Escape the Room

I’m late to the party but I finally got round to taking part in an Escape the Room game.

Ideal for corporate team building, hen & stag dos, and for groups of friends and family looking for an alternative night out – these interactive live games have sprung up everywhere in the past couple of years.

Part of the success is down to their simple and tightly constructed concept. A team of 2-6 people enter a room, which is then locked. Engaging quick mental prowess and skills of deduction, your team must work together to solve the puzzle before the timer runs out in 60 minutes. If successful, the door is opened. If you fail, the door will never EVER open.

I went to Riddle Rooms in the city centre of Glasgow, who operate a number of scenarios, including a Spy Room, Identity Room and Mansion Room. Myself and three friends took on the Mystery Room.

Upon entering the room, you are given a brief set up – in our case a young woman had fallen victim of a mysterious murder and we had to uncover the killer and their motivation.

There was an occult angle to the murder and we had to employ all senses and creative thinking to solve the well plotted series of puzzles, which finally led to the answers we’d been seeking and – bam! – we were out the room; with a whole two minutes to spare.

At this point, I should reveal two key facts:

1, Staff are on hand to feed clues through a speaker or TV screen if you are failing to progress.

2, I performed very poorly. In my defence, my three friends had all taken part in other Escape the Rooms before so got into the mindset quickly and they all play Dungeons and Dragons and therefore have well honed problem solving skills. In opposition to my defence, I am a procrastinator who likes others to make decisions for me. If the bill comes at a restaurant when out with friends, I don’t even attempt to work it out. Someone else can do that.

So did I enjoy it? I did and I didn’t. I found the first half stressful as I realised how shit I was at it, but at the same time I was appreciating how well it was constructed and the details of the set, puzzles and layers of story; as well as my friend’s brains. Once I solved one puzzle I finally relaxed and got into it much more (phew! – same feeling as when you are the last member of a pub quiz team to offer up an answer).

There are a variety of Escape the Room games across Glasgow, so if you like the sound of it, then check out the three that I think look best:

Escape the Past by National Trust for Scotand– Set in Glasgow’s historic Pollok House, you travel back in time to experience life below the stairs in the Edwardian period as you attempt to thwart the Butler’s devious plans.

Contagion by Escape Glasgow – Get your white coat and safety googles on as your team play the part of scientists attempting to create a vaccine for a global fatal virus, which each of you have managed to contract.

Alcatraz by Escape Reality – Set in 1934, your team must escape from the world’s most notorious prison. As the largest Escape the Room experience in Glasgow, the multi-room game is based across 4,000sq ft  of underground vaults at the city’s Merchant City Square.

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Immerse yourself this summer

Immersive cultural events are on the rise, giving audiences the chance to get closer to their entertainment than ever before.  The level of audience interaction varies greatly – from 3D blockbusters in D-box shaky cinema seats to full on theatre shows where audience members are dressed as a character and breaking the fifth wall – to everything in between.

Audience Adventures has teamed up with WOW 247 to bring you 11 immersive events worth experiencing in Glasgow this summer.

Bard in the Botanics, Botanic Gardens (June 23 – July 30)
Scotland’s premier Shakespeare Company bring their imaginative productions to the beautiful outdoor setting of the Botanic Gardens. Prepare to follow the actors in promenade theatre style for this season’s productions of Twelfth Night, Coriolanus, Macbeth and Christopher Marlowe’s Dr Faustus (marking the first time the company has departed from the Shakespearean canon). Keep an eye on the company’s handy weather watch!

Wee Green Cinema, Pollokshields Playhouse (July 2-3)
The Wee Green Cinema is a UK first, with audiences and crew pedalling to power it, as it screens an exclusive programme of films about the planet. The 40-seater will be visiting Glasgow’s southside for one weekend only for a Southside Film Festival special event to celebrate all things green, with screenings of WALL-E, Wadjda and more. Screenings are free and unticketed.

SURGE Festival, Merchant City Festival (July 30 & 31)
SURGE is Scotland’s annual festival of street arts, physical theatre and circus. Cutting edge Scottish and international performers fill the streets and spaces of the city during one weekend of the Merchant City Festival, with shows and street encounters that are outlandish and wildly unique. Programme to be announced soon.

Escape Glasgow (all year round)
The ‘escape the room’ format that has proven so popular with hen & stag dos, as well as for corporate team building, has set up a permanent base in Glasgow. Participants (2-5 people) are locked in a mysterious room and have 60 minutes to work out how to escape. There are two games to choose from: Classic – where code breaking, observational skill and mental dexterity are put to the test; and Contagion, where participants take on the role of scientists working against the clock and against infection to create a vaccine for a fatal global virus.

To view all 11 events, visit WOW 247 Glasgow.

