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When I was 17, I had my first ever professional engagement as a magician. At the time I was simply pursuing magic with a raw passion, giving no consideration to where that interest might lead. I didn’t think about making money from magic and certainly I didn’t ever believe it could be considered a career.

Fast forward 15 years and it’s an entirely different landscape. For the last 9 years I have been a full time magician, performing close up magic at a variety of functions. Alongside the sleight of hand I have been developing a stage illusion act with my close friend Richard Young. It’s an act which has opened up a variety of opportunities, most recently the opportunity of flying to Las Vegas to perform on the Penn & Teller stage in the Rio Hotel. Here’s a clip of our performance (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RT7-DROna6A). Our website for is http://www.youngandstrange.co.uk.

Perhaps the most exciting opportunity of all, to date, is the upcoming tour of a show called Champions of Magic (www.championsofmagic.co.uk). I’ve been involved in the show for about 4 years and it’s a montage magic show which means I spend a lot of time hanging around with magicians. The most recent tour is about 30 shows spread over 7 weeks at various theatres around the USA and Canada. The bulk of trip will be spent on a tour bus with the rest of the cast and crew. By any performers standards (let alone a 17 year old boy, performing at a relatives birthday party) this is an incredibly exciting experience and I simply cannot wait.

Most importantly of all, it’s not only an opportunity to have the time of my life, but also to improve and hone my magic knowledge and ability. The more shows I get under my belt, to different audiences, the better I’ll become.  It does make me consider what I might type out in a blog post another 15 years from now…..

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Although to 99.99999% of people this show, and my involvement in it, will be long forgotten by the morning after. However, even with that in mind it is almost impossible not to be apprehensive about how I’ll be received on the night.

For those that don’t follow this blog regularly, which is everyone bar my Dad, I’ll  bring you up to speed.

ITV1 have commissioned and produced a 6 part prime-time magic show that will air from 6th November in the lead up to Christmas. It’s a show that contains world-class magic acts from all over the planet and they are invited to perform their very best material. Each performance is in a bid to be crowned The Next Great Magician and gain the prestige of their very own TV special.

Along with my double act partner Richard Young, I was fortunate enough to have been invited to perform as one of the acts on the show. Clearly this was some sort of clerical error OR the casting agent wanted to give us some content for the lackluster blog on youngandstrange.co.uk. Irrespective, it was an honour to be asked and we genuinely thought by utilising our extensive experience, humour, passion, drive, deep rooted friendship and raw determination, that we wouldn’t stand a snowballs chance in hell of progressing past the first round.

However, a fortunate loophole gave us a good excuse to submit a performance using ‘Houndini’, the very first performing magic dog. In a transparent attempt to win the hearts of the British nation we hoped that by placing the focus on a cute, adorable dog we could ‘slip in under the radar’ and sail through to our own TV special. Did the plan and the performance work as intended? All will be revealed at 7pm on Sunday 6th November.

So all that begs the question. Why did you title this blog entry  ‘The beauty of Twitter?’. Well because what is more entertaining than the show itself is the outpouring of public opinion on platforms like Twitter. They’ll be highs and lows, positivity and negativity, and real gauge of whether our submission to the show is any good. If you don’t have a twitter account now then I suggest you sign up now!

 

This is the name of a new Saturday night ITV show that is due to air in the Summer/Autumn of this year.

Myself and my double act colleague Richard Young were fortunate enough to be invited to perform as part of the show, and have spent a few days filming our contribution.

NGM (the imaginative twitter hashtag for the show) will contain magicians from all over the world, all performing for about 6 minutes. For those interested in Magic, Illusion and comedy for that matter, you’ll be in for a real treat. I’ve watched a few of the episodes being filmed and it’s been a real honour to watch some of the very best doing their turn on the shiny floors of the ITV studios.  It’s a true variety magic show, hosted by Stephen Mulhern (a magician himself) and with a healthy budget to frame the performances in the best light possible. The show is put together by the off stage superstar Andrew O’Connor, who is responsible for some of the very best television magic over the last 2 decades. His weight within the magic fraturnity has encouraged acts onto the show that would otherwise be skeptical about having their acts televised. Consequently the talent to appear on the show is genuinely world class.

There will be 6 episodes followed by a one off special for the show and I’m sure I’ll do another blog post about it in the lead up to the air date.

In the meantime here’s a photo which gives a nod to the content we have submitted…..

 

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As a professional magician, it’s important to keep up to date with things that happen within the industry. I visit the Magic Circle when I can (which meets on a Monday night) and have a number of close friends, who are all full time professional magicians. One of those friends has set up a Podcast for Magicians. His name is Richard Young and some readers may be familiar with the name, as I also perform in a stage magic double act with him.

