Date: 28th-30th June 2024

Location: 1 Market St, Swavesey, Cambridge, CB24 4QG, UK

The Swavesey Pinball Weekend is not exactly a show; it’s more of an annual social get-together in a pub, featuring a dozen-or-so pinballs, a prize raffle and a tournament, all organised by local resident and pinball restorer, Mark Squires, to raise money for charity.

As usual, it takes place over three days in the rear tap room of The White Horse Inn which sits on the corner of Market Street and High Street in the Cambridgeshire village of Swavesey.

The White Horse Inn, Swavesey
The White Horse Inn, Swavesey

The pub dates back to the 18th century and has been altered somewhat over the years, but these days it consists of a main bar area on the right as you enter and a larger dining room on the left. At the back is the tap room where parties and events are held, including the Pinball Weekend.

The dining area on the left, the main bar area on the right
The dining area on the left, the main bar area on the right
The dining area
The dining area
The bar area
The bar area

Of course, being held in a pub means plenty of socialising over drinks and food. The social aspect always benefits from some decent weather and participants were fortunate this year as sunshine and warm weather dominated the three days, with just a little light rain on Sunday morning.

The weekend often coincides with major sporting events and this year was no different, with the qualifying matches for the FIFA Euros 2024 taking place in Germany and being shown live on the pub’s TVs every afternoon and evening.

SET-UP

The pinball machines are mostly donated by collectors who bring them along on during the day on Friday and set them up for visitors to enjoy. There is no charge to enter the event, no official start or end times, and all machines are set on free play. Everyone, from seasoned players to complete novices, is encouraged to play any time and as often as they like from Friday until the machines are packed away late on Sunday afternoon, with the only exception being during Sunday afternoon’s UK Pinball Cup tournament.

Setting up the first machines on Friday afternoon
Setting up Transporter: The Rescue, one of the first machines to arrive on Friday afternoon

As the machines arrived and were unloaded it became clear there would be another eclectic mix this year spanning 43 years of pinball history, from 1981’s Black Hole to this year’s Pulp Fiction.

Keith setting up his rare Space Team machine
Keith setting up his rare Space Team machine
Space Team is up - Black Hole next
Space Team is up – Black Hole next

While everything is free to enjoy, visitors are encouraged to donate to the Pinball Weekend’s chosen charity – either through direct donations, by purchasing tickets for the raffle on Sunday, or by visiting the charity’s website and making a donation there.

Pinball players were encouraged to support the event's chosen charity
Pinball players were encouraged to support the event’s chosen charity

As it has been for the past few years, the supported charity for the Pinball Weekend is UK Primary Immunodeficiency Patient Support, or UKPIPS – a cause dear to the heart of many regulars at the pub.

Jurassic Park is next to join the line-up
Jurassic Park is next to join the line-up

It wasn’t long before all the machines were set up and being played.

The line-up is complete
The line-up is complete

The thirteen machines available this year were:

  • The Beatles (Stern)
  • The Avengers: Infinity Quest (Stern)
  • Roadshow (Williams)
  • Fish Tales (Williams)
  • Transporter: The Rescue (Bally)
  • Space Team (Tecnoplay)
  • Deadpool (Stern)
  • James Bond 007 (Stern)
  • Jurassic Park (Stern)
  • Jackbot (Williams)
  • Black Hole (Premier)
  • Twilight Zone (Bally)
  • Pulp Fiction (Chicago Gaming/Play Mechanix)
Time to play
Time to play some Pulp Fiction
It's starting to get busy
It’s starting to get busy
Swavesey Pinball Weekend organiser, Mark Squires, gets some time on The Avengers: Infinity Quest
Swavesey Pinball Weekend organiser, Mark Squires, gets some time on The Avengers: Infinity Quest

RAFFLE

While direct donations help boost the total amount raised for the UKPIPS charity, most comes from ticket sales for the raffle which is held every Sunday afternoon during a suitable break in the UK Pinball Cup. Diane Bush was selling the tickets, ably assisted by Vin Jauhal. Strips of five tickets cost £5, or three strips of five cost £10. As is usually the case, many people emptied their wallets and bought dozens of tickets.

All the prizes are donated, either by those at the Pinball Weekend in person or by companies or well-wishers wanting to help make the event a success. Prizes could be dropped off on the raffle table at any time or stashed beneath the table to be revealed closer to draw time.

By the time the raffle draw was held the table was jam-packed full of great prizes to be won.

Some of the donated raffle prizes
Some of the donated raffle prizes
More raffle prizes
More raffle prizes

At the mid-point of the UK Pinball Cup there was a break to hold the weekend’s raffle draw.

So many tickets were sold there were three books of numbered tickets used up, each with a different colour. As tickets were drawn from the tub by Diane, she read out the number and colour. The lucky ticket-holder could then select any prize from the table.

