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Immersive attractions
Sam Bompas

From cooking with lava to creating giant rainbows that you can taste, Bompas and Parr know how to create a spectacle. Now they’re using what they’ve learned to bring Shakespeare to life in a new immersive museum


Sam Bompas and Harry Parr are often described as the real-life Willy Wonkas of London. The pair – who met at school – started off selling jelly at London’s Borough Market, before launching artisanal jelly company Bompas and Parr in 2007.

They made their name creating architectural jelly sculptures, before letting their imaginations run riot with a series of wild and wonderful experiences. Notable projects include Alcoholic Architecture – a pop up bar where people got drunk through inhaling vaporised gin and tonic – and Flavour Fireworks – a New Year’s Eve fireworks display that could be tasted and smelled, as well as seen and heard.

They designed an erotic funhouse for New York’s Museum of Sex in 2015, complete with a bouncy castle lined with huge breasts and a genitalia rock climbing wall, and worked with flavour scientists to create the Guinness Tasting Rooms at the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, Ireland. In 2015, they co-founded the British Museum of Food, an institution “entirely devoted to the history, evolution, science, sociology and art of food.”

Now the multi-sensory experience design studio is working with Historic England and Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) to create an immersive museum dedicated to a day in the life of William Shakespeare. Located on the site of the former Curtain Playhouse where several of Shakespeare’s plays were first performed, the museum will feature a series of immersive and interactive experiences to transport visitors back to the 16th century.

Featuring AI and other ‘innovative theatrical technology,’ the Museum of Shakespeare will allow guests to experience the sights, sounds and smells of the era, and to learn about the playwright.

Sam Bompas tells Attractions Management about the company’s recipe for success
Sam Bompas / photo by Ben Ottewell
What is Bompas & Parr and how did it start out?

Bompas & Parr is a creative studio specialising in realising the remarkable with a particular expertise in food. We work with the likes of Disney, Meta, Diageo, Unilever, the Crown Estate, the Met, V&A, the Barbican, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, with projects all over the world. Strangely this all started with making architectural jelly 17 years ago. But there’s a lot you can learn from a wobble.

interested in immersive experiences?

Personally, it was when I went to Medieval Times (medieval-themed family dinner theatre experience held in replica castles) and ate chicken with knights colliding in front of me. My business partner Harry Parr pinpoints his memorable food experience to having foot long fish fingers at the Happy Eater.

How do you approach the design of a new immersive experience?

We design experiences proactively so we’ve probably started the R&D on any experience years before a brief comes in.

In 2022, we produced a pop up restaurant experience called Forces of Nature, where guests seated in an ancient canyon in Saudi Arabia were served food cooked with lava at 1,350°C from a local volcano. We had done the due diligence for that project much earlier, when we flew out to meet Professor Bob Wysocki of Syracuse University to experiment with the culinary implications of cooking on red hot molten lava.

Can you highlight one of B&P’s immersive experiences and pick out a few examples of what excited you most about creating it?

Alcoholic Architecture saw us create a bar which featured a breathable cloud of gin and tonic that intoxicated (safely) through the lungs and eyeballs. We enjoyed working with toxicologists and the council to mount something that was a world first, and that kept everyone safe while having a riot of a night out.

What did it mean to you to get picked to create the Museum of Shakespeare in London?

This is the sort of project we revel in. Even the first stages of work have fundamentally impacted our approach to theatre. There is so much to learn from Shakespeare and his company’s approach to staging shows and balancing the creative and the commercial to deliver the sublime.

What do you think will be the biggest challenges of bringing it to life? And what are you most excited about?

Shakespeare means many things to different people. On the first day we’ll have people who’ve spent a lifetime studying Shakespeare walking through the door at the same time as people who know almost nothing about him and are just looking for a day out in London. If we get the right tone, volume of information and impactful experiential environment they’ll have a good time and leave having learnt something from one another.

Are there any other attractions that inspire you?

Right now we’re interested in the creative possibilities of hybridising archaic museum-making approaches as in London’s Pitt Rivers Museum with the commentary of the Museum of  Jurassic Technology in LA, and the full panoply of contemporary techniques and technologies of multimedia entertainment studio Moment Factory. All with a view to creating fresh typologies of experience that grip people.

