Adventure

Discovering an unusual museum in Southport

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Lawnmowers – a very British obsession?

Did you know the lawnmower was invented in Gloucester by Edwin Beard Budding in 1830? He was deemed a madman for making such a contraption and had to test his machine at night so no one would see him.

But Budding was not mad at all and his machine revolutionised gardening.

Britain began making the best lawnmowers in the world. Sadly it seems this great piece of British engineering is less cutting edge and more heritage now on the world stage.

Talking of heritage, Britain does have the world’s only lawnmower Museum.

The British Lawnmower Museum

the British Lawnmower Museum - photo by Juliamaud
The British Lawnmower Museum – photo by Juliamaud

Where would you expect to find such a place? Gloucester, as it was home to Edwin Beard Budding? Kent, maybe, as its the Garden of  England? No, it’s actually based in Southport on Merseyside.

106-114 Shakespeare Street, a short distance from Southport town centre,  is where you will find this  museum of garden machinery, not just lawnmowers.

Brian Radam, an ex-racing champion, started the museum, which sees more than 5,000 people visit every year. It was Brian’s dream to showcase vintage lawnmowers. His museum specialises in antique garden machinery and supplys parts, archive conservation of manuscript materials and values machines from all over the world.

It houses housing over 200 restored exhibits. These include machines and equipment owned by the rich and famous. You may have seen Lee Mack talking about his contribution to the collection on TV.

Lawnmowers owned by Prince Charles and Princess Diana, Brian May and Paul O’Grady are in there too. This museum is a unique tribute to the garden machine industry over the last 200 years.

Visit The British Lawnmower Museumhttp://www.lawnmowerworld.co.uk/

Brian May's mower - photo by Juliamaud

Brian May’s mower – photo by Juliamaud

Paul O'Grady's pink push mower - photo by Juliamaud
Paul O’Grady’s pink push mower – photo by Juliamaud

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Locked In!

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Managing safety in Escape Rooms 

TIC Insurance recently wrote an article on “How To Manage Escape Room Risks Without Spoiling The Fun”. While it notes that every business must comply with the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, the legislation requires businesses to take ‘reasonable steps’ to prevent accidents or injuries.

So what are ‘reasonable steps’ as far as an escape room goes? And when does an escape room switch from being a play of amusement to a place of incarceration? Do escape rooms really lock you in?

For a start, a lot of escape room website state that players are not actually locked in the room. Either the entrance door remains unlocked, so players can escape the way they entered or there are panic buttons that release the doors should players want/need to leave. So no panic there.

Escape rooms offer an immersive adventure. That immersion can be lost if escape rooms add “mind the step” and “mind your head” signs around the place. You don’t want to spoil the illusion and reveal the existence of a hidden room by signage.  Games Masters can include general safety instruction during their briefing, including notes to mind your heads and mind where you step instead. 

Fire alarm sensors and electrical wiring can be camouflaged to fit into the theme of the room. And things that must not be touched for safety reasons can be marked.

Most Games Masters stress that their games involve logic and problem-solving skills not physical strength and that players are not to destroy the props. 

Amusement or incarceration?

Verisk insurance published an article about escaping ‘escape room’ risk in 2017. It explored how escape rooms should be classified.

One school of thought is that escape rooms can be rooms used for assembly and may be considered as special amusement buildings. However, another school of thought is that escape rooms more closely fit the definition of a true lockup.

The NFPA defines a lockup as “an incidental use area in other than a detention and correctional occupancy where occupants are restrained and such occupants are mostly incapable of self-preservation because of security measures not under the occupants’ control.”

So while all escape rooms are meant to be fun, some also restrain the players. Does this also restrict the players ability for self-preservation?

The safety implications are obvious. If someone is locked in a room without an easy means of escape, what happens in the event of a fire or other disaster? What if someone becomes ill or is injured?

Well, as noted above most escape room websites state that players are not actually locked in the room. Either the entrance door remains unlocked or there are panic button door releases.

Great, so this covers rooms without restraints, but what if the room includes players being chained up or locked in cells? In this case Verisk insurance recommend that:

  • Within two minutes, staff must be able to release doors and other physical restraints that compromise participants’ free egress.
  • Staff should be in sufficient proximity to the lockup to enable the two-minute release.
  • The facility must have staff authorized, trained, and practiced to facilitate the release.
  • Participants cannot be restrained from evacuating without the assistance of others.
woman in maroon shirt with black chain on her body
Photo by Markus Spiske temporausch.com on Pexels.com

Personal observations

I’ve raised the point before that most games tell you not to destroy the props. This is so ingrained that we’ve sometimes played games where we’ve been unclear if we can write on things or not.