Picking prizes from the table
Winning ticket-holders picking prizes from the table
Diane draws out another winning ticket
Diane draws out another winning ticket
Everyone checks their ticket numbers
Everyone checks their ticket numbers

It wasn’t too long before all the prizes had been claimed and the final stages of the tournament could begin.

UK PINBALL CUP

Apart from the raffle, Sunday is also the day for the weekend’s only competitive event, the UK Pinball Cup.

Those wishing to take part – which is almost everyone – could register from midday by putting their name on the sign-up sheet and grabbing a numbered badge. All machines were available for practice until the tournament began at 1pm, with the first round draw made by Tournament Director, Martin Ayub, and Greg Mott.

Trophies and prizes for the UK Pinball Cup alongside the Nigel Hill Memorial Trophy, commemorating a much-missed UK pinball stalwart
Trophies and prizes for the UK Pinball Cup alongside the Nigel Hill Memorial Trophy, commemorating a much-missed UK pinball stalwart
Practice on the tournament machines on Sunday morning
Practice on the tournament machines on Sunday morning

For the first round, the thirty-six competitors were drawn at random into twelve groups of three. Each group then played a single three-player game on three consecutive machines, with their starting machine also randomly-drawn. All the draws used numbered coloured balls pulled out of a box for both the players and the machines.

The UK Pinball Cup is under way
The UK Pinball Cup is under way

Points were awarded for position in each game and totalled after the third game to give overall positions. The third-placed player in each group dropped out with the top two continuing to the next round. Consolation prizes of cereal bars were available for everyone who didn’t make it through the first round.

That gave twenty-four players for round two who were re-drawn into eight groups of three to play three more games on random machines. Again, the third placed player from each group dropped out to leave the sixteen players who moved on to the head-to-head sudden-death stage.

The first two qualifying group stages
The first two qualifying group stages

Players were again drawn at random into eight pairs. Each pair played a single game on a random machine with the winner progressing. Those sixteen were reduced to eight quarter-finalists, then down to four semi-finalists, and then down to a final pair who were Stan Simpson and Martin Ayub. Stan beat Matt Vince in his semi-final on Transporter: The Rescue while Martin beat Shaun Harvey in his match on Deadpool.

The final machine was drawn at random and the selected ball displayed ‘Machine 11’ which was Black Hole.

Martin played first, and while both he and Stan had only average-scoring balls initially, Martin eventually managed to get a three-ball multiball running. That gave his score a decent boost which was enough to see him through the rest of the game to take the win.

Meanwhile, Matt and Shaun played out a third/fourth place decider on The Beatles, which was won by Matt, giving him third and Shaun fourth.

Trophies and prizes of vouchers donated by pinball distributor and parts seller, Retro Arcade Specialists, were presented by the weekend’s organiser, Mark Squires.

Winner of the UK Pinball Cup 2024, Martin Ayub
Winner of the UK Pinball Cup 2024, Martin Ayub
Second Place, Stan Simpson
Second Place, Stan Simpson
Third Place, Matt Vince
Third Place, Matt Vince
Fourth Place, Shaun Harvey
Fourth Place, Shaun Harvey

Here are the full results of the UK Pinball Cup 2024:

PositionName
1stMartin Ayub
2ndStan Simpson
3rdMatt Vince
4thShaun Harvey
5th-8thEve Owen
Vin Jauhal
Roy Smith
Chris Christoforou
9th-16thBen Leigh
Clive Bush
Graham Swaffield
Dan Prachar
Wayne Johns
Andy Brock
Phil Dixon
George Bennett
17th-24thJim King
Mark Squires
Keith Withnall
Martin Bedford
Chris Miller
Claire Lickman
Chris Williams
Greg Mott
25th-36thGeorgia Heron
Nick Clark
Tim Porter
Thomas Calvert
Pete Bennett
Jim Gatward
Diane Bush
Neil McRae
Helen Swaffield
Conrad Chambers
David Bowery
Marc Gatward

After the tournament, events drew to a close as Mark Squires thanked everyone for coming. He thanked all the machine donors, everyone who donated prizes for the raffle, those who ran the raffle and the tournament, and all those who bought raffle tickets or made donations to the charity collection.

Mark thanks everyone for making the Swavesey Pinball Weekend another success
Mark thanks everyone for making the Swavesey Pinball Weekend another success

An initial count showed the weekend had raised £755 for the UKPIPS charity. Added to that was £304.40 donated directly through the charity’s website (see the QR code above) to give a grand total of £1,059.40 ($1,355.50/€1,253.06).

Mark had suggested this could be the final Swavesey Pinball Weekend, since there are now many other events on the UK pinball calendar. However, everyone told him they wanted it to continue into its eighteenth year, so it will return in 2025, as will we.

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