Richard has done the industry of magic a great service by interviewing 50 magicians in the past couple of years in a Podcast format. Those interviews have been with the great and good of magic (creators, performers and academics have all made the list). They are always insightful, reflective and make the listeners consider performance tips, as well as their own attitude towards the art.

Last week, Richard interviewed me in an interview. This interview is far from insightful and reflective but it was bloody good fun to record. The format takes on a slightly different nature and highlights the strength and depth of our friendship over the years. The interview is intended for magicians but it might be worth a listen if you want to know more about our double act (www.youngandstrange.co.uk). The link to the 1 hour interview is below. There are moments of passion in the interview so apologies in advance for a couple of choice swear words that appear.

http://www.stitcher.com/podcast/the-magicians-podcast/e/42194098?autoplay=true

Over the years I have seen many celebrities attempt to perform magic- typically as part of reality TV shows that look to challenge them in supposedly interesting ways.

As a general rule I don’t like these programmes, as it trivialises the art, gives the impression it’s easy to do and most importantly creates a mediocre performance that leaves the audience thinking that ‘magic shows aren’t for them’.

However, on Friday I had my first personal experience of ‘celebrity magic’, when I was asked to consult on a TV show called ‘Bring the Noise’. It’s a Sky One studio show, with a live audience. From the outset it seems like the sort of show I would hate. A handful of ‘celebrities’ keen to promote their own careers and become TV stars without a nod to the talent that got them their profile in the first place. It’s important to say that I haven’t actually seen the show, so my opinion at this point is null and void.

I was asked to help with the performance of a chair vanish illusion, which I perform in my live show. It was also the illusion that featured in a recent video we filmed in Swindon. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SN23J7G4kqk).

My role was to teach to a singer called Tinie Tempah and a comedy called Katherine Ryan how to perform it. All of this had to be done within 90 minutes. I was fortunate enough to work alongside another magician called Ben Hanlin. Ben has his own TV show on ITV 2, so could ensure it was shot and edited properly for television.

Although the chair vanish did look OK, I was left with the overwhelming impression that it’s not something I would do again. The problem you have with a large TV show like this is that the performance of the illusion is a small part of it and is shown little respect from the producers and directors. That’s completely understandable, as there is so much content to the show and so little time to make it in.

The De Kolta Chair Vanish was invented by a French magician in the late 1800’s, and it’s still a mainstay of many acts performing today. That’s testament to the genius of the invention. What would he think of the way I prostituted out his illusion for a few quid?

I have no doubt that in the final edit and the context in which it is performed it will leave the viewers thinking ‘that was fun’, but I left a little disheartened and confused as to whether what I did was good or bad for the art of magic. Any opinions are welcomed. It’s on tonight (12th November) at 9pm.

From time to time, someone will ask ‘Are you performing real magic?’. 9 times out of 10, it’s intended as a quip or something funny to ask, rather than someone genuinely questioning the laws of science. A joke or not, it is a difficult one to answer.
As a general rule, magicians are skeptical about the ability to perform real magic and when stripped back magicians simply perform tricks with the aid of gimmicks, dexterity and sleight of hand. Nothing magical that would stand up in a laboratory environment. However, that’s missing the point. The real ‘magic’ of magic as an art, is not really the magic itself. It’s the emotional moment that the audience experience. It’s that childlike state of wonder and awe that is entirely intangible. Normally that lasts for nothing more than a few moments and it precedes the ‘How does that work then?’ or the disbelief when talking to others about it. It’s clearer to see real magic when performing for children, as they tend to be more honest in their reactions. At a wedding recently I met a lovely photographer called Faye Cornhill. Faye captured a genuine and sincere reaction, which makes my point perfectly. A picture speaks 205 words.

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The Christmas party season is almost up us. It really isn’t and I’m really not a fan of Christmas commercialism starting so early. However, it’s about this time of year when the Christmas party enquiries begin to come in. I have already filled some of the key dates this year with 3 bookings on New Years eve and a sprinkling of events over the key weekends.
The problem, if there is actually a problem, is that pretty much every Christmas party in the land wants to host it on the final Friday before Christmas. I have been performing magic for the past 9 years professionally and I know that all of my magician friends are no different.
This popularity inevitably means that you will be paying more for a magician than you otherwise would. This applies to my business and every other business within the hospitality industry. With this in mind, you will be paying more for the venue, food, drinks and after dinner entertainment.
It’s an obvious point to make but by being flexible with the date it can save you a fortune. Last year I performed at about 60 weddings and a good proportion of those were not at the weekends, in the main because of the savings that can be made.
As a close up magician, I am one of the last things to get booked when organising a party. By the time I am approached, most clients have already sorted the venue and set a date. That often means I am already booked so, if you can afford to be flexible and get in touch with me before setting a date, I can assure you of my availability AND best possible rate.
Despite my opposition to early Christmas Commercialism and having re-read the above, I have just realised that this blog post is no different. I’m now my worst enemy. This is all getting a bit too heavy. I’m off to practice a card trick…..

