Date: 29th & 30th June, 2013
Location: The White Horse Inn, 1 Market Street, Swavesey, Cambridgeshire, UK.

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 White Horse, with friends
The White Horse Inn, with some equine friends

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:

  • Indianapolis 500
  • Whodunnit?
  • Scared Stiff
  • Goldeneye
  • Cirqus Voltaire
  • Flash Gordon
  • Joker Poker
  • Guns 'N Roses
  • Indiana Jones
  • Dirty Harry

Friday night
Friday night

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.

Machines at Swavesey
Machines at Swavesey

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.

How on Earth...?
How on Earth...?

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.

Chillin' in the beer garden
Chillin' in the beer garden

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.

Outside the pinball room
Outside the pinball room

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.

A crowd quickly gathers around Metallica
A crowd quickly gathers around Metallica

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.

The two competition games were on the left side of the room
The two competition machines were on the left side of the room

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.

The 'Do You Feel Lucky, Punk?' competition
The 'Do You Feel Lucky, Punk?' competition

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!'.

The high score competition on Farfalla
The 'Look at me, I'm a Butterfly!' high score competition on Farfalla

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.

UK Pinball Cup organiser Nick Marshall signs up more players to the tournament
UK Pinball Cup organiser Nick Marshall signs up more players to the tournament

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.

Swavesey organiser, Mark Squires, explains the format
Swavesey organiser, Mark Squires, explains the format

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.

More player numbers are drawn
More player numbers are drawn

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.

The head-to-head matches
The head-to-head 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.

Martin and Ivan before the final
Martin and Ivan before the final

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.

Fourth place, Dave Langley
Fourth-placed Dave Langley wins an X-Men DVD

Third place, Ryan Pullen
Third-placed Ryan Pullen wins some LED candle lamps

Second-placed Martin Ayub wins a Nokia 620 smartphone
Second-placed Martin Ayub wins a Nokia Lumia 620 smart phone.

First-placed Ivan Miles wins a Nokia 720 smartphone...
First-placed Ivan Miles wins a Nokia Lumia 720 smart phone.

...and takes posession of the UK Pinball Cup for the next twelve months
...and takes possession of the UK Pinball Cup for the next twelve months

Here are the final positions for all 43 players:

Pos Name
1 Ivan Miles
2 Martin Ayub
3 Ryan Pullen
4 Dave Langley
5= Stan Simpson
James Watson
Keith Withnall
Richard Rothwell Jackson
9= Alexis Mather
Nick Marshall
Ivan Durneen
Emma Oliver
Gary Flower
Kate Morris
Pete Hannan
Matt Vince
17= Michael Withnall
Mike Kindler
Wayne Johns
Mark Potter
Tom Hare
Jim Lindsay
Nathan Brundish
Rav White
Keith Spencer
Michael Ebblewhite
Greg Mott
David Mainwaring
Ashley Oliver
Phil Dixon
Julie Chambers
Chris Edis
33= Neil Fellender
Helmut Langenbruck
Chris Williams
Emily Abbey
Michael Mattsson
Craig Pullen
Robin Kemp
Ross Hamilton
Will Barber
Tim Slow
Tara Langwade

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.

Some of Saturday's prizes
Some of Saturday's prizes

Some of Sunday's prizes
Some of Sunday's prizes

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.

Gary reads out another winning ticket number
Gary reads out another winning ticket number

Neil is the lucky winner of these prizes
Neil is the lucky winner of these prizes

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.

The steam-powered traction engine
The steam-powered traction engine

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.

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