Is it time you were trapped in a prison van?

David Jones, the man be­hind Trapped in a Prison Van, un­veils ex­cit­ing new es­cape rooms at pur­pose-build HQ in East Vil­lage

The Wharf - - Canary Wharf - Laura En­field Go to trappe­d­i­na­ or ul­ti­materecre­ for more in­for­ma­tion

Most peo­ple try to avoid get­ting locked up in the con­fines of a prison van.

But David Jones is bet­ting pun­ters in Strat­ford will not only climb will­ingly in­side but will cough up their hard-earned cash for the plea­sure.

The im­mer­sive en­ter­tain­ment guru has re­lo­cated his en­tire es­cape game busi­ness to East Vil­lage.

He is cre­at­ing a pur­pose-built cen­tre in a dis­used car park that will house Trapped In A Prison Van, Trapped In A Room With A Zom­bie and Trapped Un­der­cover, as well as two new as yet un­named games.

“The whole thing is be­ing built be­spoke to give that im­mer­sive feel,” said the New Zealand na­tive, who moved to the UK in 2002.

Wannabe con­victs are dressed in or­ange jump­suits, hand­cuffed and marched be­hind chain link fenc­ing and barbed wire to be locked up. They will have to work to­gether to dis­tract a guard and es­cape.

Those who brave the zom­bie will have to solve the puz­zles as the creature’s chain length­ens ev­ery five min­utes. “If you haven’t es­caped in an hour, you have failed and you’re zom­bie food,” said David.

Spy-themed Trapped Un­der­cover is a mo­bile unit for six play­ers who have to work out why they have been dou­ble-crossed.

“A lot of com­pa­nies will set up a room with clues you have to work out,” said David. “But we like to cre­ate a sto­ry­line so there is a rea­son why the cus­tomer is there and trapped.

“We re­ally like to cre­ate that feel­ing that the cus­tomer is some­where spe­cial. Not just thrown into a room and told ‘fig­ure it out.’”

Cus­tomers who keep their cool and com­plete a game can go home smug. But David and his team are mak­ing sure the new head­quar­ters, and the ac­tors work­ing there, are ready to cope with cus­tomers who get too caught up in the fan­tasy.

“When peo­ple freak out, we call it a code brown,” said the Sevenoaks res­i­dent.

“In an in­dus­try like this, you need to un­der­stand the psy­chol­ogy of the scare. Around 95% of peo­ple will flee but there is that small per­cent­age who will stand fast or, worse case sce­nario, throw a punch.

“We have to train our staff to know what to do. When the adren­a­line pumps up, peo­ple can also get quite phys­i­cal with props.

“We have learnt ev­ery­thing needs to be very strong to be able to cope with the rig­ors of a scared middle-aged man thrown into a sit­u­a­tion he’s not used to.”

David moved to the UK after meet­ing his wife and now busi­ness part­ner Anne. He worked at the former Four Sea­sons in Ca­nary Wharf be­fore spot­ting an op­por­tu­nity to change ca­reers.

“I saw this ware­house just sit­ting empty on Wood Wharf and thought it was a bit of a waste on the doorstep of 55,000 work­ers at that point, with a rea­son­able dis­pos­able in­come,” said the en­tre­pre­neur who lived on the Isle of Dogs at the time.

“I saw an op­por­tu­nity to cre­ate an out-of-the-box en­ter­tain­ment for them and for Lon­don.”

The cou­ple ran the Paint­ball Cen­tre in Wood Wharf from 2004 to 2009 be­fore they were forced to move out due to the area’s re­de­vel­op­ment and re­lo­cated to Charl­ton, where they still run Bunker 51. They branched into es­cape games a few years ago.

“When the re­ces­sion hit, we de­cided we need to di­ver­sify and find other mar­kets,” said David.

“I wanted to cre­ate an event where the cus­tomer feels like they are an ex­tra in a movie. “

Un­til now, his three busi­nesses have been dot­ted around Lon­don.

But he has now brought Room Es­cape UK to Strat­ford along­side award-win­ning events com­pany Apoc­a­lypse Events and Ul­ti­mate Re­cre­ation, which runs Star Com­mand, a fu­tur­is­tic laser tag ad­ven­ture and VR gam­ing ar­cade equipped with three HTC Vive sta­tions and 40 games.

“We have been work­ing with East Vil­lage and Get Liv­ing Lon­don on the laser tag for a few months and they said they had this space and would we like to bring any­thing else over?

We de­cided it would be great be­cause it’s an op­por­tu­nity to bring ev­ery­thing to­gether. It will be a proper cen­tre for ex­cite­ment.”

So is he any good at es­cape rooms?

“I’m go­ing to be hon­est and say no,” he said. “I en­joy cre­at­ing them and I can come up with a lot of ideas but I’m not very good at the ac­tual clue solv­ing.

“I’m claus­tro­pho­bic so would strug­gle with prison van but my worst night­mare would be a cof­fin. “Eurgh, that would not be good.” Safe to say the new games won’t be vampire-themed then?

David Jones has re­lo­cated his im­mer­sive en­ter­tain­ment busi­ness

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