Hinterland

Scotland’s Festival of Architecture 2016 is under way with the opening event, Hinterland, setting the tone for a year of spectacular events celebrating the country’s overwhelming strengths in this field.

Hinterland saw one of Scotland’s most impressive modernist buildings open up to the public for the first time in 30 years. St Peter’s Seminary just outside Helensburgh has been sitting in a ruinous state, since closing in the late 1980s after serving as a training ground for Catholic priests for just 13 years. Devised by public arts organisation NVA, Hinterland was the last chance to see the seminary in its last days as a glorious ruin, before it is transformed into a £4.2 million national platform for public art and heritage.

The sell-out event took place over 10 consecutive nights in March. Audience members met at a central meeting point and were then bused to the site and handed a light up walking stick upon arrival (much lightsaber re-enactment ensued!). You could then walk through the building at your own pace and reflect upon the architecture – the unusualness and possibilities of the space. This was all accompanied by a light installation and soundscapes which subtly complemented but never overwhelmed the building (in fairness, nothing could overwhelm a building like this). There was one set piece in the large central area of the building, which evoked the original purpose of the building, as two people undertook rituals whilst carrying incense.

No modern ruin is complete without graffiti and there was plenty here – of varying quality. I love the idea of graffiti artists travelling to Helensburgh and discovering this palace of opportunity.  It must also be a location scout’s dream, as it could provide a unique spot for filming across a variety of film genres.

For me, I was taken by the harshness of the building – the coldness of the concrete, the vastness of the space. I couldn’t imagine any furniture of any era ever adorning this space. But at the same time, I was astounded by the daring of the design, the beauty of the undulating roof, the poetic feel of the floating balcony over the trees, which on a sunny day must have provided the perfect spot in which to reflect upon the meaning of life. If the architects were trying to provide future priests with an environment that would have the dual purpose of inspiring contemplation whilst keeping them grounded to the values and hardships of a consecrated life, then they hit the brief.

This was a truly unique evening, as devised by NVA, who are masters at creating unusual and dynamic public art within extraordinary natural and built heritage sites. I hope that the building thrives in its next life as an arts space. Whatever purpose the building serves in future years, I am sure that its original life as a monastery will continue to echo throughout.

Dark Days at Glasgow’s GoMA

royal exchange square 2

Dark Days review by blogger Carol Anne Grady (Rock Salt)

I first heard about Dark Days from a friend at work.

‘This is a weird thing,’ she said. ‘I think you’ll like it’. I’m paraphrasing, but she was completely right. I like adventures, and signed up on the spot.

The concept behind the event was, at first glance, simple: artist Ellie Harrison invited 100 strangers to come and spend the night in Glasgow’s Gallery of Modern Art. The event was described as follows:

A unique opportunity to stay the night in GoMA’s great hall with up to a hundred other participants. As part of this new, pop-up community you will explore ways to negotiate the politics of communal living with help from trained facilitators in order to decide how best to set up and run your camp.

Borrowing its title from a phrase used in theatre to refer to the period in-between shows, Dark Days hints towards a time in the future when our big municipal buildings may need to be re-imagined / re-used for alternative purposes.

Hmm. Perhaps the concept wasn’t as simple as it seemed. There was the practical matter of communal politics, something I knew nothing about. There was also the more esoteric idea of imagining what might happen to society that would mean having to use public spaces as living quarters. The description is delightfully vague, though of course the phrase ‘zombie apocalypse’ wasn’t far from my mind. It rarely is. Indeed, in answer to the one true question on the application form, ‘Tell us why you want to take part in Dark Days’, my answer was:

Why not? It’ll be good practise for the aftermath of the zombie apocalypse. It’s a one-of event, I love the curiosity behind it. Watching people react in situations where the rules are all called off is fascinating, and I’d love to be part of the group while that happens.

As it turned out, Ellie received over 800 applications for the 100 available places. She narrowed the numbers down based on gender and age – the only other information the application form recorded – and with reference to how we answered the above question. Not an enviable task.

Two weeks before the event, we chosen bunch had our applications confirmed. Now we had some time to wonder what exactly we’d gotten ourselves into. I was looking forward to the night, but I’d be lying if I said I had no concerns. A sleepover with that many strangers, surely there was bound to be some drama? Or maybe everyone else would be somehow connected to the arts scene in Glasgow, and I’d be the philistine in the room. The camp manual we were sent didn’t do much to assuage my fears, with its unfamiliar phrases such as ‘consensus based decision making’ and ‘affinity groups’, and its instructions not to bring old blankets or pyjamas. I didn’t know why I wasn’t allowed to bring my pyjamas. I didn’t know what I was in for at all.

