A heads up here: this is sort of my first sponsored post. I say ‘sort of’ because I’m the publicity officer for the organisation involved. The organisation is called FOCAL, and it runs unofficial Countdown tournaments across the UK and Ireland. The website is here and has been put together by some legend. That legend might be me, but it might not be. (It is.) You should follow its Twitter and Facebook social media offerings too, which are mostly run by that same legend. However, these opinions are mine and mine alone.
If you are wondering what a Countdown tournament entails, you should look it up on the website (tl;dr: anyone can and should take part!). If, however, you are wondering where you can get involved and when, that’s where this post comes in handy. Pretty much wherever you are in the UK and Ireland, there’s a tournament in your vague vicinity! And, seeing as there’s one going down today in King’s Lynn, it seemed like a good idea to post this now.
EAST ANGLIA: King’s Lynn (May 28th)
If you’re reading this, the chances are it’s too late for you to sign up, because this baby kicks off at 11.30am today. Although a less obvious place to hold an event, it’s a cosy tournament surrounded by natural beauty and history. Still, if you’re reading this blog at time of publication, you should just about have time to get there in time – if you live nearby…
SOUTH-EAST: St Albans (July 2nd), London (March 2017)
London tournaments have previously included all-nighter events with Chasers playing along, singing mother-daughter combos at 4am and bleary-eyed finals held at 6am. Great successes too. There’s hope that there may even be 2 tournaments in London next year – so keep your eyes peeled!
For 2016, the St Albans tournament will be the most local to the capital, and have been some of the most well-attended tournaments in recent years. It’s just half an hour outside of central London, if you get the right train.
There’s also one in Reading (always on Easter Saturday), but that’s not part of FOCAL… for now.
SOUTH-WEST: Bristol (February 2017), possibly Bournemouth (2017)
Bristol is one of the oldest tournaments; revived in 2015 after an 8 year absence, it saw a surge in attendees this year, and is likely to return next year – possibly accompanied by the first ever south coast event, in Bournemouth.
WEST MIDLANDS: Birmingham (December 3rd)
The FOCAL Finals – i.e. the big one that it all builds up to at the end of the year – are being hosted in Birmingham this year, for Brum’s first ever tournament. What a time to have it! There’ll be a tournament for the top 8 players across the year, alongside a regular open tournament for anyone.
There are currently deals on hotel rooms at the venue for that weekend; details are on the website.
CENTRAL MIDLANDS: Milton Keynes (August 20th)
Milton Keynes smashed the all-time attendance record last year with a staggering 50 players. Can MK beat its own record this year? Come along and be part of it!
EAST MIDLANDS: Nottingham (July 23rd), Lincoln (January 2017)
You’re spoiled for choice, as this is long-time tournament organising aficionado and former series winner Ben Wilson’s stomping ground. Lincoln is the most celebrated and legendary of Co-events (and has a baby ‘Hangover’ event on the Sunday to accompany it), despite being really awkward to get to. If you want the full Co-event experience, prioritise this one.
If you want a slightly smaller one to break yourself in with for your first time, Nottingham is sooner and more adequately equipped with national transport links. It also resulted in a number of excellent photographs (see the gallery).
YORKSHIRE: Huddersfield (October 8th), Leeds (April 2017)
Yorkshire is also spoilt for choice, with a tournament every six months. MAX COUNTDOWN FAN James Robinson will be hosting the fifth Countdown in Huddersfield event in the autumn, with series winner Callum Todd (hmm, where have we seen him before? 1, 2) hosting his second Countdown in Leeds tournament, provisionally scheduled for April Fool’s Day, following on from this year’s inaugural and very successful event.
NORTH-WEST: possibly Manchester (January 2017)
Don’t quote us on it, but Countdown may well be coming home (to where it’s actually filmed at the moment).
SCOTLAND: Glasgow (November 12-13th)
Glasgow had a modest attendance last year, but rave reviews from all who attended are sure to see a higher attendance this year! There’s a main tournament on the Saturday, followed by a smaller ‘Hangover’ event on the Sunday. Knowing Scotland’s drinking habits, you probably will be hungover for that one.
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Dublin (September 10th)
The first ever Co-event outside of the UK was held last November, and was so popular with attendees that it’s back again! Perhaps the luck of the Irish will be with you if you attend. Try not to declare any Irish words, though (except ‘failte’, because that’s valid).
WALES AND NORTHERN IRELAND: erm…
Yeah, sorry about this! We have next to no Countdowners in Wales to run an event, and few in Northern Ireland. But if you can’t get to the nearest events to Wales (Bristol/Birmingham/Manchester, depending on your location) or Northern Ireland (Dublin), why not set your own up…?