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A PROFILE ON THE ESCAPORIUM

Posted On: 10 Aug 2018

The Escaporium is one of the community of great independent retailers that have their business at The Piece Hall. We interviewed Angela, the owner, to find out more about the escape room.

 

How did you first become involved in Escape Rooms?

We went on a family holiday to Spain in 2014, started looking for fun things to do on TripAdvisor and the number one result was an escape room in Marbella. It was about an hour’s drive, but it had such rave reviews, we had to give it a go. We were given an address and told to turn up right on time. Not a minute after and not a minute before, and so following our given instructions, that’s exactly what we did. When we arrived, we found ourselves in the middle of a Spanish residential apartment block. We walked down the corridor and at the end, there was an open door with four glasses of orange juice inside, two walkie talkies and a disclaimer form. We filled out the form, slipped it into a nearby letterbox as indicated, took a nervous sip of orange juice and proceeded in. As soon as our backs were turned, someone suddenly slammed the door shut behind us, and locked us in! My first thought was, “No one is ever going to see us again!”, but during the next hour in that apartment, we were tasked with solving a myriad of puzzles and clues, finding objects and working together as a team to ultimately find a hidden spare key to the apartment, and winning our freedom back. It was a brilliant experience and we were hooked from then on.

 

How did you go from enthusiast to owning your own Escape Room?

Once back in the UK it became a regular family tradition. Birthdays, Father’s Day, Christmas – always a code-breaking group outing. Then it progressed to being something that we did every Sunday, but the more rooms we did, the further out we had to drive to get to them, and before long we ended up having to drive for over an hour to get to our next escape. We had become bona fide escape addicts without even realising it.

Following the saying that you should always do something that you love for your career, it was just a natural, organic progression to go from being an enthusiast to an escape room owner and designer. Halifax is our hometown, we’ve lived here all our lives and so it just made sense to bring escaping home. Finding a location suitable for an escape room was the next challenge. During a sneak peek at The Piece Hall whilst it was in the middle of renovations in 2016, it hit us – we had to put a room in it. It made complete sense – just as you might not expect something as amazing as The Piece Hall to be in Halifax, we wanted to add another surprise. It had to be a very special room that would showcase Halifax and The Piece Hall, hence the very first ideas for The Haligonian began to form.

Now that we are escape room owners, it still doesn’t stop us from going escaping in our spare time. As a family we have done over 130 escape rooms up to now and will continue to do more - hoping to crack the 150 mark before the end of the year!

 

How did you come up with the name?

It happened in the shower! I have lots of good ideas in there. We knew we wanted lots of different rooms with different themes, so that’s why The Emporium made sense. The Escape Room Emporium seemed too long, so I thought why not merge them together?

 

Tell us about ‘The Haligonian’ – your first escape room in The Piece Hall.

If we were going to put a room into The Piece Hall, it had to be something special, something that would showcase our wonderful home town of Halifax. An iconic room for an iconic building.

A Haligonian is somebody who is from Halifax and the main character, Mr. P. Saul (see what we did there?) has created a Halifax museum within The Piece Hall with strange exhibits ranging from the head of St. John the Baptist to The Gibbet, even down to an original Piece Hall cobblestone! However, Mr. P. Saul has also stolen the original ceremonial key to the north gate of The Piece Hall, and that’s what the players need to find and bring back.  However, Mr P. Saul doesn’t like sharing his museum with anybody and will check in every hour. They have to be out with the key before he returns!

When groups take on The Haligonian, they nearly always come away saying they’ve learnt something new about Halifax’s history. Puzzles and props within the room are made from things that Halifax is famous for such as Quality Street and Cat’s Eyes – you can even find Big Daddy’s autograph in there if you look hard enough. Every single puzzle in the room relates to the town’s past, even down to using the lesser known facts, like the days of the Halifax Zoo when animals used to escape all the time. My favourite is that The Halifax Evening Courier was the first newspaper to hear about the Titanic sinking as Reuters sent the telegram to the wrong Halifax. So instead of sending it to Halifax, Nova Scotia, they sent it to Halifax, West Yorkshire.

You don’t need any prior knowledge of the town to play. I’ve had people who aren’t from the area leave to say they hadn’t realised before how much has come out of Halifax, and the local people saying how the rooms makes them proud to be a Haligonian.

So far, we have locked a whole range of people up in The Haligonian, from couples on a first date, to three generational families, the bosses at Nestle have ended up having to use their own Quality Street to escape, and we’ve even locked up actors and actresses from Happy Valley and Ackley Bridge.  Our ultimate aim is to get Ed Sheeran in there so he can sign a couple of the props that relate back to him.

The Haligonian is also one of only three escape rooms in the UK to be in a Grade I listed building, and at last count there are now 1139 rooms in the UK.

 

Tell us about the new room - Crux Codcillus

The Illuminati room! A murder mystery themed escape room. It’s in a Cluedo style format, so you will have to find out who’s done it and with what weapon, but instead of having Colonel Mustard, we’ve kicked him out and put the Illuminati in instead. The name of the room Crux Codicillus is Latin for Crucial Code. It will be an exciting new room with a proper twist that will have people frantic to get out. It’s the biggest production we’ve done so far with new technology and a deep story. All we can say is – Trust No One!

It will be opening soon so keep an eye out on the website and book yourself in.

 

What has been one of your favourite moments in The Escaporium?

It’s the reactions we get from the players! It’s just fantastic. I especially loved last Christmas when The Piece Hall was so busy, we had people escape from the room, which leads back onto the Colonnade balcony, screaming and cheering “YEEEEEEESSSS!” Everybody in The Piece Hall looked up, wondering what was going on. Everyone who takes part comes out smiling and happy, but it’s the ones who start celebrating so loudly that makes my day.

 

What’s next for the Escaporium?

Don’t discard us because you've already done the two rooms we have now - we have big plans ahead with up to ten rooms between our two locations including some very exciting and unusual themes.

We're also planning an outdoor experience in The Piece Hall courtyard sometime in the future. The Piece Hall has an amazing history with so many stories and tales of ghosts. It’s the perfect location to make these stories come to life in an escape experience. We’re currently looking into cool technology working with augmented reality on iPads. Imagine if you could interact with ‘the ghosts of The Piece Hall.’ 

Watch this space - there are exciting ideas coming to me every day in the shower!

 

theescaporium.com

 

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The Piece Hall heritage regeneration project is also supported by Garfield Weston Foundation and The Wolfson Foundation.
The Piece Hall is independently managed by The Piece Hall Trust, a registered charity, number 1156948. Registered in England and Wales, number 08906735.
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