It is the second time operator Nigel Smith has staged the event in a bid to stop the UK running out of Nigels, after the name became officially extinct according to birth records in 2016 and 2020.
Some 372 Nigels turned up – just shy of the record-breaking 432 who joined in 2019. “However,” said Smith, “we are not downhearted. It was a great night, it was a great party and we will be making a further record attempt in 2025.”
Nigels heralded from far and wide to attend the event, with an estimated 50,000 air miles travelled in total. Two Texan Nigels were in attendance, with one celebrating his birthday on the same day. It was his second time at the event, after his girlfriend crowdfunded so he could attend the 2019 gathering.
Others had jetted in from Los Angeles, Zimbabwe and Spain. Smith had hoped for a Canadian Nigel, yet he’d mixed his dates up so would be visiting the pub a week late.
The men had to prove themselves to be a Nigel on the door with photo ID before receiving a certificate, special Nigel sticker and free pints.
“As a not-Nigel you got a not-Nigel sticker,” said Smith. “All not-Nigels were still welcome of course because we’re that kind of people as Nigels – open and welcoming.”
All are welcome
Indeed, there was a lot of support from people with other names. “Non-Nigels can be ambassadors for the cause of Nigel-ness, and we would encourage that.”
The oldest Nigel in the room was a 96-year-old from Cambridgeshire. The youngest wasn’t a person but a 14-week-old puppy.
To be able to laugh and celebrate was very much needed after the sector’s difficult time with Covid, as well as the period of mourning for the Queen, according to Smith.
“We were slightly better prepared this time, so we were able to ensure all the Nigels got their free drinks nice and easy, got registered quickly and had a great party,” he said.
As a bonus, Nige-fest was fantastic for business. “In late September, to have a 100ft long marquee full of people dancing and singing and drinking beer, is just [amazing], and it was such great fun.”
Nigels partied into the night with live music, comedy and Morris dancing all from people named Nigel.
“If you run a pub, it’s really important to create interest and excitement from time to time so people know you’re still around,” said Smith.
He continued: “I’ve been in this industry for 40 years and it’s changed so much, so I know how important it is to be creative in what you do.
“Nigel Night is one of those really mad ideas that just kind of happened, but turned into something that’s become a tradition because, if you do something twice, it’s technically a tradition.”
While Smith planned to put on a Nigel Night every three years, there was a Book of Nigel’s behind the bar that could be signed at any time.
“We encourage any Nigel's who didn't quite make it on this occasion to pop down and have a beer and maybe a bite to eat and sign the book of Nigel's for us. We must be approaching 1,000 Nigel's in the book now,” he said.
In a typical Nigel fashion they both re used their T shirts. Met this family in 2019 …. He was walking from the marquee last night and saw us and it was like long lost families good to see you Nige …. #nigelnight@TheFleeceInnpic.twitter.com/CEzH6igzQw— Donna (@Donnaquinn88) September 25, 2022
Smith thought there was a strong argument that the name Nigel had declined due to the rise of Brexiteer and ex-UKIP leader Nigel Farage.
However, said Smith, Farage would still be welcomed at the Nigel-Night if he turned up. “We are all Nigels after all,” he added.
Farage recently revealed his own dream party guests to The Morning Advertiser. The Queen, Thatcher and Churchill would’ve received an invite to a launch bash for his new Brexit-themed gin. But, no Nigels made the cut.
Looking to the 2025 meetup, Smith had his sights set on bringing in Nigels from across Europe, Australia and New Zealand.
“One continent at a time, we will conquer,” he said.