What makes a great pinball show?
Lots of vendors? Guest speakers? Hundreds of machines? All the latest titles? Multiple tournaments with large cash prizes? A large spacious venue with good climate control?
Yep, the East Anglian Pinball Weekend has none of those. So, why do so many of the attendees describe it as the most fun pinball event of the year? Two things really: the people and the atmosphere.
The EAPW is held in the back room of a country pub in the village of Swavesey, ten miles northwest of the city of Cambridge in the East of England.
Organised by Mark Squires, the event has been run since 2006 and, apart from a re-location for three years at Bar 62 in Ely due to tenancy changes, it has always been held at Mark’s local, The White Horse Inn. It’s a cosy pub run by Darren and Shelley, with a small bar on the right and a slightly larger dining area on the left.
In hindsight, the choice of this particular weekend was both inspired and unfortunate.
It was inspired because all three days featured excellent Summer weather, with temperatures nudging 30C (87F) at their peak, blue skies and masses of sunshine which made it great to sit outside in the beer garden or on the patio.
The unfortunate part concerned the number of other events happening the same weekend. Few would have predicted that the English football team would still be playing in the World Cup at this stage, but on Saturday afternoon they were playing for a place in the semi-finals which packed out the pub with supporters to watch the game on the TV. It was also the British Grand Prix weekend, with qualifying on Saturday afternoon and the race on Sunday – both also on TV. Tennis was on at Wimbledon and also on TV. The Tour de France was starting and on the TV, and it was also the village’s annual festival on the Saturday, with a parade, a fair and fireworks to finish. You can also throw in a burst main water pipe right outside the pub which resulted in a large hole with traffic light-controlled single file traffic on the main road through the village, and a major road construction project and consequent traffic jams on the main A14 road leading to the village.
Not that any of that deterred the pinball hardcore. From across the country they put a pinball in the car, drove it hundreds of miles in the heat and traffic, and set it up in the pub’s back room for everyone to enjoy.
As you can see, it’s a small room. It holds at most thirteen pinballs, with a row of nine on the right, two back-to-back machines on the left and two more on the back wall.
The machines were:
1 – The Simpsons Pinball Party
2 – Fish Tales
3 – The Avengers (Pro)
4 – Mustang (Pro)
5 – Eye of the Tiger
6 – Jackbot
7 – Dialed In!
8 – Terminator 2
9 – Flash
10 – Aerosmith (Pro)
11 – Medieval Madness
(later replaced by Game of Thrones)
12 – Tales of the Arabian Nights
13 – Earth Wind & Fire
One of the reasons for the positive atmosphere is that the weekend aims to raise money for a nominated charity. The charity selected changes each year, and this year it was Prostate Cancer UK which aims to raise awareness of the condition and ways to help prevent it, as well as promoting regular testing and early diagnosis.
Money isn’t raised through an entry fee – the event is free to enter – or by charging for the games – they are all free to play. It’s not even raised by the single tournament of the weekend which has free entry with donated prizes. No, all money is raised either by direct donations into the collection buckets scattered around the pub, or from the purchase of tickets for the two prize raffles where all the prizes are also donated by vendors or individuals. Nobody who brings a machine gets any recompense – it’s available, but everyone rejects it in favour of giving the money to the charity – while cash donations were also collected at the village shop.
The main setting up began on Friday afternoon so that by the evening most of the machines had arrived and were ready to play. A couple more arrived on Saturday with Game of Thrones replacing the Medieval Madness which was only paying a quick visit.
With the big football match kicking-off at 3pm and the temperature in the room rising as the day progressed, lots of games were played early in the day.
After the football (England won), it was time for Saturday’s prize draw, organised by Gary Flower.
After the draw, there was a dinner organised in the restaurant area or food could be bought at the village festival a short walk away. Play then continued into the night with the pub’s door locked to all but pinball players as fireworks marked the end of the festival.
Sunday’s events began around 11am with more pinball play and practice ahead of the start of the weekend’s only tournament – the UK Pinball Cup, organised by Pinball News Editor, Martin Ayub.
Players signed up, got themselves a badge and waited for the 1pm start.
In the first round players were split into groups of four to play three games on different machines, with points awarded for position.
After all three games were completed, the two players with the most points continued into the play-offs.
After the first round it was all sudden-death head-to-head single games for the sixteen survivors to decide the overall winner. As with the groups in the qualifying round, all the pairings and machines were decided by the drawing of numbered balls.
As the sixteen became eight, the eight became four and the four became two, the final game was between Nick Hamill and Martin Ayub on the randomly-drawn final machine, Dialed In! Nick played first but none of his three balls was kind. Martin did slightly better on his first ball but had a prolonged second ball which proved enough to win the final. So Martin – who had given up tournaments and, as the organiser, was only playing to help make up the numbers – was first, Nick second, Nick Marshall won the play-off for third, with Sam McCourt in fourth.
Martin won the first place trophy as well as a £50 Amazon voucher from Pinball Heaven, and became the custodian of the Nigel Hill Memorial Trophy for the next twelve months. Nick Hamill won a trophy, a signed translite from The Hobbit and two tickets to Play Expo in Blackpool from Northern Lights Pinball. Nick Marshall received a trophy and a box of pinball rubbers, cleaners and spares from Pinball Mania, while Sam also won two tickets for Play Expo. All this year’s trophies were provided by Pinball News.
With the tournament over and the prizes awarded, the East Anglian Pinball Weekend 2018 drew to a close. Machines were folded up or taken apart, loaded back into the cars or vans, and pretty soon all evidence of the weekend’s fun had vanished.
The lasting memorials though were a weekend of happy memories, some nice prizes, an impressive bar tab, and the real reason everyone was there – the donation of £1,255.05 ($1,658.50/€1,421.09) to Prostate Cancer UK.