Escaping out of the small screen

This has been a while in the reporting, as it all happened back in April, but I’ve been given the OK to shout it from the rooftops, so here goes!

What does ITV and Havas Media do when they want to promote their top four crime dramas to both advertising agencies and to potential sponsors? They give Escape a call in Edinburgh.

Well, why wouldn’t you head from London straight upto Edinburgh? Escape have rooms in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dublin, Blackpool, Doncaster and London (to name a few) as well as rooms in companies as far as New Zealand. In fact this weekend they are running an exclusive pop up room for the Bloody Scotland crime fiction festival in Stirling, with the help of award-winning ‘Wire in the Blood’ author Val McDermid.

Anyway, back to ITV and their four top rated shows, and all are viewer favourites. These were Endeavour, Vera, D.C.I Banks and Broadchurch. The top quality crime dramas that have so many of us engrossed in the mystery and speculating on just “whodunit”.

The brief to Escape, to create a unique escape experience that allows the players to immerse themselves into the shows they know and love and to become part of a storyline. Oh and make it a pop up room which can be built easily built and moved.

Thats no easy job when you have one show to promote, but to include four shows into one room, and make it relatively mobile, well thats going to need some serious TV magic.

With each show is set in a different area of the UK and in the case of Endeavor, in a different decade, making puzzles for each crime drama that evokes both the setting and the characters was key. How do you capture the essence of the drama that grips the nation on a weekly basis and catapult the advertising execs and potential show sponsors into the midst of the action?

The answer was to create a room with four sections and four mysteries to solve, and the MD16 (Mystery Drama 2016) shipping container set was created.


Each section was designed to evoke that feeling we all get when on the edge of our seats, that feeling of elation (and slight smugness) as the lead detective puts all the pieces together and confronts the criminal. The same clues we have already put together and decided who was the criminal at least 20 minutes earlier.


The added bonus to the room was being able to see the result of your detective work. Each of the four detectives and their mystery dramas helped you find the criminal, and you were rewarded with some exclusive footage showing the criminal being apprehended. A very nice finale to all the hard work done.


Add to all this the creativity of the Havas Media Group who incorporated the escape experience into their day of presentations and promotions and ITV had a full day of Mystery Drama promotion. It even had its own hashtag on Twitter #itvMD16 with lots of great team photos.

So why tell you about all this now? Firstly its a major promotional event created by a Scottish escape room company, and secondly, because I think it’s the start of a new way of active and engaging advertising. Why just watch the advertisement when you can live it and experience it?

I can see more and more of these events occurring, and not just in the corporate sector, the recent promotion by Norwegian Airlines in a London shopping centre is just the start.

I just wish I’d have been able to gatecrash the day and play the room myself, I love all four dramas, especially Vera and Endeavor. Perhaps I can talk  Escape into letting my beta test the next bespoke room they create?

Locked In The Distillery

I last visited Locked in Edinburgh just about a year ago when they’d first opened and had a great time escaping from the offices of Dr. C. Lion. I just loved the concept of the room theme being exactly what the building was used for, and having so many of the original features still in place from the old vet school gave an added atmosphere that you just can’t re-create.

So just before the festival comes round again we headed back to do the Gin Room, another room that is very site specific as the Pickering Gin distillery is just downstairs from the escape rooms. I do love that both historic and current uses of the Summerhall complex are featured so well in Locked in Edinburgh.

20160715_195617[1]  20160715_214741[1]

After marvelling at the new light-up sign for Locked in Edinburgh just above the Royal Dick Bar (which has Pickerings Gin on draught!) and popping in for a quick drink (well it would be rude not to!) We waited at the designated point by the lifts.


After a warm welcome by Jackie, our host and gamesmaster for the evening, and some woofy cuddles from Dexter the resident canine employee (and we bribed him to be kind with several Jumbones!) we headed up in the lift to the walkway. It has changed a little in the last year, as there is now neon lights but this doesn’t detract from that slightly ominous feeling you get when walking down to the rooms. I don’t know what it is, perhaps years of veterinary students agonising over exams, or years of animals being housed in there, but there is a ‘feeling’. This is what I mean about the specialness of the venue, you can’t manufacture a feeling.