One of the advantages of being proactively involved in the magic community is that you get to share ideas and have the honour of calling creatively minded people your friends. And this is no exception with the idea of something called ‘The Secret Room’.
The idea is attributable to my good friend Alan Hudson who is a seasoned professional and has been in the magic industry for many years.
I do appreciate the discrepancy of discussing the ‘Secret Room’ on a public forum like a blog but it can remain a secret to the handful of people who read this…..
The premise is quite simple. A room in a venue is labelled ‘The Secret Room’. In the Secret Room I set up a table and handful of chairs. In the past more creative clients have lined the room with drapes and lighting it with nothing more than candles. Besides the obvious fire hazard and subsequent media story of ‘Magician makes room vanish in a puff of smoke’, it creates the ideal performing environment for a close up magician. No interruptions, no background noise, no food or drinks to compete with. It’s just perfect.
Accompanying the label of ‘The Secret Room’ are a handful of ‘Secret Room tickets’. These are distributed to some of guests who are invited to the first sitting.
After my performance I instruct them not to tell any of the other guests what they have seen or what is inside the room. This enviably builds up a mystery of ‘whats inside?’. The interesting thing is that the ‘magic’ of the Secret Room is not the tricks I perform, but the intangible enigma that builds throughout the event.
If you are ever having a house party and want that something special to remember, then the now ‘Not so Secret Room’ is the way to go. Just don’t tell anyone…….

I haven’t had much experience when it comes to producing video virals. However, last Friday that all changed.
Reading this you may not be aware that I perform in a double act called Young and Strange (www.youngandstrange.co.uk). We perform larger scale illusions that are intended for the stage and after dinner corporate events.
Over the past few weeks Richard Young and I (with the help of a very inventive and creative magician called Rob James) produced a short comic video. We created the video as a bit of fun and an experiment in video production. That initial video is here:-

We also released a shorter version which can be viewed here:-

We were aware that the shorter video is more suitable as a video viral but weren’t quite prepared for the speed at which the video would spread. On Friday morning it had about 4,000 YouTube views and within 48 hours it had amassed over 3 million. It’s important to mention that was on YouTube alone and didn’t include the video which was shared on almost every viral website around the world. On a video sharing website called ‘The Poke’ it was pushing 7 millions views.
It appeared on TV in America and pretty much all of the reputable newspapers picked it up as a lead online story. These included Time magazine, Cosmopolitan, The guardian, The telegraph, The Independent, The Sun, The Mail, The Mirror, The Radiotimes, The Metro and (our personal favourite) Pink News, which was ‘keen to run an article with any links you have to LGBT community’.
Here a few a links to some of those articles:-

http://www.cosmopolitan.co.uk/entertainment/news/a37480/magicians-young-strange-videobomb-sky-news/

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/11760191/Magicians-hijack-Sky-News-report.html

http://www.theguardian.com/media/2015/jul/24/sky-news-magician-videobomb-fake-broadcast-young-strange

Part of this success is due to the kindness and generosity of people on social media:-

Derren Brown Tweet

Dynamo Tweet

This is still a fresh and evolving story so it will be interesting to see how big it will become. For any future videos, do keep your eye on our twitter feed (@youngandstrange).

Playing card production, and manipulation, was one of the very first branches of magic that interested me as a child. I used to sit for days practicing moves in front of a mirror. Card productions, if you haven’t seen them before, involves making cards appear seamlessly at your fingertips. I have to say that as a kid it was anything but seamless and it took a long time to make it look at all magical.
The real beauty about making cards appear and vanish is that it is instantly visual. This makes the learning process very infectious and you get instant gratification when looking at the move in the mirror.
It wasn’t too long before I developed a basic card production routine and started to perform it to a live audience. Generally it was well received and for a while I laboured under a misapprehension by thinking that what I was doing was technically demanding and a very good expression of raw sleight of hand.
However, it’s all relative and it was a classic example of the more you know, the more you realise you don’t know.
I was fortunate enough to watch some of the world’s best card manipulators at magic conventions over the years and I have to say it has been mind boggling. These are performers who have devoted their lives to this branch of magic and spent years (not days) sitting in front of a mirror.
The reason to highlight my inadequate ability in this field of magic was to share this video with you. This is a performer called An Ha Lim, who is from South Korea. He is widely regarded as one of the very best card manipulators of all time.

It is a true honour to be performing alongside An Ha Lim, in August, as part of the Champions of Magic show. To share a stage with a performer of this calibre is as humbling as watching the act itself. Details for the show if you’re interested in seeing this act live, are:-

http://purchase.tickets.com/buy/TicketPurchase?agency=JERSEY&organ_val=25885&event_val=061E&schedule=list

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