An Interview with Aaron Cowley – Notts Maze

Aaron Cowley is a name relatively new the scare industry with Notts Maze nr Arnold in Nottingham only hosting Halloween events for the past few years. However under no means is he to be discounted, Aaron heads a fantastic team that creates a true horror 6/7 ft high corn maze over 12 acres with multiple routes and very little lighting except that of the moon and your torch with a good heavy dose of mud. Honestly, correct footwear could not be more advised so no Crocs or Ugg Boots and believe me they have seen it all. It is also no secret that myself and Dane joined the team for their last two shows and seeing Aaron and the entire teams work ethic for a good classic scare is the reason why this interview was needed and luckily for us he was happy to oblige.

Q1-So Aaron lets start at the beginning. What started the process to Notts Maze going from an idea to a full-scale event?

Back2Basics moved to Lime Lane in 2018. We were blown away by the space that was available compared to what we had before. We mentioned to the landowner that we would love to be able to run a Maize Maze in the future and he, amazingly, agreed that it was a venture he would help us with!

We planted the Maze for the first time in 2019 with, I must say, a lot of trepidation in 2019. We were not sure what would happen or if anyone would come but to say we were relatively unknow to most of the public within the area we had a great response. 

The Labyrinth was a joint idea between myself and my sister Elicia. We have both always loved going to scare mazes – York Maze, Alton Towers Scarefest etc. We also both love watching scary films – although we both regret it afterwards when we can’t sleep! It was during our first season in 2019 that we came up with the idea to do our own scare maze. We didn’t want the maze to end and as the crop started to die off, it looked like something straight off a horror movie. We decided it would be a really fun idea to create our own horror experience within Notts Maze. 

Q2-What is your personal favourite element of Notts Maze Halloween attraction The Labyrinth?

I think it would have to be the sheer scope for future ideas. The potential seems limitless as we have such a fantastic venue and so much room to play with. Its great fun being able to come up with crazy ideas and actually bring them to life. One of our favourite things about the name The Labyrinth is that it can be used for any horror experience we decide to follow each year. It took a long time to come up with but once we did, it really clicked. 

Q3-Covid has sadly caused so many buffers for the scare industry this past year. Is there anything that you wanted to add in the 2020 incarnation that due to restrictions had to be shelved?

We were really lucky to be able to run The Labyrinth during 2020. There were plenty of times where we were worried it wouldn’t go ahead. So just being able to run the events was fantastic. We did want to have the actors interacting with the customers a bit more which wasn’t possible last year with everything going on. The other thing we missed doing which was great in 2019 was having a bar at the end of each event for the customers to come out and chat, meet each other, the actors and the staff. This was a lot of fun and really rounded each event off. We are really hoping we can do this in 2021!

Q4-Without a shadow of a doubt The Labyrinth was one of the muddiest events we have ever had the delight to experience. We chose our footwear well, What has been the most shall we say ill-informed footwear choices you have seen taking on the cornrows?

This is a really difficult one! I can’t tell you how many times we have warned customers to bring sensible footwear – on the website, on the tickets.. even when they park the car! 

I think our favourite this year would have to be a man who brought his two young children in a beautiful, pristine new Tesla and got out in brand new white Adidas trainers. I don’t think his shoes or the car were ever the same again. 

Top tip for the maze… avoid white!!

Q5.The maze has much potential as we have discussed before, If and when restrictions lift and we are back to some state of normality, Would you consider running a more intense/physical/extreme event?

This is definitely something we want to consider. Even if we can do something like this with a wrist band system – so if you have a wrist band on the actors know they can come closer to you and interact more for a more intense experience. There is so much scope and we have a lot of ideas. A lot of The Labyrinth customers are hard core horror fans so this is something we are looking into!

Q6.The Labyrinth only had 4 nights of operation in 2020 and 2 in 2019 if my memory serves me correctly. Is the +2 formula what we can expect for 2021 or are more additional dates expected?

We are certainly planning on adding more nights for The Labyrinth 2021. Of course this will all depend on what is happening with Covid-19 by the time we get to Halloween season but, fingers crossed, there will be many more dates available than the 4 you saw last year. 

Q7.Our final question regarding The Labyrinth. Is there anything you can tell us about what the next years hold for guests venturing into the corn?

Well… There will be a different story and theme for The Labyrinth 2021. The past 2 years have involved escaped convicts but this year we are planning on changing things up. The Maze in 2021 will be a similar size to 2020 but we want to try having more actors this year. The final thing I can tell you is we are planning on making the evening a bit more of a ‘experience’ – so it might not be the case that the event takes place only within the Maze… You’ll have to come along to The Labyrinth to find out more!

Q8.Notts Maze doesn’t just host Halloween events, Would you like to explain some of the other experiences on offer throughout the year?

Notts Maize Maze runs from July through to the end of October as a Maize Maze. We hold torch nights – where you enter and exit (hopefully) the Maze in the dark, only accompanied by a torch!. These events are held on set dates.  

We also operate Laser Maze – you play Laser Tag in the maze – great fun and the only venue to offer this experience in the country. 

Halloween is one of our favourite times – apart from The Labyrinth we have Tricker Treat for the children. Lots of crafts, pumpkin carving and spooky stories around the fire read by our resident witch, this is in addition to a Halloween duck hunt and scavenger trail within the Maze and forest. 

Alongside the Maze we offer activities during the year that incorporate Laser Tag, Camping, school residential camps and Bushcraft & Forestry schools sessions which run throughout the summer holidays on Tuesdays, Wednesday and Thursdays.We are registered with Nottinghamshire Council as an Alternative Education provider.

Also on site: Archery, Axe Throwing, Air rifles and Crossbows.                        

New for 2021 is our Outdoor Cinema commencing from May in our carpark and in our woodland area which we are really excited about. We have so many fantastic films set up for people to come and watch more information will be released in the next month or so. We will also be have 3 horror films being shown at the end of August.

We are so excited for 2021!

Q9. In 10 years where would you like to see Notts Maze?

2020 – what a fantastic year! We met so many lovely people and had families that came back time and again! We learnt so much last year and over the next ten years our hope is that we continue to grow, welcome more guests into the maze. 2030 – well, our vision is that we will still be Nott’s Maize Maze with designs getting more complex and possibly holding two orthree mazes running side by side.   

We would also like to introduce more activities for visitors to do while visiting the maze, play areas, dog walks and tractor rides to name a few                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

Q10.Finally, what does the future hold for Aaron Cowley?

That’s a tough one! I love to travel and have visited America on loads of occasions and would love to one day own a house out there that I could visit for a few month of a year. I also love my job and can’t believe how lucky I am. It takes a lot of hard work and couldn’t be done without the amazing help I have from my family. I would love to keep growing all aspects of the business not just the maze. 

we’d like to say a huge thank you to Aaron for taking the time out to talk to us. We are so excited for The Labyrinth 2021 and we can’t wait to watch this event grow!

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