A guide to your first visit to the Artistic Gymnastics British Championships
So, you’ve got tickets for the Artistic Gymnastics British Championships in Liverpool. Whether you have single day tickets, or a full weekend pass, if this is the first time you’ve attended the event, you’ve probably got some questions about what to expect. We’ve visited the British Championships for the day as a family three times now, first with two, and then three small children- Miss M was just 8 months old when she attended her first British Championships!
In this blog post, I’ll share some of the things we’ve learned during our day trips to the M&S Bank Arena, which should help to make your first visit easier and more enjoyable.
Where to stay in Liverpool
If you’re staying for the whole weekend, you’ll obviously need somewhere to stay overnight. But even if you’re only visiting for the day, you may want to stay over the night before, to avoid a really early start the next morning. The Jury’s Inn, directly opposite the M&S Bank Arena, is popular, but understandably gets booked up early. We’ve found that choosing a hotel just outside of Liverpool itself (we always enjoy a Premier Inn!) is a much cheaper option, whilst still enabling us to have a more relaxed start to our morning.
When to arrive on the day of the British Championships
Although the morning competitions normally begin at around 9.30am, there’s plenty of activity in and around the arena beforehand. Doors usually open just after 8, with a pre-show performance kicking off the action in the arena at around 9 o’clock. We’ve seen Gymfusion displays, and an amazing group acro performance, so it will be interesting to see what the 2022 British Championships will bring!
Entering the M&S Bank Arena
Your tickets will be checked and scanned on entry to the arena, so make sure you have them to hand as you get to the front of the queue. You may also have a quick bag search, and you are then free to enter. As soon as you get into the concourse, there will be event stewards handing out programmes, and sometimes promotional posters. Several stalls selling leotards, notebooks, pens and so on fill the concourse, so be prepared with your bank card or plenty of change!
When you enter the arena itself, you will be directed to the block where your seats are located. The seating has good leg room, so there’s plenty of space to pop bags and coats on the floor around you. Although it gets busy, we’ve always found that there’s a good atmosphere, as everyone there is excited to see the competition begin.
Watching the British Championships competition
The lights dim, music and commentary begins, and the gymnasts enter the arena floor. Spectators are encouraged to cheer and clap, and a fantastic show of gymnastics gets underway.
Once the event does get started, spectators will sometimes move around to get a better view of their favourite gymnasts competing. Moving into seats that have been left empty is usually fine, although you will be asked to move on if you stop for too long in the walkway areas of the arena.
For those with little ones who may want to stretch their legs throughout the day, I really recommend taking them up to the top level of seating (the bronze ticket area), as it’s usually much quieter up there, but you will still be able to get a good view of the action on the competition floor.
Food and Drink
There are food and drink concessions within the concourse of the arena, selling hot dogs, burgers, and so on, as well as a selection of soft drinks. However, this can be a very expensive option, particularly if there’s a few of you in your party. Just outside of the M&S Bank Arena is a Pizza Express restaurant (Click here to find out more or book a table). This gets very busy in the middle of the day, between the morning and afternoon sessions, so do book in advance – you’re unlikely to get a table without doing so.
There are also other restaurants within a very short walk of the arena, such as Eastzeast and Innfusion. The Jury’s Inn hotel also has its own restaurant onsite, plus a Costa Coffee, which are open to the public as well as hotel guests. Although the M&S Bank Arena’s website says that food and drink cannot be brought into the venue, we’ve never seen anyone be prevented from bringing food into the British Championships- apart from glass bottles of drinks. If you’re just visiting the championships for the day, I would recommend taking a selection of snacks and drinks from home that won’t be easily damaged in your bag, to keep you going during a long and very tiring day!
Meeting the gymnasts
One of the best things about the Gymnastics British Championships for a keen gym fan is the fact that competing gymnasts can often be found strolling through the concourse during the day. Most are very happy to pose for photos and sign autographs, so don’t forget to take an autograph book with you, or buy one from the British Gymnastics merchandise stall when you arrive!
In previous years, we’ve always visited the British Championships on Sunday, the final day. At the end of the afternoon’s competition, people are keen to start their journey back home, so it’s quite common to see people begin to leave after the four women’s pieces have been competed, without waiting to watch the final medal ceremony. If you’re keen to get a good view of the men’s competition, this can actually work out quite well, as it’s easy to move into seats that other people have vacated- we usually end up sitting on the front row to watch the high bar final take place!
Each day of the British Championships has a different end time- this year, Saturday’s event is due to finish just after 6pm, and Sunday’s event at about 3.30pm. However, things do occasionally overrun, so if you will be relying on public transport to get home again, do make allowances for this.
Some visitors choose to stay outside the arena after the event has finished, to try and catch a glimpse of some of the top gymnasts leaving. Many, like us, simply head back to the car park to begin their journey home.
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