North East Connected

Former journalist’s murder mystery business is no tall tale

A former journalist is discovering that crime really does pay with her murder mystery business originally set up to provide work for her aspiring actor son.

Venues across the North East and North Yorkshire are rushing to book Tall Tales Mysteries as word of mouth about the events spreads.

The Darlington Hippodrome is among the latest to book a murder mystery story devised by Sara West, a former journalist at The Northern Echo and the Evening Gazette.

Sara set up Tall Tales Mysteries in 2017, initially to provide work for her aspiring actor son Aidan, but this has since morphed into a successful business, with many guests who aim to see all the new plots and performances.

In 2018, the first full year of Tall Tales Mysteries, Sara and her team of actors put on 55 events across the region. This year Sara is targeting at least 80 events with many venues booking two or more murder mystery evenings.

The mum-of-two, who lives in Gainford, near Darlington, said: “After 20 years in journalism, I was looking to do something completely different but which still utilised my writing skills and I was asked to write a murder mystery for a local Women’s Institute.

“I loved doing it and it gave me the idea of writing murder mysteries which people could order online and do at home.

“Then, as my son Aidan was starting to study acting I thought it would be good to set up a small group of actors to give him some work – so far I’ve managed to book him once!

“I never then expected the business to take off the way it has, but I couldn’t have done it without such an amazing team of talented actors.”

Tall Tales Mysteries can be performed at a range of venues, with boats, trains and department stores just some of the more unusual places where events have been staged.

Sara is increasingly receiving more bookings from hotels wanting to offer different events, as well as encouraging people to stay overnight. Hardwick Hall in Sedgefield, Acklam Hall in Middlesbrough and Holiday Inn in Jesmond, Newcastle, are just a selection who have booked Tall Tales Mysteries in 2019.

The latest event at Hardwick Hall saw more than 100 people trying to solve the ‘whodunit’.

Sara added: “Our murder mysteries are funny and the laughter in the room while we’re performing and as the actors interact and play along with the guests is fantastic. The actors stay in character from the minute they set foot in the door through to the end of the night.

“We offer a range of events for different occasions, including hen parties, teambuilding activities and Christmas parties, so there is something for everybody.”

The event at Darlington Hippodrome on 9th May marks a major step for Tall Tales Mysteries, allowing Sara to take guests behind the scenes of the popular and historic venue.

She explains: “I have written a mystery that’s perfect for the theatre and we will be taking guests behind the scenes as part of the performance; it’s going to be an amazing evening.”

Not one to rest on her laurels, Sara is already in the process of expanding Tall Tales Mysteries, with some exciting announcements planned later in the year.

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