Need a Uni (Jail)Break? Nottingham University Great Escape is Coming!

This week Her Campus met with Henry and Josie, part of the Nottingham University Great Escape organising team. They told us exactly what this fundraising jailbreak activity is, gave us the lowdown on the new change brought in this year which is big news for female students, and let us in on a few of the, erm, ‘legal obstacles’ teams sometimes have to face!


So what is the Great Escape, for those people who’ve not heard of it before?

H: The idea is to get as far away from Nottingham as possible in 36 hours, in teams of 2 to 4. The idea is you fundraise, hitchhike and blag your way away! Before the event you need to fundraise at least £75, and the team that raises the most money gets a ‘fast pass’ ticket to a European location, which gives them a head-start on the other teams.

The team who manages to travel the furthest win prizes like iPads or cash, which is obviously another big incentive!


Is there a common route or methods that people use?

J: No, and that’s what is exciting about the Great Escape! You don’t know where you’ll get to, how far away it’ll be, whether you’ll be getting a coach, ferry, plane.

H: That’s what’s scary about organising it too – you could have people ending up pretty much anywhere! Most people will fundraise to pay for their travel costs, but some people in the past have been able to work the Virgin Atlantic staff behind the counter and get themselves on a plane for free, which is really exciting! This year we’ve got some colourful characters who have already signed up, so God knows where they’ll end up.

J: Of course, you need to get your return ticket organised too!


Ah! Have you ever had anyone stranded by the end?!

H: No, not so far! But some people do take about a week to resurface. But that is the fun of it; you get 4-5 days travel insurance included in the £20 sign-up fee, so once you’ve got where you want to go, you can effectively just go on a jolly for the remainder of the time!

But we’re aiming for people to get really far this year. So yes, stranding could potentially happen. I suppose if you end up somewhere that you need a VISA, you could just wait to be deported…

J: We have considered a UK- only version of the Great Escape, because some international students in the past have taken part only to find out they can’t get back in to the country afterwards! Which obviously isn’t ideal.

H: We were able to help them, luckily! And most students who want to take part have EU passports anyway.


Can you tell us any shocking/funny stories from past participants?

H: I did it last year, and ended up in Amsterdam with some spare time left. We knew we hadn’t won the prize for travelling the furthest, so we thought we’d try to win the Best Photo prize. So we went to the sex museum and took a photo with the giant penis, which we covered in Enactus stickers. We thought we’d definitely won! But we sent it in and Enactus basically said “this is the most inappropriate photo we could have to represent Enactus”.

Another team joined with their friends, travelling together, and ended up in Lanzarote. They agreed to end together, so one team text ‘end’ to alert us that they’d finished. The other team, on seeing that their friends had sent the text, legged it to a bus and travelled another 9 miles and ended up winning!

And another guy just ended up going to Loughborough for a Sunday roast with his Nan.


What proof do you ask people to give as evidence that they actually got there? Are there tracking measures in place?

J: We use a system called Raise2Give. So the participants text in every 2-4 hours and it shows us where they are on a map. Although it can be a bit inaccurate…

H: Yeah. Sometimes it shows people to be in Australia within 2 hours or something. But it’s actually a lot easier and safer than people think it’ll be. We provide everyone with a kit which has energy drinks, a rape alarm, a t-shirt to wear on the day, a letter of authentication saying they are fundraising. So hopefully there’s no Hunger Games style murders with everyone set against each other!


We know this is the first year all-girl teams have been allowed to take part. Why was this not previously allowed, and what led to the decision to change this rule?

J: It was a safety issue. Not so much that we deemed it to be unsafe for girls to be on their own, but in the first year or two of the event, the organisers wanted to be as safe as possible and not take any risks.

H: All girl-teams tend to often do better too. All-girl teams have snuck in in the past, shifting their groups around after sign-up, and they are often much more persuasive and less intimidating than a really enthusiastic group of 20 year old lads!


Will there be any extra safety precautions put in place following this decision?

H: No, it was so safe in the first place that nothing really has had to change. There wasn’t any more that we could do!


Tell us a bit about who benefits from the money raised?

H: All of the money goes to Enactus Nottingham. The £75 raised prior to the event goes to Enactus and they start with 0 on the day.

J: Enactus is a not-for-profit student-led organisation, who have projects that run both in the UK and internationally. There are a whole variety of projects. So one of the UK ones, Think for the Future, employs ex-offenders to run workshops and presentations in schools focussed on problems they ex-offenders have experienced in their own lives.

H: The idea is not to throw money at worthy causes, but to create a business which the people who need help can work in.


Sounds great! So how can people get involved in the Great Escape?

J: Sign up on our website – it’s really easy! You can also check out our Facebook page or if you’re a first year, chat to one of our Halls reps in orange t-shirts, who’ll be around the halls.

H: The quicker you sign up, the more time you’ll have to fundraise!


Check out last years furthest travellers' adventure here!