There is no denying that Londoners love immersive experiences, whenever we write about them we can guarantee that you, yes, our wonderful readers, will be clicking on the articles like it was the link to free cocktails – you’re big fans. So, we caught up with Sam Shearman the founder of Inventive Productions Limited aka the guy behind two of the most popular immersive bars, Alcotraz and Moonshine Saloon to discuss why we all love experiences so much and what he has planned next.
Tell us a bit about Inventive Productions, how did the idea come about?
Inventive Productions is made up of a small team of immersive storytellers with a passion for bringing to life inventive concepts that challenge traditional environments. This started with a cocktail bar environment, by combining immersive theatre with world-class cocktails at its heart, to uniquely bring people together and leave a lasting memorable impression with guests.
We are all huge film and TV fans, therefore, each experience is rooted in inspiration from popular entertainment. With the launch of our second venue, Moonshine Saloon we took this inspiration from entertainment one step further by creating London’s (and perhaps the worlds) first Immersive Cocktail Series, in which the current two experiences storylines holistically link together. We also have a pipeline of new ides to continue our passion for engaged storytelling.
Why do you think London has taken to immersive experiences so much?
I believe people are not only looking for something a little different these days but they are also looking for an element of escapism. When immersive experiences are done well it is one of the rare occasions these days where you totally lose yourself from the day-to-day and transport to a new world. Whether you are transported into a world of mischief smuggling liquor into prison at Alcotraz or you embark on a journey into the illicit world of moonshining at Moonshine Saloon you are instantly taken away from the streets of London and normality.
Where does your inspiration come from for the bars? Any reason you went with Alcatraz first?
As a consumer I have been visiting cocktail bars for years and albeit often a strength I can often find frustration in over-complicated and extensive menus which eat into a limited booking time. I, therefore, believed there was a great idea in creating a cocktail bar without menus, allowing guests to bring the spirit they enjoy and place the power of creating personalised cocktails in the hands of the experts, our mixologists. Combining this with immersive theatre in which guests bringing their own spirit is an essential part of the storyline, Alcotraz was born.
We launched with Alcotraz as we knew it would create a talking point. Whether people liked or disliked the idea we wanted to ensure people judge us on the actual experience itself. Rising to the Top 10 Nightlife venues in London on TripAdvisor along with 95% 5* reviews on other platforms is evidence the experience has proven people wrong.
You’re stuck in Alcatraz, how would you escape?
Allow my brother to get locked up, covered in tattoos of the prison blueprints to escape. (small nod to Prison Break)
People really get into the roles, have any guests got too into character?
Giving guests a role such as an inmate or an outlaw, on rare occasions we can find people can forget where the line is, especially after a cocktail. On the other hand, I am still surprised by the effort guests give. We had one inmate at Alcotraz bake a cake for her fellow inmates…we only realised once she was in that there was a bottle of gin inside the cake!
What’s the next step for immersive experiences, is there another level of immersion that is yet to be explored?
100%. New technologies are allowing completely new levels of immersion and I certainly have a few ideas up my sleeve to try and push the industry further.
Where do you like to go out in London?
I started Inventive Productions because I truly love immersive experiences so you will find my Instagram littered with the many that London now has to offer. I love anything that tries to do something a bit different, whether it’s in cuisine such as Archipelago or bar brands such as Mr Foggs!
What advice would you give to entrepreneurs trying to get into London nightlife?
To define what makes you different and to believe in it. It is certainly a tough industry but at the end of the day you are creating experiences for people. If you want to experience something, there is a good chance others do to.
What’s next for Inventive Productions? Will there be another bar soon?
We have hugely exciting plans to complete our Immersive Cocktail Series with the launch of a third bar in the Trilogy. It is also a personal ambition to push the boundaries on other traditional environments along with taking our existing concepts to new places.
What was the moment that you knew you were on to a winner with both Alcatraz and Moonshine Saloon.
When I saw that guest at Alcotraz had a bottle of spirit in their cake, I knew there was a market for people demanding something a little more from their night out.