On the other hand, we have also come across a game that require you to actively destroy a prop. While we were warned in advance that there were potential dangerous props in the room, we were surprised that the game required physical strength and the ability to use such tools safely.

At another game a wall socket needed to be dismantled. Again, this was a surprise as normally fiddling with the electrics is forbidden.  

However, my major concern with escape rooms is the use of restraints. 

We have played a room where team members were handcuffed on separate sides of the room. The first puzzle was to release one of the players, who released the rest. It took less than 5 minutes for all players to be free. No panic was involved.

However, we played another game where where team members were handcuffed in a line and attached to a wall. The first series of puzzles released one player, who had to “break into” a cell and solve other puzzles before they could release the rest of us. This took over 15 minutes. We considered this a health hazard, especially as we were in a basement and the Games Master was located on another floor. What if there was a fire and they couldn’t come down and release us?

At another game we were chained up and locked in a cell and had to call the Games Master to release us after 15 minutes. It was an agonising wait to see if they were coming to release us and a feeling of panic over what if they didn’t. 

Escape rooms should consider the implications of incarcerating their players. Do they want their players to have fun or to be terrified for their own safety?

Let me know what your thoughts are.

Santa’s Sleigh is Stuck!

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Averting A Christmas Eve Disaster!

Our friend, Savio, told us that Santa had just loaded all the presents on his sleigh ready to deliver to all the boys and girls around the world, when he discovered a problem. Santa’s sleigh was stuck! If he didn’t release it soon Christmas will be a disaster and no gifts would be delivered.

So this Christmas Eve we leapt into action and headed to Hornchurch. (Yes, I know that’s not the north pole, but that’s where the portal to the barn was located.) Braving the traffic and the last minute Christmas shoppers we arrived at ROOM LOCKDOWN where we were met by Games Master Ben.

He explained our team’s mission. We were to enter the barn and find a way to release Santa’s sleigh. And we only had an hour to complete the mission.

First we were shown into a Christmas themed room. A large decorated tree stood in the corner of the room. Tinsel and decorations were all around.

So where was the barn?

Well, to stop anyone realising that this was a portal to Santa, we had to prove ourselves worthy by solving puzzles and revealing the secret door. then we still had to solve puzzles to free the sleigh and send Santa on his way.

As you probably know by now ( as you open your presents) we succeeded.

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Santa's Sleigh is Stuck at Room Lockdown
Santa’s Sleigh is Stuck at Room Lockdown

Room Lockdown run a number of escape rooms. They change the themes on a regular basis, so there is always something new to discover. Games Master Ben tells me they also run seasonal games. This Christmas themed one runs until 6th January 2019 and they run an annual Halloween themed room.

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Illusional Mind

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One minute you are hunting for a restaurant to round off your Christmas shopping and the next you are saving mankind again!

Mission HQ found in a shopping mall

As our hotel was near the Tiergarten it was only a short walk to the Europa Center near Kurfürstendamm in Berlin. Located right next to the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, the basement of the shopping mall holds the escape room complex called Mission Accepted. This venue houses a number of escape room challenges.

We had been hunting for a restaurant one evening when we spotted the Escape Room. We called in and booked our slot for the next day. As there were only two of us playing we had a choice from three room set ups. (There are five escapes currently available but the other two require more players.) We chose Illusional Mind as we were told it was more hands on (old school?) than the space adventure.

The plot of Illusional Mind

Eight months ago an ingenious scientist become completely mad before falling into a coma. He remains in hospital where all attempts to wake him have failed. Within his  mind lurks the answers to some of humanities greatest problems. It is important to retrieve these and wake him up.

There is a new experimental method that the hospital would like you and your team to try.  It will require you plugging into his synapses and “searching” his confused mind. But will you accept the mission?

The game can be played in German or English.

It does not require you to escape the room as such. Instead you are on a mission to wake the scientist. On the wall is an outline of the brain with areas that light up when you have solved a particular set of puzzles.

There is a screen to receive hints from  the Games Master. The room was imaginatively designed and reminded me of Lucardo, but without the padlocks and not as colourful.

There were some imaginative puzzles throughout the room. This was definitely a room that relied on logic and reasoning, not  opening locks. Some things were obvious but some had us scratching our heads trying to work them out.