As it turned out, nobody did. We all arrived with varying degrees of anxiety, but a uniformly high level of anticipation and excitement. The fact that most people were there alone made it easy to get talking to one another, and there was plenty of chatter as we filed inside, dropped our rucksacks and sleeping bags round the edges of the GoMA’s main hall, and waited for things to begin.

We were together in the museum for sixteen hours. The first five hours were spent in learning the basics of the aforementioned consensus-based decision making – a tool used in activist groups and intentional communities – and then using our new-found skills to decide how we were going to engage ourselves for the rest of the evening.

There was a lot of talking. Personally, I quite enjoyed the talking. The whole process was an eye-opener for me, having only ever known the ‘majority rule’ method of decision making. That said, reaching a consensus, especially with that many people, does give rise to a certain amount of circular conversation, and it takes a long time to get things done. In the real world, when you use these techniques, you’re applying them to big decisions which are worth investing time in. For our purposes, it was overkill, and I know that many people were frustrated by how much we were discussing our plans, and how little we were acting them out. In the end, as it grew close to 11pm, a vote was taken to just get started, and organise ourselves as we went along. Consensus was reached. The group dispersed – but not for long.

Photo credit: Clyde Jones

There were a few group activities proposed, for all to take part in should they wish to. The stand out one for me was the crowdsurfing pit: about twenty people, shoes off, sitting in two rows, wedged far closer together than you would have imagined twenty strangers could be convinced to sit. Everyone in the pit held up their hands, and one by one, people jumped on, and were safely conveyed to the back, where two or three people waited to lift them back down again. Once finished, those people joined the back of the row, and the person at the front stood up and took their turn. Crowdsurfing was the most meaningful part of Dark Days for me. Being caught and held by this group of people was utterly uplifting – literally, of course, but also emotionally. It felt like a chance to set aside all those body worries that we humans carry around – this was no time for ‘I’m too heavy’, or ‘I’m sweating too much’. When I leaped forward on to those welcoming hands, I felt weightless.

Even as I was having this profound moment, other groups were forming around the hall. Some people played games (including a particularly noisy and dramatic Murder in the Dark). Some built a fort out of chairs and sleeping bags. I joined a group of aspiring music makers. A silent disco struck up next to us for a while. There were too many things happening for me to see them all, and if you asked any other member of the group at large, they would have a unique story to tell you about what happened that night.

Dark Days 2

Photo credit: Clyde Jones

The lights went out at 3am. We lay in our sleeping bags under the arches and cornices of the GoMA. Some people slept, but I think many found it difficult to drop off. In a way, I appreciated the wakefulness – it let me experience more of what will almost certainly be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Some groups looked more deeply into the concept of Dark Days and one had chosen the task of writing a dadaist manifesto. Some lines from the manifesto have stuck in my mind, though I may be taking liberties with exact wording:

  • Always bring gaffer tape.
  • Crowd surfing takes a lot of hands, but it smelled a lot like feet.
  • We’re the art, aren’t we?

That last one resonated particularly strongly, and it’s come to mind a few times in the six weeks since the event. We were the art, a unique work that could never be exactly replicated, that was inherently subjective in its nature, and that could only really be experienced through participation. Reading descriptions, looking at photos, even watching footage of the night can’t really convey the truth of it.

Was there some kind of lasting meaning to Dark Days? There are a lot of answers to that question – at least a hundred. Some people might suggest that the project expressed hope that the human race can be trusted to cooperate, should the aforementioned apocalypse occur. Some might be more interested in the deep attraction for play that many of the participants exhibited. Others may wish to expound on the utter lack of conflict or rule-breaking in the room: even though we were in a unique environment where behaving contrary to the social norm would have been accepted, we conformed. Still others might contend that there was no meaning at all. As with any artwork, Dark Days is open to interpretation.

When asked about the project, Ellie didn’t seem to have had many preconceptions or hopes for what would happen on the night. This seems a sensible approach, given that any course of action involving a group of people is inherently unpredictable and complex. In her opening few words to us, she said she felt like she’d already done all the work of bringing us together – and I can only agree. Once she’d set us in motion, I think it was her turn to sit back and see what happened in the space she’d created.

We were the art.

Dark Days happened on February 13th, 2015. To see photos and read more about it, check out the Facebook page.

You can also see a short film about the Dark Days project, made by Lock Up Your Daughters, here: https://vimeo.com/121878202

Authored by my creative chum Carol Anne Grady – check out her foodie blog, Rock Salt.

Top five picks for Festival 2014

Festival 2014We are at the beginning of one of the most exciting months in Glasgow and Scotland’s history. The world’s greatest athletes and around one million visitors are about to descend on Glasgow for the Commonwealth Games. And while the sport is exciting and all that, it is the massive cultural programme running alongside the Games that really appeals to me.

