Escape artists do battle in Northampton pub as part of annual ‘meeting’

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Upside down lock picking, straight jacket emancipation, jail cell busts - just some agenda items in a bizarre Northampton meeting at the weekend, which saw a popular local locksmith honoured.

Escapologists from across the country gathered at the Yeoman of England in Wootton on Saturday for the United Kingdom of Escape Artists (UKEA) annual meeting.

On the agenda was a talk on jail cell locks throughout the ages, a discussion of classic prison cell escapes and demonstrations showing how to overcome the latest handcuffs to hit the market.

But the event also saw a host of escape artists compete for the Mick Hanzlik award, which honoured the “best escape of the day”.

Mr Hanzlik was a master escapologist and locksmith from Northampton, who regularly organised UKEA events in Northampton. He died in November last year.

Competitors escaped from entangled ropes while upside down, forearm restraints and even a “gibbet iron” used as an archaic form of imprisonment up to the late 17th Century.

But the prize was taken home by Stuart Burrell, who manage to escape from a chainmail straight jacket.

Daniel Robinson, who goes under the stage name Weasel Dandaw, said the event was a sad day for those who knew Mr Hanzlick.

“With his wealth of knowledge Mick helped many members with advice on how certain locks worked and how to overcome them,” he said.

“At the end of the meeting two of Mick’s daughters, Louise Hanzlik and Stephanie Kensett presented the trophy to Stuart Burrell for his Chainmail Escape. It was a time for all members to reflect on their own memories of Mick and was very emotional.”

Mr Hanzlik was also known for his work at Radio Nene Valley, the radio station based at Northampton General Hospital.

He was one of the original founders of the radio station in 1971 and went on to interview celebrities such as Bruce Forsyth and Ronnie Corbett when they visited the town.