Yes, we succeeded in waking the scientist. Saving mankind once again, with only 7 seconds to spare!

Mission Accepted Berlin - Team Invitation To Events

Mission Accepted Berlin

Mission Accepted Berlin – Recommended

Gangsters Treasure Found In Leyton

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This year, we got invited to a Christmas Party at the newly refurbished Coach and Horses in Leyton. As well as a chance to listen to Christmas Blues over the meal we also got the chance to travel through a time portal back to New York in 1935 to solve a murder and hunt for Gangsters  Treasure.

Well who could resist such an offer?

Gangsters Treasure Escape Room

Gangsters Treasure Escape Room

As you can see, some of us were more into the Christmas Party theme than others as we were shown upstairs for our time machine trip.

Stepping through the door into The Chop Palace Bar in 1935 New York we immediately noticed the blood stained floor where the notorious gangster Dutch Schultz had been killed. The bar tender informed us that the police are due to arrive in one hour. That gave us just enough time to find out who killed Dutch, find his will and locate his hidden treasure.

We split up and started to search the room. When we needed a clue the barman, in return for a small bribe, would point us in the right direction.

The puzzles are intriguing and we spent a lot of time showing each other what we’d solved. So much so that although we solved the murder and found the stash, we did it with only 14 seconds to spare.

14 seconds to evade the cops and head back to 2018 and a delicious Christmas meal.

Gangsters Treasure – A murder mystery and an escape room in one – recommended.

Want to book your adventure or meal out? Just use the links below:

http://www.clueadventures.com/gangster/

https://thecoachleyton.com/

 

Alien Grill, Nevada

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That’s what happens when you build a reputation as International Savers of the World. One minute you are enjoying a trip visiting German Christmas Markets and the next your assistance is required to investigate strange goings on at a diner in Nevada……

We raced to help the Illuminati Escape Team with their latest discovery.

Illuminati Escape in Berlin

Illuminati Escape have created their own escape room world. It is populated with  missions to stop the secret organization called The Illuminati, which is intent on world domination.

Current Plots

The Illuminati have learned about the development of a quantum computer that will enable them to reach their ultimate goal. All Illuminati Escape missions are designed to stop that by sending agents across the globe to investigate.

Cyber Attack takes place in Omsk, Russia

For this mission Illuminati Escape sends agents to find the prototype quantum computer and crack the codes to stop it working.

For Jackpot the action moves to Macau in China

A NASA researcher, with an addiction for gambling, has been blackmailed by the dark Illuminati. Just before his untimely death, he handed over the blueprints for a top secret quantum computer. Your team must recover the plans before the Illuminati can move them out of the casino.

Alien Grill, Nevada – New for December 2018

For years rumours have circulated about a UFO crash and other mysterious things happening in the desert of Nevada. Now Illuminati Escape have discovered that the inventor of the quantum computer often traveled to this area and he has disappeared! Your mission is to find out what is going on in Nevada, starting the small abandoned diner.

Is the diner in the desert just a fake?

Our mission was to find out what is going on in Nevada, starting with the small abandoned diner. Could this be where a UFO crashed? And how did it link to the inventor of the quantum computer?

After briefing us on our mission, the Games Master  gave us a small bag of equipment, including a communication tablet to keep in touch with HQ. We were then “flown” to Nevada, “passing over” China. We arrived outside the diner and were impressed at the set design. It has the look and feel of an abandoned diner.

 

alien-grill - copyright Illuminati Escape
alien-grill – copyright Illuminati Escape

 

Going inside we were enveloped in darkness with only the glow sticks from our equipment pack to help us. Our first task was finding a way to generate light in this abandoned diner. The immersion in the story and level of detail was very impressive.

This is not a lock based game but a puzzle solving one where you have to find things and work out how to use equipment. All the puzzles have been created to fit the mission and enhance the story.

 As you may have guessed the diner holds a secret. As we moved through the game the puzzles became more technical. Probably because the room was new (or maybe due to building work in the office below) some of the later technical puzzles did not work as expected.

We also found the game flow towards the end confusing. We ended up solving things and not knowing why or how the pieces fitted together. So although we had fun, we did not escape the Alien Grill with the all answers.

The Games master came and talked us through what we’d achieved and what we’d missed that should have lead to a logical story-line. He said he could see we’d gone off track but was not sure how to get us back on course, especially as we were solving puzzles that should have been later in the sequence.