Culture 2014 has been running all year, as a nationwide programme of events inspired by the multicultural Commonwealth and the unique aspects of the host city and nation.

During Games time (July 23-August 3), Culture 2014 will pause to allow the focus to fall purely on Glasgow, as the city hosts the biggest party it has ever thrown – Festival 2014. Running alongside the sporting action, Festival 2014 will see Glasgow transformed with an invigorating mix of entertainment and culture filling the city’s streets, spaces and stages.

There is so much to choose from, with the programme featuring family events, theatre, intimate shows, outdoor spectaculars, film, music, fashion and more. If you live within travelling distance of Glasgow, I would encourage you to take full advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime gathering of prominent international and Scottish artists as they turn Glasgow into the epicentre of culture for two weeks.

Most of the events are free-of-charge or cost under £5. And you don’t need tickets to enjoy the fun, simply take a saunter around Glasgow Green and the Merchant City – the two main sites for live entertainment.

If you’re overwhelmed by the amount of choice on offer, then here are my top five Audience Adventure picks of the fest for those seeking an extra special cultural experience this July.

Cargo Cinema ActionCargo Cinema Action! (Saturday, July 26), Custom House Quay, Clydeside
An outdoor cinematic spectacular, taking over the River Clyde for a day-long celebration of Glasgow and film. Cutting edge arts collective, 85A have been working with Glasgow Film (Theatre and Festival) to create an interactive event, which is set within the fictionalised film shoot of an abandoned Russian cruise liner that is drifting eerily towards Scotland. Step onto the colossal set docked at the Clydeside for an adventure in film, theatre and the senses.  The show will be performed five times throughout the day, with a different live band providing the score each time. Come night fall, the cruise ship will be transformed into a musical playground with light installations, live music, films and an open-air caféFree, reserved ticketing via glasgowfilm.org

Tin ForestThe Tin Forest Festival (various shows and dates from July 24-August 3), South Rotunda
The Tin Forest Festival is a two-week programme of events, focusing mainly on Glasgow’s industrial past and creative future.  The festival is the culmination of one of the National Theatre of Scotland’s most ambitious projects to date, involving contributions from over 100 theatre makers from across the Commonwealth as well as everyday Glaswegians, who have been involved in an eight month outreach project. My top two recommendations for the festival are: Dear Glasgow – a one-off interactive event, which invites audience members to give voice to their hopes and dreams for their city, with the aim of creating the blueprint for a better Glasgow.

A Puppet Theatre Experience, where audiences of 10 or less, meet a crabbit old man who has decided to take it into his own hands to create a better world. The 30 minute promenade performance uncovers a weird & wonderful new world and oddball cast of eccentric puppets en route.
Tickets for all events cost £5/£3 via thetinforest.com  

That Sinking Feeling PosterThat Sinking Feeling (Friday, August 1), Kelvingrove Bandstand, Kelvingrove Park
Three films by celebrated Glaswegian director, Bill Forsyth, will be screened at the recently refurbished Kelvingrove Bandstand – Gregory’s Girl, Local Hero and his lesser known debut film, That Sinking Feeling. Costing just £5,000 to make, That Sinking Feeling follows four unemployed and hapless Glaswegian teenagers as they embark on a plan to make money out of stolen sinks. The film has been out of copy for years, so this a chance to watch the fully restored print, within the beautiful setting of Kelvingrove Park (which I believe actually features in the film). Discover or rediscover the warmth, wit and charm of Forsyth’s work and find out just why he’s known as the ‘Capra of the Clyde’!
Free, non-ticketed


Sound to the SeaSound to the Sea (Friday, August 1 and Saturday, August 2), Science Centre
Cryptic – an arts collective known for ‘ravishing the senses’ with left-field performances – have joined forces with the Science Centre to create one of the largest scale events on the cultural programme. Billed as a night-time nautical extravaganza, Sound to the Sea will bring together specialists in outdoor art, pyrotechnics and aerial dance to create a visually and musically stunning event. Musicians, including Treacherous Orchestra, Miaoux Miaoux and Model Aeroplanes, are lined up to perform on boats and ships, which will double as stages. Expect fireworks, flares and feats of the unimaginable in this night-time celebration of Glasgow’s history, industry and dynamism. Free, reserved ticketing via glasgowsciencecentre.org

Admiral FallowGlasgow Mix Tape (Saturday, August 2), The Living Room, Glasgow Green
Glasgow record label, Chemikal Underground will bring together an array of the city’s independently-minded musicians to provide a showcase for the city’s legendary music scene. Anticipate the feel of a mini music festival, with acts including Admiral Fallow (pictured), Edwyn Collins, The Bluebells, Lloyd Cole and more. Great music, pals and beers; come rain or shine – it’s got the makings of a classic summer’s day out. Free, non-ticketed