Meet the owners

Meet: Paul

Find the clues, solve the puzzles and make your escape—will you make it out in time? Cambridge Lockhouse Games is perfect for a family day out, a corporate event or a hen/stag do. Throughout October and November 2020, Lockhouse Games are running a ‘Get Out to Help Out’ campaign and offering up to 50% off their escape rooms Monday-Wednesdays.

Combine your trip with one of the many great restaurants in Cambridge still continuing the Eat Out to Help Out scheme! An escape room is a perfect way to build up an appetite before a fantastic meal, or a great after dinner activity.

We spoke to founder Paul to find out more about this business:

What was the inspiration behind setting up Lockhouse Games in Cambridge?

I was pretty much dragged along to an escape room during a weekend trip to Amsterdam in 2015. I really hadn’t thought it was my kind of thing, but we just had a blast, such a good time, and we ended up talking about it all day. After trying a few more of them in London, and getting a bit hooked, me and my girlfriend started to talk about how Cambridge could really do with one of them… The idea snowballed and it became a bit of an obsession until 2 years later I ended up opening LockHouse Games

What does being an independent business mean to you?

It means a lot of freedom, but it’s also a bit scary having full responsibility for your own failure or success. It’s great that we can fill our shop with, say,  rubber snakes and lizards without having to explain ‘why’ to anyone. We get to experiment with new ways of managing staff and we’re close enough to the action to see quickly what’s working and what isn’t. For instance we encourage our team to make their own creative choices with things that happen in the games as well as our theatrical game briefings. After three years of operation, that has worked out really well with the better ideas becoming mainstream within the team, plus the games stay fresh because they’re constantly evolving

What is favourite independent business in Cambridge that isn’t your own?

There’s so many to choose from, but probably the Cambridge Gin Laboratory on Green St. I love the combination of showmanship with science. Plus, they have gin.

What makes yours a green or environmentally friendly business?

Very few consumables, other than the constant stream of repairs that all escape rooms have to do. Everything gets reused because of our ingenious Bulgarian carpenter, Vartan. He describes it as ‘Bulgarian Engineering’,  so when we’re finished with a wooden cabinet, it gets broken down into wood and hinges and they get reused in future puzzles. When those puzzles get broken, they then get repaired, before eventually being decommissioned, after which any useful pieces go back to the workshop for future puzzle-use

What’s your favourite thing about the city of Cambridge?

Probably the intellectual character of the city. There’s something here for everyone. Just spending time in a pub you can overhear conversations on philosophy, science, history, as well as football. I used to work as a physicist, and I was surprised many times with difficult, insightful questions on quantum mechanics from people with no scientific training

What COVID pre-cautions have you put in place as a business?

Loads and loads, we’re taking it very seriously.

We’ve changed our session times and our foyer such that each group of players don’t meet any other player-groups. We ask players to only come if they’ve not had any cold or flu symptoms in the last week. Luckily, we do have enough space that we can maintain a 2m distance from the players at all times, it’s not quite the same, but it’s worth it to try to control the virus.

We also have a vigorous cleaning schedule – every prop and room is disinfected after every game and the room is aired to outdoors. We’re a bit worried that this will make it cold in winter, but we’ll crank the heating up and add fan heaters if we need to later. We hate wasting energy, but there really is no choice under the present situation.

Players have a few obligations such as sanitising, wearing a mask in the foyer, and Track and Trace, but so far all the customers have been supportive of the new restrictions. We do provide free masks and sanitiser, so that you don’t need to remember to bring anything.

Why is it important for people to support independent business now more than ever?

Most of the customer-facing businesses are in trouble at the moment, and without local support there’ll be lots of gaps in the high street come next year.  These empty shops won’t be filled quickly, so if we’re not careful we might end up damaging the character of the city for many years. There’s loads that we can do to help – shopping local, giving shout-outs on social media, even just thanking staff for working on the front lines is all appreciated.

If you went to a desert island, what three things would you take?

Do I have broadband? No? Really!? Ok then, I’ll take a really good swiss army knife, a pen and lots of paper, and a laptop completely full of tunes and films (with a solar charger)

What would be your superpower and why?

Teleportation. You could go spend 30 minutes on the beach any time you liked. But, I don’t think I’d use it on a bank vault….

What is your favourite animal?

Dogs – always pleased to see you.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Think twice about that backwards L.A. Raiders cap with the large chrome badge


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