After last year’s failed attempt at an escape room, I thought it was time to dust off the shame and try all over again. This time I tried Bournemouth’s brand new indoor adventure, The MacGuffin Project.
If you dear reader are asking the question “What is an escape room?” Click here to read last year’s experience. Or take comedian Stuart Goldsmith’s explanation: “It’s a lovely mix of playing the Crystal Maze and being stuck in a lift with your mates with only a Sudoku for company.”
The MacGuffin Machine was one of the most professional places that I have played. From the moment I stepped inside, I found myself transported into an adventure that would have felt more at home in Alton Towers than on Bournemouth’s high-street just a stone’s throw away from a kebab shop. The presentation is phenomenal, and an actor guided us through and eased me and my companions into the game’s narrative with the help of a very entertaining short film.
I won’t spoil the surprise, but it had some of the most original tasks that I have faced. Even when I was left frustrated at my stupidity at solving the puzzles I was constantly in a state of entertainment and excitement.
Again, I failed to escape; so close but yet so far. Luckily Claire Timbrell (co-founder and CEO of The MacGuffin Project) and the MacGuffin team cheered us up with their fantastic hospitality and had some spare time to answer some questions.
Tell us about yourselves?
“I run the business alongside Gareth Quinlan, co-founder and Head of Creative. Myself and Gareth have owned and run several businesses. My first business was a public-house when I was 18 years of age, which I took on two weeks before I did (and failed) my A-Levels. Since then, I have worked with the likes of RNLI and Intel travelling across Europe and the UK, running a business management consultancy. Gareth has two Masters in mechanical engineering and has been running his aerospace design company for the last ten years living in France and Germany. In essence, he’s gone from designing fighter jets and commercial aircraft – to puzzles and steampunk story-lines!”
How did you get to hear about the industry?
“Myself and Gareth were training for a charity triathlon – something we had never done before, we couldn’t even swim when we signed up! We were on a strict diet, went tee-total and were training six days a week. During that time we found it incredibly hard to stay in touch with friends, as the only options for socialising involved going for a few drinks or going for a meal.
We did our first escape room, and it solved a challenge we were currently faced with. This made our mission clear from the very beginning, and it just clicked. We want to change the way groups of people socialise by offering something other than eating and drinking. We wanted to create something truly interactive, an escape from reality and a chance to experience problem-solving as a team, in a fun and innovative way. We are taking the escape room concept and making it a mainstream activity for everyone to enjoy.”
How would you explain your idea, and how you decided on the concept?
“The MacGuffin Project is based on a derelict 19th-century carnival, with a steampunk machine baddie at the centre of the story. Each of the three different experiences we have to choose from at The MacGuffin Project, tells the story of another character from the long forgotten carnival, and their demise at the hands of this steampunk baddie: The MacGuffin Machine.”
Who is your target audience?
“The attraction is open to anyone who wants to experience something totally immersive, fun and different to anything else on offer. It would appeal specifically to corporations and businesses looking for team building activities, students, groups of friends and tourists looking for an all weather activity. Our third and fourth experience at the Bournemouth venue, The Magicians, are two identical experiences so two teams can race against each other. So we cater for the competitive too!”
Your proudest achievement so far?
“The MacGuffin Project has been two long years in the making, so we have had both our ups and our downs. Raising investment from five angel investors last year was a huge moment for the whole team. Losing the first venue due to a flood, was a terrible low. However, taking on a venue three times the size in Bournemouth town centre just two months later, was a massive high. More recently, The MacGuffin Project has been nominated for The Barclays High Growth and Entrepreneur Award, and I have been nominated for the Venus Women Award, Entrepreneur of the year. We are really proud of the people who make up The MacGuffin Project. We have experts across all areas of the business, from marketing through to legal. Our build partners are at the forefront of technology, and our creative team have 20+ years experience of both experiential installations and computer game design. Our angel investors, two of which sit on our board, also bring a wealth of experience to the table. It took time to find and surround ourselves with all these people, and we are growing all the time.“
You have a powerful visual presence online and have some great videos. What’s the story behind them?
“As we are a storytelling company, we feel the best media to really showcase what The MacGuffin Project is about, is video. Therefore, each of our experiences have their own ‘movie trailer’ style video. We have plenty of PR stunts planned for the future, and all of them will be captured on video. It’s an important media channel for us, and once again we have an amazing video team who have been really instrumental in the creation of The MacGuffin Project storyline.”
What will the future hold for the Macguffin project?
“With four different experiences, two of which are identical allowing teams to race against each other this is a town centre attraction that can take up to 24 people at the same time. Furthermore, our onsite breakout space with a live video feed from all experiences, means we have the ideal space for team building. Therefore, we will be further developing our team building and corporate packages over the coming months. Bigger picture, we are now looking at potential locations for our second and third venue that we hope to launch in 2018, Brighton and London are currently being explored, and we continue to build The MacGuffin Project team.”
This is an attraction that is a must for anyone that has a thirst for new experiences and wants to try a new test other than the weekly Tuesday night pub quiz trip. Escape rooms are opening all over the world. The MacGuffin Project is one of the best in the country, unlike some so-called rooms that involve being locked in a beer cellar in a hotel for an hour of “fun.” The company is ready to embrace the future with their third room opening soon.
For more information about The MacGufin Project or for bookings, visit their website here.