Over the past few years in the UK there can be seen a huge growth in the number of escape room businesses offering customers a wide variety of ‘adventures’ to take part in with groups of friends, families or business co-workers. In 2013 there were less than 10 businesses operating, but just 6 years later we have over 280 companies with some 1100+ room experiences to visit. Why the growth? People are looking for experiences; enjoyable and entertaining activities to share with their friends and families, and escape rooms offer this in abundance. Not only that, they let people challenge themselves whilst having fun! Similar in principle to TV shows such as the Crystal Maze, Krypton Factor and The Cube, escape rooms ask groups of between 2-5 people to pit their wits against a game designer’s challenges normally lasting up to 60 minutes.
Themes vary widely from Swash Buckling Pirates and Egyptian Aztecs to Crime Detectives and Bank Heists. Whatever theme you pick be prepared for physical and mental problem and puzzle solving as these purpose built environments are designed to make even the Einstein in the family scratch their heads. Team Work and group problem solving is key and working against a clock really adds to the sense of building tension as time slowly slips away!
Here in Newark on Trent we have our very own escape room facility, based at the superb stately home of Kelham Hall. Operating almost a year now, LetsXcape chose the venue as they wanted their highly immersive games to begin with a grand drive up to this beautiful building which really sets the scene for what’s inside. Once there, players are greeted by Nigel Catt the Owner and whisked down to the pre-game briefing room before entering THE RIG, their first game running since May 2018.
Nigel’s interest in bringing historical events back to life focused his game design attention on a little known story involving American Oil Miners who came and stayed at Kelham Hall in the 1940’s. The work they carried out at Duke’s Wood, a drilling site near Eakring on the way to Mansfield, was pivotal during World War II, and through his creation Nigel has attempted to bring some of these remarkable men’s efforts back to life.The LetsXcape team of three have been busy working on their second immersive game called SACRED, also (but more loosely based) on the fact Kelham Hall was once a great theological college inhabited by Anglican Monks for over 70 years. This darker and more sinister game opens in April 2019 with bookings already being taken. Alongside their escape room offerings, LetsXcape has also been keen to deliver larger group activities including murder mystery evenings within Kelham Hall as well as Zombie Maze scare events for those who are up for the challenge! Hugely popular these events tend to sell out quickly, with both activities taking a core idea and mixing in elements of escape room puzzling during the event. A murder mystery is no longer a night of just quizzing stooges but requires you, amongst other things, to sneak into ‘out of bound rooms’ to gather information and to trade with other competing teams. Likewise, a traditional scare maze where normally you run around as quick as you can, changes to a need to get to key locations, recover artefacts and avoid losing your life tags from grasping Zombie hands!
LetsXcape owner Nigel Catt states, “Above all else we are trying to deliver a range of high quality experiences for those who come to play. Experiences that allow people to have fun, enjoy themselves, spend time together as a family, group of reuniting friends or close co-workers and business teams. I love it when groups come rushing out of the environments we have built cheering and shouting for joy with big grins on their faces. And the mix of people we have already had has been great, from young families to teams with 3 generations of family through to first dates and travelling enthusiasts with 200+ games under their belts!”
LetsXcape has been keen to expand quickly with the live hosted events complimenting the escape rooms. More recently Nigel has co-founded a board gaming and events cafe with Anthony Foxwell a private tutor and it is based within the Buttermarket in the heart of Newark. LetsXcape Together is a stand alone partnership taking advantage of the District Council’s desire to rejuvenate the Buttermarket shopping centre and after two weeks of being open both Nigel and Anthony have been overwhelmed with the level of support and interest being shown from local inhabitants.
The board gaming and events cafe aims to create a safe and fun place for families and friends to spend time playing some fantastic, but often unknown, games whilst enjoying a nice coffee and scone. Currently open Thursday’s through to Sunday’s they are testing the level of interest with Friday night board gaming themes, looking at more classic game offerings on a Thursday for nostalgic players and offer table hosting for families and friends unsure of new games they might want to play over the weekend. Opening times are from 10am with Friday’s closing at 10pm, Saturday 8pm and Sunday 7pm. Anthony comments “We wanted to give players the option to come in and play games when it’s convenient for them and opening late from Friday through to Sunday allows that in most cases.”
The community-focused game cafe is being trialled as a ‘pop up’ shop along with a range of other independents in the ButterMarket whilst the Council decide their future plans for the venue. Nigel mentioned if the gaming cafe was a success they will be considering moving to more permanent facilities in the centre of Newark and expanding their offering. They already have an Easter themed town treasure hunt planned in for April and are considering other events for this year as well.
We recommend finding out more about the escape rooms and live events hosted by LetsXcape at Kelham Hall by visiting www.letsxcape.co.uk online, their Facebook page ‘letsXcape’ or popping in to check out the board gaming cafe in the Buttermarket accessible directly from Chain Lane.
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