That’s a title I never thought I’d type. Alas, with the announcement that Epic LAN will be hosting a Battalion 1944 tournament (featuring a quite substantial prize-pool), I feel it’s necessary to share with you gamers of the Battalion community a little bit of the knowledge I’ve amassed since living and working here… a helping hand from a local, if you will. So here goes…
Located in the county of Northamptonshire in England, Kettering is roughly 70 miles north of London or about one hour on the train. Boasting such a popular geographical location for young professionals, the town has undergone a recent surge of development and experienced an increase in population to a little over 65,000, with a good proportion of that number working in London and making great use of the direct link between the town and England’s capital.
While Kettering has experienced something of a resurgence in the past 10 years, things haven’t always been rosy. The town suffered an economic downturn in the late 70's, coinciding with the decline of the boot and shoe industry in the Midlands. Parts of the town have recovered and received great investment, however large sections remain underdeveloped or even in poverty. For example, a brisk walk through the town centre will bear witness to pound shops, fast food and cheap drinking establishments partnered with a myriad of betting shops.
Thanks to the investment in local education over the past 20 years, the town’s occupants are gradually helping improve the overall quality of life in Kettering. Areas such as Market Place and the Horse Market have seen redevelopment and are now bustling with activity, featuring popular bars, restaurants and clubs. Furthermore, popular comedian James Acaster continues to promote Kettering in his hilarious and sell-out stand-up tours around the world.
Kettering Conference Centre is located on the south western edge of the town, sitting between a housing estate and a small lake, just over one mile from junction 8 of the A14 dual carriageway. If you were to arrive by train, you’d find yourself waking for around 15 minutes from the station or, alternatively, a quick 5-minute ride in a taxi. Unfortunately, there is no helicopter or private jet landing facilities for you Battalion players on professional salaries, so chauffeur-driven transport will have to suffice.
Inside the building, the organisers of Epic LAN have gone all-out. The event is held across two rooms: the ‘Arena’ and the ‘Lakeside’ and is akin to the I-series experience of circa 2006, but better. All the competitive action will take place in the Arena which is more accustomed to competitive game play opposed to the Lakeside area, which is louder and likely to have music played over the speaker system.
I’ll cover food and drink in more detail a little later, but it’s worth mentioning that the venue itself has a bar as well as a snack shop selling crisps and chocolate*. There isn’t anywhere to purchase a hearty, healthy meal to sustain high levels of tournaments performance; you’ll have to venture further afield for such offerings.
*Update: Epic LAN organisers have contacted me to clarify there is now catering offered on-site. All 3 meals in a day are catered for and can be bought with your ticket!
As previously mentioned, Kettering is very well-connected to London (and thus the 3 major airports) due to its proximity of 70 miles. Trains from the capital run regularly and quickly from or near all of the major airports, taking anywhere between 50 and 90 minutes depending on your starting location. Not all airports have easy connections to a train station, however.
If you are planning on flying in to England, the best and likely most affordable airport to arrive to is Luton. Coincidentally, this airport also has the quickest train service to Kettering taking just under an hour once you navigate your way to the Luton Airport Parkway, which is easily accessible by shuttle bus from the airport itself. From the station, you may purchase tickets or alternatively you can book in advance. Be aware that not every train travels to Kettering directly, so pay attention and ensure you book a direct train to reduce travel-related stresses.
If you already reside in the United Kingdom, the Kettering Conference Centre is less than one mile from junction 8 of the A14, which connects directly to both the M1 and M6 motorways, servicing both northern, southern and western travellers.
Local taxi vehicles are rarely waiting anywhere but the train station or town centre, so if you require a ride, it is expected that you call them and book. The most popular taxi company within Kettering is KLM Taxis - 01536 310123.
On-site – Event organisers offer their participants free indoor sleeping with a ticket but holding a ticket does not guarantee a sleeping spot; space is limited. The on-site sleeping option is likely only a consideration to those on an extremely tight budget or living very locally, as it requires you to bring your own sleeping essentials including: camp bed, sleeping bag and pillow. Ear plugs are strongly advised, and good hygiene of your snoring neighbour is far from certain. Proceed at your own peril.
Camping – Are you brave enough to experience England in the bitter winds of October? If yes, then camping is also an option at Epic LAN. Organisers were delayed in confirming if pitching a tent would be allowed at the venue, but have gone on record to confirm it. Obviously, much like on-site sleeping, you'll have to bring everything including your tent. For the love of all things holy, if you do decide to camp, secure your tent with guide ropes; I've seen tents blow away in the brutal British winds more times than I've been stupid enough to sleep in one this close to winter.
Holiday Inn Express, Weekley Wood Ave, Kettering NN14 1UD – If comfort is more your bag, then the local Holiday Inn offers the perfect solution. The small hotel is situated the opposite side of Kettering and would require you to take a 10-minute taxi journey each way but comes with the benefit of breakfast included. Prices will fluctuate between now and the event but expect to pay between £50-£70 per room per night. Event organisers have come up trumps however, offering individuals booking an Epic.LAN discount code: just enter ‘EL4’ at checkout on the Holiday Inn website.
