Posted by: Natalie | August 15, 2011

The Circus of Dragons

A slight interruption to my London run down to share a pictures of our latest weekend away. Having utterly fallen in love with the Joy Swift Murder Mysteries on our previous two outings, we knew we simply had no other option but to go again. This time to Cranage Hall, Holmes Chapelto be part of the company’s spoof get-together. To validate why so many people come together, and to give an initial focus to the weekend, a theme is given to the plot. For this plot (one of three over the year) we were all invited, as fellow employees, to a circus wedding for the Circus of Dragons; a 100 year old Welsh Circus.

Principle Hayley venue: Cranage Hall, Cheshire. Click for link . . .

Each evening guests are invited to dress in themed outfits, the Friday usually to a colour code (red and green this time for the circus), the Saturday a more specific fancy dress. Previously we have addressed the ‘things that make us laugh’ by dressing as members of the Scrubs cast, and iconic retro images led us to dress as Flash Gordon and arm candy, Dale Arden. But I think this weekend’s outfits were our finest – they didn’t win a prize, but a round of applause was good enough. The theme? A Match Made in Heaven – running with the wedding reception concept. It took a looooonnnnnnnnnnng time to come up with our (sorry, my) idea, even employing the use of marketeer friends when visiting London! A whole list of items (Cheese on toast, yin and yang, light and dark, Wallace and Gromit, tea and biscuits – as well as many, many more ridiculous ones) were debated and pondered but like a flash in the dark, my crafting skills came to the fore – I can do many things with a cardboard box and some poster paint! We celebrated the three ring circus and the three brutal murders dressed as Mr and Mrs Pacman!

This is one of the fun elements of the weekend, but only a small interlude from the sleuthing. You can work as hard as you like. If your idea of a relaxing murder weekend is to enjoy the hotel’s facilities, eat lots and enjoy the acting that’s just fine. But if like us, you are desperate for those engraved winners glasses, then the incident room will be your home! There were certainly some people who may have taken the weekend a little too seriously, but in general everyone present is usually fantastic and very excited about all that goes on. And with a healthy mix of age groups, there’s always a smiling face waiting to help you out with any generation specific elements which may elude you; either in the silly party games or from the evidence presented.


Everything is always of the highest quality, the food, the evidence, the fights! But the actors are something else. Utterly incredible in every way. Consummate professionals and so incredibly entertaining. Its a very strange feeling however come Sunday lunchtime that you realise, these people you have spent (in some cases) hours chatting with, you actually know nothing about. They are not the killing machines or debauched, morally dubious beings that have been portrayed over the weekend.

And don’t think the brain ache of the weekend is over at the moment of solution, far from it. Having spent two nights waking up with more suggested routes to the solution, the old grey cells keep on twitching. The overflowing amounts of information take time to process and our own digestion of the weekend is still happening. I worry about the void which may be left when I stop revelling in the fun I’ve had over the past few days.

Very much over stuffed (they just don’t stop feeding you) and reeling from the twists, turns and sheer quality of the Joy Swift’s imagination (a very worrying mind I think!) I cannot wait to join the cast again. We will be going to the next plot (September through December) as we are true addicts now, plus its the 30th anniversary plot and promises to be even more of a mental roller-coaster. Such value in every way. If you like murder mysteries in any form, TV, film, books, you should most definitely save some pennies and try a weekend plot. I would seriously suggest avoiding anything other than the Joy Swift plots because these are the originals; these are by far the finest. You will not fail to have a completely incredible time.


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