Hints, etc

As our trip to Berlin coincided with the opening of the latest Illuminati Escape adventure, we booked to play it on the opening morning. Looking back on it, we probably should have played one of their other rooms first. It would have ironed out the technical issues and have given the games master a better understanding on how to give us hints. After you’ve watched numerous teams attempt a room you get a feel for where they may get stuck and how to help them…….but there are some teams that still surprise you with something no-one has attempted before.

The games and hints are available in English and German. The hint system, with hints given via a keypad in our equipment pack, was good. They are also tailored to the team, rather than preset (unchangeable) prerecorded hints.

While I consider we are enthusiasts – we are enthusiastic about playing escape rooms – we also like hints. We would rather accept hints and get to see all the puzzles than refuse hints and only see half the game. (We’ve found this is not true for other enthusiasts.)

In conclusion, we saw and attempted all the puzzles and had a lot of fun playing this adventure. Recommended.

Illuminati Escape Mission Berlin

Illuminati Escape Mission Berlin

New Assignments

The escape room is in the University area of Berlin, near Ernst-Reuter-Platz underground station. We arrived early and took a brief look at the Landwehr Canal, before heading into a central courtyard and what looked like parking for offices. We found the entrance to  Illuminati Escape and walked up to the second floor where we were greeted and shown into a waiting room with a world map with all the Illuminati Escape adventures marked.

Our games master asked if we had played any of their other missions and explained how the stories linked together. The immersion started as we left the waiting room with the games master handing out equipment and taking us via a decorated corridor to our game.

After the game we were given a printed copy of our team photo.

Mission Report

After we got home we received a digital copy of our team photo and a debriefing letter which gave more details about our mission and the next mission that is currently under construction. A nice way to build excitement for the next adventure in the series.

Coming 2019

Somewhere in the Caribbean, Titanik 2.0 is about to sink!

The brilliant researcher Rupert J. Maddox has been kidnapped by The Illuminati and bundled on board a ship. In the wrong hands his knowledge is extremely dangerous. Your mission is obviously to rescue him. However, the Illuminati have now learned of the rescue attempt and plan to sink the ship in the Caribbean Sea with him on board! Can you save him?

 

Lights, Camera, Action!

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“The Golden Age of Hollywood” lasted from the end of the silent era in the late 1920s to the early 1960s. However, its heyday was the 1930’s and 1940’s, as motion-picture admissions started to decline from 1946.

That wasn’t going to affect a new group of Hollywood hopefuls. Wannabe producers, directors and actors  were transported back in time this November to the 1950’s…….

Lights, Camera, Action - photo by Juliamaud

Lights, Camera, Action – photo by Juliamaud

A Door In A Wall’s newest interactive production

Our team assembled at Mirth, Marvel & Maud in Walthamstow. The current building opened in the 1930s as a Granada Cinema, but there are records of films being shown on the site as early as 1896. A fitting venue to start our new production company.

Our team were among the first “Hollywood high rollers” to try out the new production by A Door In A Wall. We joined other hopefuls eager to learn the secrets to making a successful movie. Unlike A Door In A Wall’s earlier interactive games, this was not a murder mystery. Instead of solving a crime, we were tasked with producing mini movies.

To help us, we were provided with scenes to act and scripts to follow. We were told improvisation was allowed, so we ended up ad libbing most of it.

Groups of 3-6 were recommended and I was sure I’d read somewhere that not everyone had to appear on screen. We had one person had to drop out on the night, so our “company” was down to three. Not to worry as the game can be played by two. However this requires both of you to act. With three of us we were able to choose between two or three player scripts.

It took a while to relax into being on screen. But by the end of the night we were all having fun being a star.

As well as learning our lines we had to decide on props and costumes. We also had to get pointers from Hollywood stars and production crew on what to include in our movies. This was the interacting with characters bit of the evening.

Costume suggestions were 1950’s and some groups went for the Hollywood glamour look in a big way. In fact, at some points, it was hard to tell the real actors from the participants.

The evening ended with a glitzy ceremony to honour the best efforts. With so many teams taking part they were only able to screen the best ones. It was a pity we haven’t got to see our finished products. (Yes, I know. I’m shocked we didn’t win ) It would have been good to  see the finished films we’d made. A follow up email suggested we would be sent details and links to our efforts, but unfortunately that hasn’t happened.

A fun evenings entertainment anyway.

 

UPDATE: Since writing this blog I have received a link to the movies made on the night. I’m not at liberty to share those made by other film producers and, while I’d like to thank the cast, crew, writers etc for our wonderful productions, the background noise requires me to withhold screening ours. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 

 

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