Who do you admire within the industry?

There’s a cosmos of mentors and industry leaders who I admire. Many have been terrifically generous with their knowledge. These include Paul Carty, interim chair of Failte Ireland, Ireland’s Tourism authority, who we worked with on the Guinness Storehouse. Other mentors include Eddie Kemsley of Dreamland in Margate, New York’s Museum of Sex founder Dan Gluck, and the founder of Secret Cinema Fabien Riggal.

Some of our heroes are swashbucklers and show-people of yore: spy and entertainer Josephine Baker and showman and politician PT Barnum who said, “Every crowd has a silver lining.”

What are the biggest challenges of creating engaging immersive experiences?

In London it’s finding the right spaces. We are currently in the midst of the hurley burley of helping landlords re-imagine how their portfolios can be used for joy. We have high hopes for future opportunities.

What is your long-term vision?

Our vision lies in designing food strategy for countries and cities, using creativity to drive systemic change. We want to operate attractions dedicated to the fundamentals of human existence – Shakespeare, food, sex, death, religion. Also fireworks.

After coming to one of our shows, a six-year-old boy said it was the second best day of his life. If we can do this for more people, it’ll be glorious.

Right now we’re interested in the creative possibilities of hybridising archaic museum-making approaches
A sense of drama runs through Bompas & Parr’s work / photo: Bompas && Parr
The Museum of Shakespeare will immerse visitors in the world of the Bard / Courtesy of Cain International
Bompas & Parr aim to engage as many of the senses as possible in their experiences / photo: Stefan Braun
The studio presents an annual Future of Food report / Courtesy of Bompas & Parr
The pair started out creating spectacular food art and food-based experiences / photo: Nathan Pask
The team created the Mercedes Drive Thru for London Fashion Week / photo: Beth Evans
Bompas & Parr are creating an immersive Shakespeare Museum in London Credit: Courtesy of Bompas and Parr
 


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SELECTED ISSUE
Attractions Management
2024 issue 2

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Leisure Management - Sam Bompas

Immersive attractions

Sam Bompas


From cooking with lava to creating giant rainbows that you can taste, Bompas and Parr know how to create a spectacle. Now they’re using what they’ve learned to bring Shakespeare to life in a new immersive museum

Bompas & Parr are creating an immersive Shakespeare Museum in London Courtesy of Bompas and Parr
The pair met aged 13 at Eton College. They launched Bompass & Parr in 2007 photo: Nathan Pask

Sam Bompas and Harry Parr are often described as the real-life Willy Wonkas of London. The pair – who met at school – started off selling jelly at London’s Borough Market, before launching artisanal jelly company Bompas and Parr in 2007.

They made their name creating architectural jelly sculptures, before letting their imaginations run riot with a series of wild and wonderful experiences. Notable projects include Alcoholic Architecture – a pop up bar where people got drunk through inhaling vaporised gin and tonic – and Flavour Fireworks – a New Year’s Eve fireworks display that could be tasted and smelled, as well as seen and heard.

They designed an erotic funhouse for New York’s Museum of Sex in 2015, complete with a bouncy castle lined with huge breasts and a genitalia rock climbing wall, and worked with flavour scientists to create the Guinness Tasting Rooms at the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, Ireland. In 2015, they co-founded the British Museum of Food, an institution “entirely devoted to the history, evolution, science, sociology and art of food.”

Now the multi-sensory experience design studio is working with Historic England and Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) to create an immersive museum dedicated to a day in the life of William Shakespeare. Located on the site of the former Curtain Playhouse where several of Shakespeare’s plays were first performed, the museum will feature a series of immersive and interactive experiences to transport visitors back to the 16th century.

Featuring AI and other ‘innovative theatrical technology,’ the Museum of Shakespeare will allow guests to experience the sights, sounds and smells of the era, and to learn about the playwright.

Sam Bompas tells Attractions Management about the company’s recipe for success
Sam Bompas / photo by Ben Ottewell
What is Bompas & Parr and how did it start out?

