Date: 1st-3rd July, 2022
Location: The White Horse, 1 Market Street, Swavesey, Cambridgeshire, UK

It had been three years since the previous Swavesey Pinball Weekend could take place, but the enforced break had only strengthened the desire to spend a sunny weekend at a pub in the English countryside, eating, drinking and playing pinball.

The Swavesey Pinball Weekend is a uniquely small-scale event which is only possible thanks to the support of the UK’s pinball community, because financially it makes no sense.

People bring games from their collections to support the show, eschewing any suggestion of compensation for the transport or fuel used. That’s because, along with being a great social gathering, the opportunity to catch up on people’s lives since the previous show and the opportunity to play a bunch of interesting pinballs, this is a charity fundraiser.

Each year a charity is chosen as the show’s beneficiary. For 2022 it was UKPIPS, a charity supporting those with primary immune deficiency (PID) or a primary antibody deficiency (PAD), and their carers.

The venue is the tap room of The White Horse pub.

The White Horse in Swavesey
The White Horse in Swavesey

The pub is in the centre of Swavesey and had played host to the pinball weekend for most of the event’s history since 2006 (except for three years where it wasn’t available, and the event was held at Bar 62 in Ely instead).

Although it’s been through several changes of tenancy, the interior or layout hasn’t changed significantly over the past sixteen years. There is a main bar, a separate dining room and the tap room at the rear. Behind the property is a beer garden with a newly-covered seating area.

The White Horse's main bar area
The White Horse’s main bar area
The dining room
The dining room
The beer garden
The beer garden

The whole weekend is organised by Mark Squires who, as well as repairing and restoring pinballs and other coin-operated machines through his Pinball Surgery business, has gained something of a celebrity status by appearing as one of the restorers on the UK TV series Salvage Hunters: The Restorers which is shown on Discovery’s Quest channel.

Swavesey Pinball Weekend organiser, Mark Squires
Swavesey Pinball Weekend organiser, Mark Squires

Mark lives close to The White Horse and is always able to arrange easy access to the pub’s facilities over the course of the weekend to set up and run the event.

Set-up began on the Thursday, continuing through Friday until mid-afternoon, ready for the official opening at 6pm on Friday.

The tap room is a relatively small space allowing a maximum of thirteen pinballs to be set up. Unfortunately, the owner of one of the intended machines contracted Covid just before the event and had to cancel, leaving twelve pinballs for guests to enjoy. It was a good mix of the very latest, classic, and older titles from six different manufacturers.

The machines were provided by Pinball Heaven, Wayne Johns, Mark Squires, Phil Dixon, Stan Simpson, Dave Edwards, Ash Earl, Claire & David Bowery, Thomas Calvert, Keith Withnall and Matt Vince (2):

Diner (Williams, 1990)Hot Wheels (American Pinball, 2020)
Godzilla Pro (Stern, 2021)Black Knight 2000 (Williams, 1989)
Bally Hoo (Bally, 1969)Rush (Stern, 2022)
The Shadow (Bally, 1994)Attack from Mars Remake (Chicago Gaming, 2017)
Flash Gordon (Bally, 1981)Monster Bash Remake (Chicago Gaming, 2018)
Devil Riders (Zaccaria, 1984)The Avengers: Infinity Quest (Stern, 2020)
The pinballs in the tap room of The White Horse
The pinballs in the tap room of The White Horse
Players enjoying the pinballs
Players enjoying the pinballs
The three machines near the back doors
Players enjoying the pinballs

Perhaps two of the more unusual aspects for a charity fundraiser is how there is no entry fee to the access the pinballs in the tap room and how all the machines are set on free play.

Rather than charging, all the money raised is either through donations via the numerous collection buckets, or through the purchase of tickets for Sunday’s prize raffle.

One of the collection buckets for the UKPIPs charity
One of the collection buckets for the UKPIPs charity

The raffle is held on Sunday afternoon and organised by Gary Flower who spends much of the weekend persuading people to part with their hard-earned cash in return for tickets for the draw.