Eazzzy Rooms Kettering, 8 Carrington Street, Kettering, NN16 0BJ – Cheap and within a realistic walking distance to the venue (25 minutes), Eazzzy Rooms has been a popular booking for event-goers for the past couple of years due to its £100 per night price tag. If you decide to make a reservation via Booking.com, be aware there is an identically-named hotel in Corby that is certainly not within walking distance. No breakfast included but Market Place is just around the corner, offering a choice of restaurants and bars – in fact, this hotel is next door to one of Kettering's most popular nightclubs! Unfortunately, none of the bars offer G-Fuel for gamers.
Kettering Town House, Ford St, Kettering NN16 0SG – A spacious multi-bedroom house perfect for a team to rent via Airbnb. In fact, Airbnb offers a lot of affordable options for teams willing to stay a short distance from the venue but be warned: the days will disappear quickly as more tournament-goers search for accommodation. Quality of premises vary but expect to pay anywhere between £90-£220 a night for a house capable of sleeping at least 5 of the highest skilled gamers.
Alternatives – If staying at any of these venues isn’t an option, you can search further afield. Kettering neighbours two other large towns, namely Corby and Market Harborough which both feature chain hotels at affordable prices. There is also the smaller towns of Rothwell and Desborough which have a range of bed and breakfasts, but all these destinations would require a car or a willingness to use a taxi to travel to and from.
Food & Drink
As we've now discovered, Kettering Conference Centre does offer an on-site restaurant, however there are plenty of food-serving establishments a short taxi journey away from the venue to ensure you remain nourished throughout your visit.
The Trading Post, 10 Bignal Ct, Kettering NN15 7RH – If you’re searching for a sit-down meal but don’t want to travel, then this Marston’s pub is the solution as it’s roughly a 10-minute walk away from Epic LAN. The Trading Post is a popular destination for a Sunday roast however food is served throughout the day. The bar offers a wide variety of cheap drinks and the food is of a decent quality and price. Worth a visit if you want to escape the sights and sounds of the tournament arena.
Various restaurants & bars, Market Place, Kettering NN16 0AQ – If you’re willing to venture a little further in to Kettering, then certainly jump a taxi to Market Place, the rejuvenated social area of the town which features the likes of Prezzo, Wildwood and a Lounge bar. The two chain restaurants are the higher end of moderately priced, but the quality of food is fantastic and becomes much cheaper as a large group with a shared bill. The Kino Lounge (part of the Lounge bar chain in England) also offer food, but it is very expensive for what’s available. Remember to book in advance especially on a Friday or Saturday night and, personally, I’d advise against eating at the Kino Lounge, unless you’ve readied plenty of mullah.
Decades, 8 Carrington St, Kettering NN16 0BY – Remember those affordable rooms near a nightclub? Meet that club. I’ve only visited Decades a couple of times and, on both occasions, a small cohort of my students have been sharing the dance floor with me. As such, I’ve sworn never to go back but I am more than happy to make a recommendation. Bring ID regardless of facial hair quantity or quality; Sebastian on the door is a right knob.
Like any place on earth, you can live as cheaply or as lavishly as you desire, and the town of Kettering is no different… to an extent. While you may be able to survive on £1 pot noodles and a bargain 2 litre bottle of water for the duration of your visit, the location of the venue means that, unless you’re sleeping on-site, travelling to and from your accommodation will require the help of a taxi driver.
For a 5-minute taxi journey through Kettering, expect to pay between £5-£8 (or up to £12 for a larger vehicle) depending on the time of day. It’s common practice to tip the driver if they didn’t crash or drive erratically, maybe around 10% but this is up to you. As there is a limited selection of places to eat locally, it’s likely you’ll travel by taxi most of the time, so give yourself plenty of cash to get around, at least £20 a day.
Regarding food, all the menus of the destinations recommended are available online. Food in England isn’t cheap but it’s nowhere near the extortionate prices I’ve paid in London, Berlin or Amsterdam for example. Chain restaurants and pubs are always affordable, but a meal and drink can set you back anywhere from £12-£25 depending on how fancy you’re feeling.
If you head out for an evening to mingle with the locals, expect to pay entrance fees to clubs after things get busy. It’ll only be £2-£5 but, when under the influence of alcohol, this may be a surprise. Again, much like food, drinks aren’t cheap unless you go for the standard pints costing around £3. If you end up in the Kino Lounge, you’ll likely pay closer to £10 for a cocktail and £4 for a beer.
I recommend you budget yourself around £50 a day to be safe, but I say that whilst smoking a cigar and sipping a 25-year aged whiskey.
If you're thinking of coming to Epic LAN 28, just do it; the organisers are ace. The money on offer is outstanding and, with the announcement being such short notice, there is a huge opportunity for a dedicated and driven team to win a lot of cash. Needless to say, supporting our beloved game in these early events will set the foundation for future success.
Additionally, if you're needing assistance with your trip to Kettering, please feel free to get in touch via my Twitter. I'm always happy to help. You can also find me on Discord in both the Battalion 1944 and Battalion competitive channels, my username is @T90WRS.