The Mirage

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by The Mirage's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from The Mirage is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles
Owner and Director
The Mirage, Mablethorpe,
Russell Bolesworth is the owner and director of The Mirage
Family Entertainment Centre in Mablethorpe, Lincolnshire,
as well as Walton Pier in Walton-on-the-Naze, Essex.
Born into the industry, Russell’s family acquired the then-
modest Mablethorpe arcade the year before his birth. Over the
years, it grew in size – after successfully operating it, his father
extended it twice by buying neighbouring properties in the
1980s and 1990s. Russell took over the business in 2008 and tells
TheParliamentary Review
about its journey over the past 11 years.
When I took over the business in 2008, I created my own company, RTB
Investments, to do so. Over the following few years, I expanded the business once
more by acquiring additional next-door premises – this time, however, one of the
properties was a massive unit that took our size up to almost 4,000 square metres.
To fully develop this site, we needed new investment; we received help from
the government by way of a regional growth fund grant, as we were proposing
a significant increase in full-time jobs for the local community. We actually
overdelivered on that commitment, and the size of our team skyrocketed from 15
to around 40 full-time employees.
Diversifying with additional revenue streams
I designed the site and layout of our newly acquired premises, looking at dozens
of family entertainment sites in the USA and Europe in the process. I identified a
»Owner and Director:
»Acquired by Russell in 2008,
bought by his father in 1977
»Based in Mablethorpe,
Lincolnshire, and Walton-on-
the-Naze, Essex
»Services: Family and adult
»No. of employees: Around 40
»The Mirage’s massive expansion
in Mablethorpe from 2008
onward was driven by the
receipt of a regional growth
fund grant
The Mirage
Highlighting best practice
diverse mix of new revenue streams
that I felt would work in the UK –
especially when considering the size of
After a few months of development,
my team and I had turned what was
essentially an old warehouse unit into
a modern, attractive FEC – complete
with full-size bowling lanes, a large
soft play area with a capacity of
over 100 people, a licensed cafe
and bar and a significantly larger
Over the last five years, since that
development, we have traded well
ahead of projections thanks to the hard
work of our team and our constant drive
to improve and invest. This has been the
case when it comes to both equipment
for the arcade floor itself as well as
customer experience; a great example of
this was the transition to ticket-in ticket-
out payout systems – known as TITO –
in our adult gaming centres.
This constant process of improvement
and investment ensures that we don’t
fall behind our competitors and keep
our loyal customer base happy.
Virtual reality and other new
entertainment offerings in the
We expect VR technology to make
a splash in our industry soon; it’s
an exciting area brimming with
new content and, vitally, one that
has access to a customer base who
are willing to part with larger sums
This, in turn, is making them financially
viable; this was not the case in the
1990s, however, which was the
last time VR technology became a
The recent trend of “escape room”
openings and high-level rope courses
in some sites also indicate other areas
of growth to tap into.
This site has now been trading for
five years, and I am pleased to say we
have beaten our own expectations.
In the first few years, we traded
ahead of projections, but have been
brought back in line in recent years
by Brexit. We are nonetheless an
incredibly successful site and a success
story, thanks to bank lending and the
regional growth fund grant.
The main floor at The
We have
traded well
ahead of
thanks to the
hard work of
our team and
our constant
drive to
improve and
Changing the face of the
British seaside
Using our work in Mablethorpe as
a template, we are also trying to
improve our other site at Walton-on-
the-Naze in Essex; it is largely a similar
situation, located in a coastal area
with significant deprivation. In such a
case, once again, we desperately need
these regional growth fund grants,
or something similar, to address this
and make a significant difference to
If I, and other entrepreneurs like
myself, had access to some kind of
funding programme, these kinds of
transformational projects could be
undertaken on a far more regular
basis. This would massively change
the shape of our struggling seaside
towns, many of which suffer from
high levels of unemployment, and
serve as a breath of new life for
the British coastal leisure industry.
I personally believe there should
be a permanent fund dedicated to
helping entrepreneurs for these vitally
important projects.
Money shouldn’t just be thrown
around without thought, obviously,
but if used properly these growth
funds can have a great, positive effect
on struggling areas. A dedicated
programme to this end would serve
as real encouragement for the
people who truly want to help their
Promoting business in
deprived areas
These projects were in part made viable
by way of the coalition government’s
reductions in corporation tax and
capital goods allowances that were
available in the early years of the
2010s. I feel these allowances should
be permanently available for businesses
in deprived areas to effectively promote
investment where it is most needed.
One factor that has been a definite
hindrance for development is the
significant and expensive business rates
tax; it has done nothing at all to boost
these deprived areas and takes a huge
sum out of our business’ cashflow
– money that could be spent on
improved facilities, which would lead,
in turn, to further employment.
This rates bill alone is around £70,000
at Mablethorpe and £40,000 at
Walton-on-the-Naze; we feel this is an
unfair tax that should be reconfigured
as soon as possible into something
that supports and rewards business for
creating employment in these deprived
areas. A partial rates relief over a five
to ten-year period for businesses that
have improved facilities or employment
in these areas would be a good
placeto start.
With 100 per cent rates relief in this
regard for a period of time, a lot
of funding could be subsequently
financed through banks. This could
then be tapered off over a following
ten-year period to make the difference
for many projects which would
not have previously been viable. A
programme like this could be not just
beneficial but rather revolutionary for
all of Britain’s deprived areas, let alone
its seaside towns.
There should be
a permanent
fund dedicated
to helping
for these vitally
Our bowling alleys