Gary Flower selling tickets for Sunday's raffle
Gary Flower selling tickets for Sunday’s raffle

Pleasingly, everyone involved – be they machine bringers, co-organisers, tournament players or just casual visitors – proved to be very generous.

The generosity extended to those who donated prizes for the raffle. Not only did guests and machine bringers donate items to the prize table, but so did individuals and company owners who couldn’t attend in person.

Donors to the prize raffle included Stewart Judson, Clive Bush, David Ainslie, Matt Vince, Stern Pinball, Pinball News, Mark Squires, Gary Flower, Paul Garner, Phil Palmer, Phil Dixon, James Adams, Andy Netherwood, Lee Fensom, Colin & Ailsa Clunie along with many others who simply dropped off prizes at the table.

Just a small selection of the prizes donated for the raffle
Just a small selection of the prizes donated for the raffle

Socialising and pinball play continued throughout Saturday, culminating in an organised meal in the pub’s dining room in the evening.

Saturday evening's dinner
Saturday evening’s dinner
(picture: Mark Squires)
Saturday evening's dinner
Saturday evening’s dinner
(picture: Mark Squires)
Saturday evening's dinner
Saturday evening’s dinner
(picture: Mark Squires)
Saturday evening's dinner
Saturday evening’s dinner
(picture: Mark Squires)

After dinner there was musical entertainment in the bar area, a game of poker in the dining area, or more pinball back in the tap room until the pub closed for the night ‘around’ midnight.

The musical entertainment was both great fun and very energetic
The musical entertainment was both great fun and very energetic
The fun continued late into the night
The fun continued late into the night
The village centre as the day's light slowly faded
The village centre as the day’s light faded

Sunday brought three things – more pinball, the prize raffle, and the UK Pinball Cup tournament.

For some, Sunday also meant Sunday Roast lunch which was served over an extended lunch period to fit in with all the events above as well as the Formula 1 British Grand Prix which was also being held this weekend at Silverstone (which isn’t all that far away from Swavesey and impacted the travel plans for some, including the writer of this report).

Sunday lunch - in this case the traditional roast beef
Sunday lunch – in this case the traditional roast beef and Yorkshire pudding

Registration for the UK Pinball Cup began at midday and ran for an hour. Players simply signed up by picking an available player number from 1 to 48, writing their name on the sheet against their number and taking a player badge. Entry to the tournament was free and it was run by Martin Ayub.

Charity and tournament information
Charity and tournament information

The UK Pinball Cup tournament began in 2007 at the second Pinballers Anonymous Monster Meet. Pinballers Anonymous head, Nick Bennett, wanted something to mirror the excitement and giant-killing opportunities of football’s famous FA Cup tournament.

In that event, teams across the divisions are drawn randomly to play a single game, with the winning team progressing and the loser dropping out. This gives some smaller teams the opportunity to play against some of football’s biggest clubs, with the possibility of upsets and a number of embarrassingly-early exits.

The UK Pinball Cup remained part of the Monster Meet for 2008 and 2009, but transferred to the Swavesey Pinball Weekend in 2010 when Pinballers Anonymous closed down and the Monster Meets ended.

Some last-minute practice
Some last-minute practice

At 1pm the draw for the first round took place with the 43 registered played randomly drawn by pulling numbered balls out of a box, just like in the FA Cup draw. Unlike the FA Cup though, rather than starting with single head-to-head single-elimination games, players were drawn into groups of either 3 or 4.

Each group played three games, starting on a random machine and then playing the next two machines in line. Points were awarded for finishing positions on each game, and after all three had been played the two players in each group with the most points progressed to the second round.

That ensured every competitor got to play a minimum of three games before they could be eliminated.

The UK Pinball Cup begins
The UK Pinball Cup begins

The first round reduced the number of players from 43 to 24. Any players eliminated in the first round received a choice of consolation prize of either a bag of chocolate or a rechargeable Bluetooth speaker.

To provide more space, some players waited outside for their turn to play
To provide more space, some players waited outside for their turn to play

Before the second round began, it was time for the prize raffle draw.

Tickets were drawn by Gary and announced. The holder of the matching numbered ticket could choose any prize from the table, so getting your ticket drawn earlier was highly advantageous.

The raffle draw begins
The raffle draw begins
Only a few prizes left on the table
Only a few prizes left on the table

After the raffle draw, the remaining 24 in the UK Pinball Cup played another round of the same format as the first, in eight groups of three with the top two going into the head-to-head play-off rounds.

The first and second qualification rounds, followed by the play-offs
The first and second qualification rounds, followed by the play-offs

Once we were down to 16 players, they were paired up for single head-to-head matches with the winner progressing and the loser going out.

The 16 were thus reduced to 8 and then 4 for the semi-finals. In those semi-finals Matt Vince beat Wayne Johns, while Nick Hamill beat Conrad Chambers.

Wayne and Conrad played a 3rd/4th place decider which took place on Attack from Mars Remake.

Conrad and Wayne play for 3rd & 4th places
Conrad and Wayne play for 3rd & 4th places

Wayne triumphed by 5.3bn to 949m to take third place.

Matt and Nick played their final match on Hot Wheels.

UK Pinball Cup 2022 finalists, Matt Vince and Nick Hamill
UK Pinball Cup 2022 finalists, Matt Vince and Nick Hamill

Nick took an early lead so that by the end of ball two he was leading by 51m to 10m. Matt had a better final ball and recovered to 60m to make Nick play his final ball.

Nick playing the last ball of the final
Nick playing the last ball of the final

It wasn’t enough though, as Nick sailed past Matt’s score to win the final of the UK Pinball Cup 2022.

Nick celebrates after scoring enough to win the final
Nick celebrates after scoring enough to win the final
PositionName
1Nick Hamill
2Matt Vince
3Wayne Johns
4Conrad Chambers
6=Paul Garner
6=Vin Jauhal
6=Mark Squires
6=David Dutton
12=Malc Lashley
12=Clive Bush
12=Colin Clunie
12=Phil Dixon
12=Gareth Arnold
12=Gene Aw
12=Greg Mott
12=Chris Williams
20=Ash Earl
20=Dan Monks
20=Lester Levet
20=Sharon Jenkins
20=Adam Brady
20=Martin Ayub
20=Steve Lockwool
20=Stan Simpson
34=Ben Conroy
34=Keith Withnall
34=David Bowery
34=Diane Bush
34=Jim Gatward
34=Marc Gatward
34=Bob Marlow
34=Ailsa Clunie
34=Andy Brock
34=Anthony Van Den Boogaard
34=Stewart Judson
34=Thomas Calvert
34=Lori Jardin
34=Gary Flower
34=Matt Peck
34=Caitlin Lockwool
34=Clare Lickman
34=Ben Lockwool
34=Colin Murphy
UK Pinball Cup 2022 final standings

Trophies and prizes were then awarded to the top four. Each of them received a bottle of wine while the top three also won trophies and gift certificates from Pinball Bazaar to the value of £50, £30 or £20. Presentations were made by Martin Ayub.

Fourth place, Conrad Chambers
Fourth place, Conrad Chambers
(picture: Gary Flower)
Third place, Wayne Johns
Third place, Wayne Johns
(picture: Gary Flower)
Second place, Matt Vince
Second place, Matt Vince
(picture: Gary Flower)
Winner of the UK Pinball Cup 2022, Nick Hamill
Winner of the UK Pinball Cup 2022, Nick Hamill

The tournament presentations marked the end of the Swavesey Pinball Weekend.

Mark thanked those who remained for making the weekend a big success after two years of cancelled events. He was able to announce that after combining the donations and the raffle ticket sales, the weekend had raised a total of £1,300 ($1,564 or €1,536) for the UKPIPs charity.

Thanks yous from Mark as the weekend draws to a close
Thank yous from Mark as the weekend draws to a close

Then it was time to pack up the machines, empty the pub’s tap room, look back on a job well done, and look forward to the Swavesey Pinball Weekend 2023.

Packing up the machines after a successful weekend
Packing up the machines after a successful weekend
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