Bompas & Parr is a creative studio specialising in realising the remarkable with a particular expertise in food. We work with the likes of Disney, Meta, Diageo, Unilever, the Crown Estate, the Met, V&A, the Barbican, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, with projects all over the world. Strangely this all started with making architectural jelly 17 years ago. But there’s a lot you can learn from a wobble.

interested in immersive experiences?

Personally, it was when I went to Medieval Times (medieval-themed family dinner theatre experience held in replica castles) and ate chicken with knights colliding in front of me. My business partner Harry Parr pinpoints his memorable food experience to having foot long fish fingers at the Happy Eater.

How do you approach the design of a new immersive experience?

We design experiences proactively so we’ve probably started the R&D on any experience years before a brief comes in.

In 2022, we produced a pop up restaurant experience called Forces of Nature, where guests seated in an ancient canyon in Saudi Arabia were served food cooked with lava at 1,350°C from a local volcano. We had done the due diligence for that project much earlier, when we flew out to meet Professor Bob Wysocki of Syracuse University to experiment with the culinary implications of cooking on red hot molten lava.

Can you highlight one of B&P’s immersive experiences and pick out a few examples of what excited you most about creating it?

Alcoholic Architecture saw us create a bar which featured a breathable cloud of gin and tonic that intoxicated (safely) through the lungs and eyeballs. We enjoyed working with toxicologists and the council to mount something that was a world first, and that kept everyone safe while having a riot of a night out.

What did it mean to you to get picked to create the Museum of Shakespeare in London?

This is the sort of project we revel in. Even the first stages of work have fundamentally impacted our approach to theatre. There is so much to learn from Shakespeare and his company’s approach to staging shows and balancing the creative and the commercial to deliver the sublime.

What do you think will be the biggest challenges of bringing it to life? And what are you most excited about?

Shakespeare means many things to different people. On the first day we’ll have people who’ve spent a lifetime studying Shakespeare walking through the door at the same time as people who know almost nothing about him and are just looking for a day out in London. If we get the right tone, volume of information and impactful experiential environment they’ll have a good time and leave having learnt something from one another.

Are there any other attractions that inspire you?

Right now we’re interested in the creative possibilities of hybridising archaic museum-making approaches as in London’s Pitt Rivers Museum with the commentary of the Museum of  Jurassic Technology in LA, and the full panoply of contemporary techniques and technologies of multimedia entertainment studio Moment Factory. All with a view to creating fresh typologies of experience that grip people.

Who do you admire within the industry?

There’s a cosmos of mentors and industry leaders who I admire. Many have been terrifically generous with their knowledge. These include Paul Carty, interim chair of Failte Ireland, Ireland’s Tourism authority, who we worked with on the Guinness Storehouse. Other mentors include Eddie Kemsley of Dreamland in Margate, New York’s Museum of Sex founder Dan Gluck, and the founder of Secret Cinema Fabien Riggal.

Some of our heroes are swashbucklers and show-people of yore: spy and entertainer Josephine Baker and showman and politician PT Barnum who said, “Every crowd has a silver lining.”

What are the biggest challenges of creating engaging immersive experiences?

In London it’s finding the right spaces. We are currently in the midst of the hurley burley of helping landlords re-imagine how their portfolios can be used for joy. We have high hopes for future opportunities.

What is your long-term vision?

Our vision lies in designing food strategy for countries and cities, using creativity to drive systemic change. We want to operate attractions dedicated to the fundamentals of human existence – Shakespeare, food, sex, death, religion. Also fireworks.

After coming to one of our shows, a six-year-old boy said it was the second best day of his life. If we can do this for more people, it’ll be glorious.

Right now we’re interested in the creative possibilities of hybridising archaic museum-making approaches
A sense of drama runs through Bompas & Parr’s work / photo: Bompas && Parr
The Museum of Shakespeare will immerse visitors in the world of the Bard / Courtesy of Cain International
Bompas & Parr aim to engage as many of the senses as possible in their experiences / photo: Stefan Braun
The studio presents an annual Future of Food report / Courtesy of Bompas & Parr
The pair started out creating spectacular food art and food-based experiences / photo: Nathan Pask
The team created the Mercedes Drive Thru for London Fashion Week / photo: Beth Evans

Originally published in Attractions Management 2024 issue 2

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