We also passed the leaderboard, got to love the use of the original features left over from academia, and of course we did ponder on what happened to the ‘Y’ in Veterinary.  The use of the in/out feature made us laugh too.


The Briefing

Your mission here is to uncover the identity of the disgruntled employee plotting against the Distillery, find out what they’re up to, save yourself and save the gin! Some of our team were much more interested in saving the gin than escaping the room!

We were then given more details on the mission and the health and safety requirements for being in a gin distillery (two of our team were most gutted that they weren’t getting samples during the escape) and of course dressed in the site uniform of Pickerings bar aprons and we were off.

The Room

First off I have to compliment the Locked in Edinburgh team at such a well researched and fun room, I’d recommend coming a little earlier for this room and doing the Pickerings Gin Distillery tour beforehand as you will see many in-jokes within the room. If you haven’t done the distillery tour then one or two of the puzzles may seem a little odd, but there are stories behind them and knowing the in-joke makes it all the more special.

So we were off to a cracking start, splitting the team into the usual couple of searchers and the couple of information handlers and me just doing a little of everything. I stumbled on one puzzle purely because of lack of attention to detail (I thought the answer was a 3 digit lock code and it was a 4, I’d missed one) and that was one of our only two nudges throughout the game. The other was also an attention to detail issue as we hadn’t read something properly. Dunno why this was our problem in here as the room is well-lit and the locks aren’t tiny or fiddly, and nothing is in a dark corner, they’re all well situated and easy to reach and see. Just us being too hasty I suppose.

We didn’t get a whiteboard or paper to write on here… instead you use the side of the gin still or a metal workbench, which is a nice touch and far easier to write on than some of those cheap poundshop mini whiteboards. The puzzles and locks within the room are well spaced, so we didn’t have the problem of everyone trying to crowd into one corner to group solve a mystery. Being a group of 5 I find that having to excuse myself constantly to move around the room; “Can I use squeeze past?” and “Sorry, can I just grab that from behind you” does detract from the gameplay.

The other thing we didn’t get in the room was a countdown clock, this was a revelation to me as I can’t think of a room where I’ve not had some sort of time device before, even if it’s an hourglass. At the start I thought this would make things more frantic, but for us it actually helped, we kept a more even pace and had significantly less ‘panic moments’.

Some clever visual and audio tasks and of course enough searching to allow everyone to find something, but not so much that the searching becomes a chore or overtakes the solving, and you have a room that flows very well. Add to this a varied mixture of puzzles and locks to open and also a couple of really well designed and executed set pieces of engineering, one of which is the final puzzle which two of our team were much more interested in working out how it works than to actually solving the final challenge and getting out of the room.   Despite that we managed to get out in 45:0 and made it to 5th on the leaderboard.

locked in edinburgh

Another major bonus point for Locked in Edinburgh is that after a successful escape Jackie spent quite some time asking us about what areas we found difficult, or if anything wasn’t easy to see/reach/use. I’ve been in other rooms who get very defensive if you point out something is made unnecessarily difficult by the location of the puzzle, or if something doesn’t work well, but not here at Locked in Edinburgh as they are actively asking for feedback on your room experience.


It is one of the more accessible rooms I’ve seen if mobility is an issue as there is a lift and flat walkway to the room. Inside the room may be a little tight if a larger team includes a member with mobility issues, but it is very workable. I can only think of one area where there may be a small step to negotiate. The puzzles are also at differing heights, so there are locks and tasks that a player can accomplish from a sitting height, but nothing requires climbing or reaching high (a couple of things you need to be standing for though)


As always I can’t go into detail about the room as that’s spoilers, and no one wants advance notice of the “WOW” moments in the room, they’re far too good to give you even a hint. But I will heartily recommend this room to one and all, even with its distillery theme its suitable for families as well as groups of adults. Even if gin is not your thing, it’s a unique room theme and is immense fun.

The gin room is an excellently themed and well laid out room, with lots of distillery related items and props (and even some bottles of gin!) and a mix of puzzle types so there is something that everyone will be able to solve. Add in the very welcoming and helpful staff and the original location and you’ve a real reason to head out of the centre of Edinburgh.

Book online at