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Step-by-step: murder mystery night

As far as adult social events are concerned, murder mystery nights promise lots of fun for a modest amount of effort. They're particularly good for bringing friends together - after all, who can resist a night of spirited super-sleuthing? 

Murder mystery nights promise lots of fun for a modest amount of effort. As a more unique fundraiser, it's sure to get people talking and attract new faces. Enlist the help of a local am-dram group or book a specialist supplier such as Murderplays (murderplays.com) to help you put on an engaging evening that will be enjoyable for everyone - and will raise much-needed funds for your school.

Matthew Barker, deputy head, Bridgewater School, Worsley, Manchester (467 pupils):  'We were inspired to try a murder mystery event after I saw some of the plays performed at my wife's school. The drama teacher, Chris Martin, was also the owner of Murderplays.

I organised our first play in conjunction with the PTA and the event had a fairly short turnaround, which is one of the great things about it. We only started rehearsing a couple of weeks beforehand and publicised it about four weeks before. We held it in the school drama studio with a fairly minimal set but great attention to the costumes. The students really enjoyed seeing their teachers dressing up and performing!

We charged £5 per adult ticket and £3 for students, which included a hotpot supper, and tickets were sold via the school office. Around 120 people attended, and we held a raffle and also ran a bar and sweet stall to boost profits.

Costs were fairly minimal - beyond the play itself and the hotpot there were only minor costume costs, but most staff taking part were happy to source their own costumes. On the day, the staff taking part stayed after school for a final run-through and a group meal - it's also a great event for staff relationships.

It's full-on for a couple of weeks and it can be difficult getting everyone together at the same time, but it is well worth it as a fundraiser and a teambuilder for the staff taking part. You do need one person who is willing to drive the whole thing through. We received very positive feedback from visitors, and so far we've put on six plays, each raising around £700.'

LB-Murderplays

Murder mystery step-by-step

Six months before:  Agree a date with the school or alternative venue and ensure a key-holder is available on the day. Book a supplier and decide on the play and theme. 

Two months before:  Start advertising the event and selling tickets through an online platform or in person, and consider offering an early bird discount. Decide whether you will be providing a meal and begin sourcing costumes, if needed. Cast the play, getting the staff involved if possible, and start rehearsals. Approach local companies to ask for donations of prizes for the winners, and put out a request for volunteers to help on the night.

One month before:  Continue promoting the event, both at school and publicly through social media. If planning to sell alcohol, apply for a Temporary Event Notice. Increase the number of rehearsals in the run up to the event.

Two weeks before:  Send a press release to local media. Ensure you have enough helpers on the day. Collate a list of volunteers and allocate roles.  Source any additional costumes and props, free-of-charge if possible. 

One week before: Compile a list of guests' names to tick off on the door. Hold a dress rehearsal.

On the day:  Set up the hall for the event, including seating and decorations. Ensure all props and prizes are at the venue. Have a final run-through of the play after school and provide a group meal for the cast.

After the event: Have a post-event debrief to discuss what worked well and what may need tweaking for next time. Thank your volunteers and ask for feedback. Give details about how much was raised and how this will be spent.

Tips and advice

Venue: Make sure there is enough room for a performance area and for your guests to sit around tables. 

Theme: Choose which murder mystery play you want and theme the rest of your event around it. Use your theme to help define the dress code.

Meal: Consider whether to provide food or ask guests to bring their own. Discuss how the play will be broken up so that you can plan food and refreshments around intervals.

Ticket options: Sell individually priced tickets, as well as group tickets (i.e. a table of eight) in advance.

Suppliers: Employing the services of a specialist supplier will mean you have an initial upfront cost, but it will be worth every penny! Go to our suppliers directory to find murder mystery companies.

DIY: If you're feeling ambitious, you could write and perform your own play. Give yourself plenty of time to work out the logistics and recruit actors. Local amateur dramatics societies or secondary school drama students may be able to help.

Prizes: Source prizes for the winning team - the table who successfully guess the murderer and motive. If guests are wearing fancy dress, offer a prize for the best outfits.

Boost profits: Raffles make a great profit booster, as do quizzes.

Personalise it: Make it fun by personalising the script to include jokes about your school staff and PTA, etc.

Costumes: Ask local theatre groups if you can borrow or hire items. Ask for sponsorship from companies for any bought items.

Casting: Be firm and decide on the casting rather than asking people to decide who they want to play, as this is the easiest way to ensure you have the best people for the parts.

Event length: This can be a long evening with two intervals, a meal, a quiz and the denouement, so aim to start early and stick to your timings. Remember, there needs to be a long enough interval to give attendees time to choose their killer and reasons, plus time for you to mark these so the winner can be announced after the big reveal in the second act.

Download a print-friendly PDF version of our step-by-step guide to running a murder mystery event.


The above is intended as guidance only. We recommend that you contact the relevant organisations with specific reference to insurance, legal, health and safety and child protection requirements. Community Inspired Ltd cannot be held responsible for any decisions or actions taken by a PTA, based on the guidance provided.


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