Listen to a Londoner: Interview with Tom Williams

Fancy going on a treasure hunt around London? Tom Williams has been creating since 2005, through his popular project A Door in a Wall, sending players to ringing phone boxes and footballer’s flats (some pictures of events below). Not a bad way to discover something new. Of course, this means Tom knows lots of London’s little nooks and crannies (and therefore, London’s little secrets).

LLO: Tell us about your project, A Door In A Wall. How does it work, and what’s awesome about it?
TW: ADIAW is a group I run that creates games and interactive events in London. Some things we make are small (10 people, half an hour) and some are big (500 people, 4 days!). We’re best known for our series of murder mystery treasure hunts, where teams of players spend a day exploring the city, looking for hidden clues and characters in a quest to unravel a fiendish detective story. As well as leading people around London and getting them to see its streets and buildings in a new light, the interactive nature of our events means that players get to feel immersed in the game. The excitement you get from drawing information out of a mysterious character or solving a puzzle using things you walk past everyday is what makes these events so popular.

LLO: Why did you start A Door In A Wall?
TW: Just for fun initially. I’d been planning games of one sort or another for friends for a few years before ADIAW sprang to life and we started offering them up to the wider public. Selling tickets allowed a bigger budget and some wilder ideas and things have just grown and grown. Our events have continued to be popular so the challenge is trying to make things bigger and better each time!

LLO: Having run A Door In A Wall since 2005, you must have stumbled on lots of London’s secret places. Share your insider knowledge with us? What are your top three favourite discoveries?
TW: Finding new, fun locations to use in our events is a constant challenge, but very rewarding. Sometimes these are interesting shops or bars, sometimes they’re dingy alleyways, and sometimes it’s just conveniently arranged street furniture.

One of my favourite game locations has been St Dunstan in the East – a park in the City of London set amongst the ruins of a church. Entering through broken arches late on a summer afternoon, the place has a cinematic quality. Charming features are hidden around its corners and if you stop by on a weekend it’ll often be very quiet.

A pub usually fits somewhere into each of our larger games and last year we were able to have a clue located in the fantastic Queens Head on Acton Street, just South of Kings Cross. Nigel the landlord keeps a top notch beer selection that’s constantly evolving, and the pub plays host to a rich range of events. A small and perfectly formed Victorian pub; if only every street had one.

Finally, this isn’t somewhere we’ve used in a game…. yet, but I’ve grown fond of recently: the Full Stop cafe on Brick Lane. Winding through the jumbled furniture from the busy street to the counter at the back feels like you’re stepping miles away from city buzz into a comfortable living room where the coffee is superb, the staff friendly and the stereo is introducing you to your new favourite band.

LLO: How would you spend an ideal Saturday in London from when you wake up to when you go to sleep?
TW: Not being a morning person, my ideal day would start with a lie in and proceed, at around midday, to a perfect fry up at a newly discovered greasy spoon. I’d then go and experience some incredible immersive art installations on the Southbank, followed by hunkering down with some superlative coffee in a quiet cafe with an eclectic jukebox (see above) and jotting down some ideas for the best game I’ve ever designed. The evening would be spent at a secret gig for a huge band that me and my friends had all somehow scored tickets for (it’s London – this can happen!), then a raucous afterparty back at my place, where the neighbours were all out and the floor repelled all dirt. This would bleed into Sunday, naturally, but thats allowed, right? I did lie in after all.

LLO: Tell us a story of a memorable moment that could only have happened in London.
TW: I like to think A Door In A Wall’s games provide people with such unique moments. We delight in putting our players in unusual situations, from answering a ringing phone box to exploring a bloodstained hotel room or hiding in a footballer’s flat, we like to think these are things most people don’t expect to find themselves doing on a normal day out.

LLO: If I only had one day in London and wanted to find somewhere to eat away from the tourist trail, where would you recommend?
TW: It’s well known to many a Londoner, but I’ll give the nod to curry house Tayyabs. Always busy, always delivering the most mouth-watering mixed grill in E1. BYOB keeps the bill down and the swift service means you can get right on with making the most of that one day!

LLO: Favourite London drinking haunt? 
TW: For some years, The Gladstone in Borough was my local and, while London has a wealth of quality pubs, I can’t see anywhere else coming close. Run by musicians, the pub features a kaleidoscope of live, low-fi artists, most of whom you’ll never have heard of, but many of whom will send you away smiling. The Glad is cosy, sure, but it only adds to a comfortable atmosphere where it’s easy to strike up a new friendship or forget your worldly worries. Plus they do Pieminister pies, which are ace.

LLO: Tell us about an interesting Londoner you know who is doing something worth talking about.
TW: My splendid friend Rhea Taylor runs Brighter Later, a series of gigs that present some fantastic up and coming bands in London, all for a hugely worthwhile cause. Rhea puts a huge amount of effort into organising the shows and she knows her new music inside out. Last year we got to hear BBC poll winner Michael Kiwanuka perform a sublime, stripped down set to a small but entranced audience in North London, with all the proceeds going to the Teenage Cancer Trust – a fantastic night.

LLO: Ideal London location for a date night and one ideal place for a night out with the guys?
TW: Assuming it’s more than just drinks, a favourite dinner date venue of mine is Covent Garden institution Joe Allen. The food is delicious, but unpretentious, and, as they cater to a post-, as well as a pre-theatre crowd, you know you’re not going to get interrupted if it starts getting late. The place is popular with actors and you can score the occasional celebrity spot; once Liza Minelli was sat on the table next to me, though this had to be pointed out to me by the Maitre d’ before I noticed…

When it’s just the guys, you can’t beat a bar crawl. Whether it’s seeing how many bizarre craft ales you can drink on a trawl through Clerkenwell, or a debauched series of spirit-powered pit stops along Shoreditch High street, a more energetic night always pulls in some surprises!

LLO: When is your next Door in a Wall event and how do we join in on the fun?
TW: Our next BIG game will probably be in the autumn, though something smaller could happen before then. The best way to keep up with what we’re up to is by signing up to our mailing list, via, or by ‘liking’ us on Facebook. That way you’ll be the first to hear when we announce new events.

Thanks Tom!

And here is A Door in a Wall.

For more Listen to a Londoner posts, click here.

4 comments on “Listen to a Londoner: Interview with Tom Williams

  1. Wow, what an amazing organisation, clearly run by a very interesting guy. Will certainly be checking out A Door In a Wall in the future…

  2. Pingback: London puzzle hunt theatre: “a door in a wall” | Exit Games UK

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