This article was sponsored by The Mirage. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from Rt Hon Michael Gove.

Rt Hon Michael Gove's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Michael Gove

This year's Parliamentary Review comes at a momentous time for parliament, as we collectively determine the destiny of the United Kingdom. 

On October 31, the UK will leave the European Union. The successful implementation of this process is this government's number-one priority.

Three years after a historic referendum vote, we will deliver on the decisive mandate from the British people. Trust in our democracy depends on it. Until that final hour, we will work determinedly and diligently to negotiate a deal, one that abolishes the backstop and upholds the warm and close relationship we share with our friends, allies and neighbours in the EU. But in the event that the EU refuses to meet us at the table, we must be prepared to leave without a deal.

As the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, it is my job to lead on this government's approach, should that scenario happen. Preparing for Brexit is my department's driving mission. But while I am leading this turbocharged effort, the whole of government is committed to this endeavour.

Ministers across Whitehall are working together to ensure that every possibility is considered, every plan is scrutinised and every provision is made. A daily drumbeat of meetings means that we are holding departments accountable, so that preparations are completed on time.

The chancellor has confirmed that all necessary funding will be made available. And we have mobilised thecivil service, assigning 15,000 of our most talented civil servants to manage our exit from the EU.

We will make sure that on November 1, there is as little disruption to national life as possible. Our trade relationships will continue to thrive, thanks to agreements with countries around the world worth £70 billion. Our country will remain secure, thanks to nearly 1,000 new officers posted at our borders. And the 3.2 million EU nationals now living and working among us can remain confident, with absolute certainty, of their right to remain in the UK.

Above all, our goal is to be transparent. Soon, we will launch a public information campaign so that citizens, communities and businesses are ready and reassured about what will happen in the event of “no deal”.

In my first few weeks in this role, I have travelled to ports and tarmacs, borders and bridges, all across the UK –from the seaside of Dover to the rolling green hills of County Armagh. I have heard from business owners and border officials, farmers and hauliers. They are ready to put an end to uncertainty. And they are ready to embrace the opportunities ahead.

Our departure from the EU will be a once in a lifetime chance to chart a new course for the United Kingdom. Preparing for that new course will be a herculean effort. But this country has made astounding efforts before. We can do it again.
Rt Hon Michael Gove
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster