Braintree 2022

Date: Saturday 5th November 2022
Venue: St Michael’s Church House, Braintree, CM7 1EY (Google Maps link).
Admission: £12pp; £20 for two; £10pp in groups (please enquire).
Start time: Doors open 10:30 for Round 1 draw at 11:15.
Parking on site? No. Please use a nearby car park, such as Braintree railway station, which is chargeable.
Refreshments provided? Tea, coffee and soft drinks will be available free of charge from the kitchen. Lunch is not provided.
Accommodation available? A Travelodge has now opened in Braintree town centre; guesthouses and other hotels are also available nearby (please enquire).
Finish time: 18:00
Hosted by: Jeff Clayton and Rachel Perkins
Games to be played: 6, plus Grand Final
Wheelchair accessible?: Yes
Train connections: Braintree station – direct service from London Liverpool Street, or change at Witham off main line services from Ipswich and Norwich.
Bus connections: First 70/370 from Chelmsford, 370 from Colchester, Arriva 133 from Stansted Airport.

Blackpool 2021: Jeff, Rachel, and Robbo are having a great time

FOCAL returns for the third time to the delightful market town of Braintree on Saturday 5th November, the weekend nearest to Countdown’s 40th birthday. Hosted by Braintree’s answer to “Jeff & Rachel”, Jeff Clayton and Rachel Perkins will host this tournament in the main hall at Church House, next to St Michael’s Church.

Getting to the venue

If you’re coming by car, chargeable parking is  available nearby at the railway station (CM7 3QL – £2.50 for 24 hours from 07:00) which offers the best value. Alternatively, use the George Yard Shopping Centre multi-storey (CM7 1GF – £6.00, locked at 19:30). Allow 10 minutes to walk to/from either.

Braintree has a direct, hourly rail service from London Liverpool Street, then it’s a short walk uphill to Church House. Super off-peak discounted fares are usually available from Abellio Greater Anglia on Saturdays. We would recommend the 09:47 from London Liverpool Street (10:34 from Witham), arriving into Braintree at 10:50.

If you’re coming from the Midlands, the North, or even further afield, there’s an hourly bus 133 to/from Stansted Airport which stops nearby in the town centre.

When do I need to be there?

Doors open from 10:30 and you can enjoy a hot or cold drink from the kitchen before we get underway at 11:15. After introductions, we’ll generate a random draw for the first round matches.

Manchester 2022: Conundrum on the big-screen graphics

How does Countdown work in a big room?
This year, we’ll play the game in pairs with big screen graphics (“Bristol format”, as it’s known) much like you would see on TV. Feel free to bring your own notepad, notebook, scrap paper etc and a few decent pens.

  • All matches will consist of 14 rounds — eight letters games, four numbers games and two conundrums (LLNLLNCLLNLLNC).
  • Jeff & Rachel will co-host each match in the way you see on the telly, and will strive to make it as interactive and as enjoyable as possible.
  • Everyone will play six matches to the end — three heats, then the quarter-final, semi-final and final.
  • After the heats, everyone is ranked by wins and points scored and divided into groups, each of which will produce one winner.
  • Everyone around the hall will have the opportunity to pick the letters throughout the day.
  • You will be able to choose your numbers in your pairs, twice each in every match (we’ll explain how).
  • At the conundrum, the clock starts when the scramble is revealed on the screen. When you’ve got the answer, tap your table (lightly!) to indicate to your opponent that you are buzzing in, then promptly write down and conceal your declaration. The full 30 seconds will run for the benefit of everyone in the room, so the second player should still attempt to solve it – you never know, the first player may have got it wrong! In case of a dead heat, we can provide a tie-break conundrum to decide a winner.

What can I expect?

  • You will very likely be paired with different people throughout the day who you haven’t met before. Everyone is in the room to play Countdown, of course, and a little common courtesy will go a long away.
  • We play in good faith, and we trust you to keep score as the game goes along. For anything you can’t agree in your pair, there is time to flag queries at the end of every round – if a word is valid, if a numbers solve is right, etc.
  • At the end of each match, all Jeff & Rachel will need from you is the final score from your pair.
  • There will be a break for lunch, but please, take the time to recharge between matches, too. The kitchen will be stocked with drinks and light snacks, toilets are available and you can always step outside for some fresh air. If you need to make or take a phone call, we would just ask that you wait until the end of the match in play.
  • If you need to disclose anything in confidence, please just let Jeff or Rachel know.

What about lunch?
We’ll stop for lunch at a suitable point towards 13:00 — you can either bring your own food, or take a stroll towards Sainsbury’s, Tesco or the High Street, with an array of coffee shops and cafés. The Saturday market should also be in full flow down towards the Town Hall — all a short walk away.

What happens at the end?

Just after 17:00, the two finalists in Group A will contest their Grand Final in front of everyone to decide the overall winner. We round the day off by 18:00 with the presentation of the trophies to our finalists, plus other prizes to group winners. If you need to get away sharpish after the Grand Final, there is a train from Braintree station at 18:00.

Braintree 2019: Host Jeff with the podium

Outline timetable for the day:
10:30 Doors open – please register when you arrive, then settle in and help yourself to tea, coffee, soft drinks and snacks from the kitchen.
11:15 Welcome, followed by Heats draw
11:30 Heat 1

12:10 Short break

12:20 Heat 2
13:00 Lunchtime
13:45 Heat 3

14:30 Short break

14:40 Quarter-final
15:20 Short break
15:30 Semi-final
16:10 Short break

16:20 Final
17:00 Grand Final (top two players in Group A)
17:40 Prize giving
18:00 End


You can book your place with host Jeff using PayPal:

  • £12 for an individual booking;
  • £20 for two;
  • If you wish to book a larger group, please email Jeff to advise numbers (£10pp).

Please remember to select the “family/friends” option, as your contribution is voluntary to help cover Jeff’s personal costs of organising the event. Once all reasonable expenses have been met, the surplus will be donated to St. Michael’s Church.

What’s happening in the evenings?
Jeff will arrange group bookings at two different restaurants in the town centre for the Friday and Saturday nights. Interested? Let Jeff know if you want a seat at the table!

What about staying over?

Well, why not make a weekend of it — there is a new Travelodge in the town centre, along with accommodation at the White Hart (Greene King). Out-of-town, you have a selection of farmhouses and old inns offering accommodation in the countryside around Braintree, as well as two Premier Inns and a Holiday Inn Express next to the A120. Please check with individual venues about chargeable parking. We would recommend arranging taxis to get to/from the town centre if you’re not coming by car.

Any questions?

Attending or organising a FOCAL event is subject to the FOCAL Code of Conduct.

External web links and other details are provided in good faith in advance, and will be checked regularly, but please take care to cross-check them for your own assurance. If you find anything to be incorrect, please let Jeff know. Thanks!

Last updated 20/06/22