This weekend I went back to Croydon. There has to be a very good reason to go back to my birthplace, and I was mainly motivated because we had been asked to review something I thought the boys would really enjoy! And I was right.
So here’s the blurb about what we were off to see:
If the super-slick antics of Jason Bourne and James Bond have got you desperate to channel your own inner spy, there’s a new espionage activity experience in Croydon that can make it happen. Si5 SpyMission opens its latest and much-awaited spy centre in Exchange Square, Surrey Street, promising state-of-art equipment for the ultimate adrenaline-fuelled adventure.
Si5 SpyMission’s fast-paced ‘James Bond meets Crystal Maze’ activity experience has been taking the country by storm since it opened its first site in Cambridge in 2006, allowing children and adults to become spies for the day as they look to complete missions. At the new 10,000 sq feet flagship warehouse in Croydon, recruits of all ages can take on one-hour missions that include a series of mental and physical puzzles and challenges all set aboard the battle cruiser UNS Steadfast.
Fantastic fun for would-be spies of all ages, Si5 is proving the latest way to have fun, challenge your mind and get fit at the same time, knocking laser quest, indoor trampoline and soft play parks into a cocked villain’s bowler hat. Brilliant storylines bring the mission to life, from covertly boarding the vessel to the adrenaline-fuelled escape, whilst in between aiming to disable a battle cruiser with a nuclear missile that has been seized by enemy forces.
The objectives are a mix of physical and mental challenges against the clock. A guide will also be on hand to help any budding spies who find themselves stumped. With specially tailored covert operations for different ages (Malice’s Revenge 6-7yrs; Shadow Force 8+ years; Covert Sword, big kids – you know who you are), Si5’s new Croydon site is perfect for youngsters but also does packages for families, stag and hen parties and corporate events. Adult missions are trickier and impossible to complete alone, so you’ll need to pull together as a team to save the world!
So that’s what we were going for, and it totally lived up to its claims. We spent an adrenaline packed hour racing through the darkened corridors of a ‘ship’, tucked away off the main thoroughfare of Croydon, not far from all the Saturday afternoon shoppers. We were on a mission, and if we didn’t complete it, all of London would be at risk from Agent Malice and his missile!
I found myself following the boys up and down steep staircases, ladders and slides. We wriggled through tunnels and even piloted a small plane that twisted and turned as the seven year old steered us to land on another boat. We had to solve puzzles against the clock, with the guidance of one of the members of staff who escorted us round.
This is a challenge that isn’t for the faint-hearted – can you lie on your back and use your arms to pull yourself through a tunnel? And then go on to leap over and under laser beams? AND, then follow instructions, solve puzzles, and remember codes. My heart was racing as we carried on through the reach the missile – would we get there in time?
Well, as I’m writing this, you can probably guess that we did! And I had a great chat with Si5 Founder and CEO Bob Richardson at the end. He’s a lovely guy who first came up with the idea of something like this when creating missions for his kids. Bob is a former kitchen supplier and started the business nine years ago. He After he launched the first site in Cambridge, SpyMissions now has centres in Nottingham, Northampton and Milton Keynes.
Bob says: ” I love the fact that kids love it because they get to use their imagination and be hands-on, pulling levers, climbing on things and jumping around, so it gives them some exercise too without them really noticing. Once children are inside they’re completely sucked in – it’s like Crystal Maze meets James Bond and every one forgets they aren’t really on a ship.”
Si5 is a really family friendly business. Sons Matt and Josh are involved in the software and graphic design for the business, and Bob’s wife works as schools co-ordinator at the head office. Bob is keen to continue to expand so there might be 20 sites across the UK, but like many business owners he found the expansion from his first venue to a second one a challenge. He says, “It took a while to develop the systems after we opened Milton Keynes, but now we have a great back office, and I can get involved in the bit I really like: planning and building the new adventures.” Even the member of staff who showed us round was excited about the new mission: he said Croydon was the best that they had built yet. And the business is occupying a space that has been empty for seven years, bringing something new to the centre of Croydon. It would make a great family outing for a rainy weekend as well as a party venue.
Regularly receiving top reviews from the likes of TripAdvisor, Si5 is attracting thousands of would-be spies eager to try their hand at some at some of the big-screen antics of their espionage heroes. The new site is already getting lots of bookings for birthday parties. Teams of two or more are accepted, but larger groups will be broken down to teams of six to eight players. Prices start from £8.50. For more information, visit the Spy Missions website