'It's a little bit of escapism' - rise of escape rooms in Yorkshire

Rachel Garvey and her boyfriend Stewart Forsyth are pictured at their home in Hunslet, Leeds.
Rachel Garvey and her boyfriend Stewart Forsyth are pictured at their home in Hunslet, Leeds.
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For Rachel Garvey and Stewart Forsyth, it has become something approaching a mild obsession that has entertained and frustrated them in equal measures.

The couple from Yorkshire are part of a growing army of Escape Room fans, pitting their wits against the puzzles and clues that have been dreamt up in a phenomenon that has emerged in the last few years.

Rachel Garvey and her boyfriend Stewart Forsyth love escape rooms.

Rachel Garvey and her boyfriend Stewart Forsyth love escape rooms.

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Partly inspired by television shows broadcast at the tail-end of the 20th century such as The Crystal Maze and the children’s fantasy adventure game series, Knightmare, players are locked in a room and have to solve puzzles to escape in the allotted hour.

The Yorkshire region is now a hotbed of Escape Rooms, with as many as 20 of the ventures now in towns and cities including York, Leeds, Bradford, Hull and Sheffield as well as Wakefield, Selby and Harrogate.

And Miss Garvey and Mr Forsyth know more than most about the appeal of Escape Rooms, travelling around the country and abroad to try to solve dozens of the puzzles since they both started playing four years ago.

Salma Israil in the 'Caught in the Act' one of the games at Locked In Games in York.

Salma Israil in the 'Caught in the Act' one of the games at Locked In Games in York.

They flew out on Friday for their summer holiday to visit Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Iceland - and they have already plotted visits to six Escape Rooms across the four countries.

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Miss Garvey, 31, a Spanish teacher who lives in Hunslet in Leeds, said: “No two Escape Rooms are ever the same, and that is part of the appeal.

“It is about solving fun, logical puzzles, while you are immersed in a certain scenario - whether it be trying to find the clues to become the heir to a family fortune or escaping a wave of zombies.

“It is a little bit of escapism, and our reputations do precede us now a little bit.

“When I go into school on a Monday morning, I do get some of the children coming up to me and asking if I’ve done another Escape Room at the weekend.”

Among the attractions which have opened in Yorkshire is Locked In Games in York, which launched in December last year and is run by Salma Israil and her sister, Farhat Matloob.

Their family, who are from Keighley, also have a sister attraction in Leeds which offers players six different games.

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In York, a third game, Boneyard Cemetery, was launched in the spring to complement the existing two puzzles, Rags to Riches, which players have to solve to claim a huge inheritance, and Caught in the Act, that is based in a theatre.

Mrs Israil, who was a corporate manager before she decided to embark on her new career, said: “I had seen an Escape Room in London, and it just captured my imagination.

“It is about dreaming up a game that is as adventurous and as challenging as you can make it - the only constraint is how good the imagination is of the person who is designing the game.

“I think that the appeal of an Escape Room is all about teamwork - you have to work together to solve puzzles and get out in the fastest time possible.

“It is about enjoying a little escapism, and forgetting about whatever else is going on in the real world for that hour.”