Searching for a COVID-friendly Christmas party alternative?
Look no further than Tall Tales Mysteries...
Tasked with the increasingly-daunting task of organising the office Christmas party this year? Starting to feel the panic sweep over you as the ongoing lockdown precautions continue to curb many of our seasonal soirées?
Don’t sweat it. Christmas 2020 is the perfect opportunity to think outside the box with your festive shenanigans. So instead of your traditional bevs-and-bait combo, why not opt for something a little different and ramp that team bonding up a notch?
What’s that? Stuck for ideas? Well, that’s what we’re here for! We caught up with Sara West of Tall Tales Mysteries, who have adapted their stellar murder mystery events for a virtual audience this festive season.
I was writing some mystery games and activities for children’s parties when a friend asked me to write a plot for her WI group in 2016. I wasn’t sure at first, but when I saw how much fun everyone was having, I knew I wanted to write more. The following year I decided to write some scripts for different groups of actors to use at events. The first few were so popular, I decided to change the direction of my business from downloadable games to murder mystery events. I work from home, writing the scripts in Gainford, near Darlington. Pre-COVID, we were running events throughout the North East. Now we’re running online murder mystery nights on Zoom.
That part came about when my eldest son told me he wanted to go to drama school to train as an actor. The idea is to turn Tall Tales into a family-run business to include my son once he’s finished his studies. Until then, it’s just me at the helm.
In March, when the first lockdown was announced, we performed our last murder mystery at Walworth Castle. It was our first murder mystery night there, and the last one for a long time, anywhere. I watched as event after event was cancelled or postponed and thought we would have no work in 2020 at all.
In May we were approached by another business, who asked if we could create some virtual murder mysteries over Zoom. I decided to give it a go and it was a fantastic effort from the actors to make it work. I may write the scripts, but they’re the ones who bring them to life.
It took some weeks to refine what we do online, but now we run our virtual events as close as we can get to our in-person murder mystery nights, with more interaction between our suspects and our guest detectives. We’ve reached people from all around the UK, Europe and the US, and we’ve built a wonderful following of people in the North East (and way beyond) who come to as many of our events as they possibly can.
All of our performers come from the North East and one thing I’m really proud of is the fact that our virtual murder mysteries have helped support – admittedly in a very small way – many freelance actors who have had no work or financial support during lockdown. There is so much amazing talent in our region and our actors are such great people to work with. I must confess, rehearsals are usually so full of laughter it’s surprising we get any work done!
We use the local area in many of our plots, too – from Sir Ivor Mansion’s yacht on the River Tees to the Countess’ Gateshead roots, and a guinea pig rescue centre in Meadowell that’s mentioned in our Murder and the Millionairess storyline.
We’ve also been lucky enough to perform in some of the most beautiful places in the North East: Wynyard Hall, the Great North Museum – Hancock, Acklam Hall in Middlesbrough and Tennants Auctioneers in Leyburn.
Absolutely. We have online events every weekend between now and Christmas, plus two New Year’s Eve events too. Then there’s our virtual murder mystery weekend in January. I’m so excited for this one because it gives a handful of guests the opportunity to play mini characters in an immersive storyline over two nights. We have so much fun planned into that weekend, including interactive workshops with a magician, a forensic investigator and some Meet the Author events, where guests will meet crime writers to hear how they create their stories and where they get their inspiration. So the virtual murder mystery weekend would make an incredible and unusual Christmas present!
We’re also offering virtual Christmas parties on every Saturday throughout December. Tickets are £12 per person. This year’s script is called Who Sleighed Santa – it’s wonderfully funny and would be a great night in for groups of friends and family to enjoy an unusual event together.