James Tattersall remembers distinctly the first time he tried axe throwing. It was in Canada, where he lived for five years, working on farms in the Prairies in the summer and at ski resorts in the Rocky Mountains in the winter. He was with a friend, and they were both hung over. “We were wondering what to do and he had a discount code to go and have a go at this and I thought, ‘Why not?’” he recalls. “The first few gos I had I saw the potential as a business in the UK – something different that I hadn’t seen here – so I paid very close attention while I was there. It was nearly two years before I came home and set up the business in Carlisle.” 

In Cumbria:

The business in question is Lumber Lounge, an axe throwing facility in the former Mitchell Dryers building at Denton Holme. There are six targets, at which up to 30 people per session can have a go at throwing axes. “Most people say, ‘Thank you, it’s been a great laugh and we’ll be back.’ I’ve never had anybody leave saying the opposite. We do get a lot of repeat custom,” says James, 32. 

 “When you come down to the venue, you’ve obviously got to sign your life away and agree to the terms and conditions,” says James. “Then it’s a five-minute safety briefing and instruction, then 10 to 15 minutes’ practice. After your practice time, there’s scores, so we’ll put the competitive element in. It’s essentially darts with an axe. We’ve never had anybody who couldn’t physically do it. We get wheelchair users. We got an 83-year-old the other week. She came in with a stick and I was expecting her to sit down and watch, but she was very involved.” 

Throwing axes seems a natural fit for team building and a lot of James’s clients are corporate. “That’s where the money is,” he says. “I had a very big NHS team event. They had the building for the day and did some team building and talks on diversity and did the axe throwing as the event afterwards.” But it’s not all people in uniforms or suits. “We get a lot of first dates as well,” he says. “It’s seen as something interesting and if you’re trying to make yourself look interesting, there you go. We get a lot of couples and groups that are looking for something to do.” 

The beauty is that, unlike with other activities, it’s a level playing field. “There are very few that have had a go at it before,” says James. “It relieves stress. We had a big group of teachers on Friday night – you can imagine there’s a little bit of stress and frustration in that job.” 

Established in 2018, Lumber Lounge is still something of a rarity, with very few other urban axe throwing venues in the UK.  “There’s proper leagues across the country now,” says James. “I’ve never bothered to compete but I’m pretty good – you’re going to be after that long. It’s a muscle memory type thing.” 

James is looking at applying for an alcohol licence and is also planning to move premises. “I’m looking at relocating to more permanent premises,” he says. “The building that I’m in has to be demolished. There’s that air of uncertainty and then investment in the property to make it nicer for people to sit in and wait is a little bit too much to bother with. I definitely need to look at selling alcohol with my insurance company. That will probably go hand in hand with the change in premises.” 

 “I’ve been here for four-and-a-half years but there are people who still don’t know it exists.” 

In addition to its social and psychological benefits, axe throwing has the physical one of keeping you fit. James has even considered offering exercise classes. “I’ve got a friend who’s a personal trainer and we did discuss doing circuits – Viking fitness kind of thing – but it hasn’t happened yet,” he says.