the latest LCD models, so there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

The reduced visitor numbers meant it was easy to find a machine to play and only a short wait if your chosen game was currently occupied. Plus, the hall was never too crowded or hot. In fact, for a visitor, the numbers were just about perfect.

Finally, here’s our exclusive Ten Minute Tour video as we walk around the show floor and the other pinball areas around the hotel.

The Pinball News Ten Minute Tour of UKPinfest 2021

UKPinfest will be back in 2022 and, naturally, Pinball News will be there once again to report on all the action.

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