So it turns out that some people just aren’t that keen on magic. And this was evident from a recent trip to a Swindon shopping centre.

For those that don’t know, I perform a stage illusion double act called Young and Strange (www.youngandstrange.co.uk). It’s very different to the close up magic that I perform, and have performed for many years.
Within the double act I play a character that is a little eccentric. It’s a real passion and we are always trying new pieces of comedy magic. It is, as with any professional act, a work in progress. Trying out new ideas, tweaking bits of script and constantly being mindful of being original in our approach to performance.
So we thought it would be amusing to take one of our large-scale illusions and perform it to the good people of Swindon. We had a great time!!! However, it wasn’t a sentiment that was shared by the staff in the Brunel Shopping Centre.
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I have been a professional magician for nearly 9 years now and every year I get the opportunity to perform at trade shows. These are large exhibitions that take place in venues like the Excel in London, the NEC in Birmingham, the HIC in Harrogate and many other venues with the space to accommodate this circus of events.
It’s a chance for big business to exhibit, network and promote the product/service they offer.
So surely this is one of the worst places to show people the ancient art of magic?
It seems it’s a pretty mixed bag.
The purpose of me performing on a trade stand is normally to generate a bit of buzz, pull people towards the stand and also keep guests entertained, as they wait to chat to sales staff. It’s quite an effective marketing tool, but is (from my perspective) a bit hit and miss. Magic is subjective, as every art is, and if I’m fortunate enough to find a few people who love magic then it works really well. A crowd builds a crowd and people then talk about the magic over the course of the exhibition. That, in turn, brings people back to the stand and ultimately raises the profile of the exhibitor in amongst the white noise of other stands.
However, all of the delegates at the exhibition are there for business and that can be quite challenging. Why would you want to be interrupted in a business conversation with a card trick? It’s this mindset of the delegates that sets trade shows apart from any other events that I do.
I have to say that I do really enjoy doing them though, as there are few (if any) interruptions during the performance and having a set stand/table to perform from is better than the constant compromise of a dinning table or drinks reception at most other events. I guess what I’m trying to say is that being in a controlled performing environment, like a trade stand is always preferable. On top of that, most business guys are fun and up for a bit of a laugh.
Trade show performance is a style that requires a different approach from other events. An approach which I am keen to master with the experience I gain from each performance and trade show I do.

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I have been attending the convention for the last 5 years and when I take a step back I realise just how insane the whole thing is.
It is hosted in the Winter Gardens, which is an enormous complex with a ballroom, theatre and many smaller rooms. All of this facilitates shows, meetings and lectures all associated with the art of magic.
The main feature of weekend are the dealer halls with hundreds of dealers selling magic apparatus and effects to magicians.

And I suppose that answers a question that any professional magician will have answered. ‘So where do you get or learn your tricks from?’.

In some ways it’s a real shame to give an answer to that question, or even blog about it. That’s because in doing so it’s easy to ruin the ‘magic’. The word Magic conjures up mystery, intrigue and provokes that childhood emotion of wonder. However the reality is a crushing disappointment.
Magic is like any other business in that it thrives on selling and the making of cold hard cash.
Marketing and selling magic tricks to amateurs and professionals is comparatively big business. A single effect that a magician creates and markets correctly can net tens of thousands of pounds. They are packaged and sold like any other commercial product. In many cases there is deception that lies in the marketing of a trick (much like an estate agent describing a bedsit as ‘bijou’). Many tricks/effects that are created and sold simply aren’t practical to perform but are all too often advertised as ‘reputations makers’.
Promotional videos can make a less than average magic trick, look like a closing effect to a Dynamo television series.
I guess it’s my naivety to thank the magic industry would be anything else, but I am sure I have seen it change in my short time as a performer.

In some ways I am fortunate enough not to fall into these traps of commercialism. Most of my act is sleight of hand and I use very little in the way of gimmicks. I am also very proactive and keep involved with the magic community. That gives me an insight into what’s hot and what’s not as a performance effect, irrespective of it’s marketing.

The same cannot be said for young kids being taken around magic conventions by their parents. Much like going into a sweet shop for the first time, everything looks amazing.

The slight irony is that the ‘Magic’ (in the face of a young aspiring magician) of going to a Magic convention, is lost in time.

I don’t mean for this blog to make me into a jaded, cynical professional. So here’s a picture, of me at Blackpool Magic Convention, to lighten the mood….

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Ehrlich Brothers

As a full time professional magician, it’s important to keep an eye on the performance and magic industry, both in the UK and abroad. In fact it’s not just important, it’s a necessity.
It was only a few months ago that a pair of German magicians came to my attention, after seeing a bit of footage of them performing online. Normally my Facebook feed is flooded with friends of mine trying out new material to a camera at home, or clips of short performances in pubs and clubs. But the German ingenuity seemed stand out.
I booked flights and a hotel to see them perform live in Ingolstadt (a small town North of Munich).
The magic they performed was cutting edge- fusing modern technology with the ancient art of magic. A motorbike production from an iPad, vanishing a group of people using a teleportation device and bending a large section of railway track. All effects that I hadn’t seen before and performed in a arena the size of the O2 in London.
Not only performed in a arena the size of the O2, but also a packed arena the size of the O2.
The entire show was performed in German and I was only armed with my one memorable phrase from GSCE German- ‘Kannst Du Schwimmen?”. It turns out that ‘Can you swim?’ didn’t appear in the script for the show, but fortunately it was visual enough for me to understand and the audience loved it. It was a huge eye opener.
Seeing a great show can be inspiring and depressing in equal measure. Inspirational as any great performance can be, but also a depressing reality check how far away I am from genuine success. On this occasion it was truly inspirational.
I was fortunate enough to spend a little time with the ‘Ehrlich Brothers’ before the show started. They seemed very grounded and clearly passionate about the art. I will be returning later in the year to watch them perform again and will continue to learn from the best. Can’t wait!!

In the meantime do check out the opening to their show:-

In the Spring I will be heading on a national tour of some theatres around the country. The show is called Champions of Magic and I am fortunate enough to be one of the performers taking part. I’ve talked about the show on this blog before, but as the new tour is due to start it’s probably worthy of a plug.

I work alongside my double act partner Richard Young and 3 other acts. Fay Presto (a renowned close up magician), Ed Hilsum (a sleight of hand stage performer) and Alex McAleer (a mentalist).

I’m just trying to think if there is a term for a group of magicians. There probably is and I can’t for one moment think it’s a good one. Irrespective of the term, it is great fun hanging around with other performers sharing stories, tricks and anecdotes of failure. For part of the tour we will be on a tour bus around Scotland and the North of England. Who would have thought that magic could be the New Rock and Roll. No-one, but it’s kind of cool sleeping at the top of a bus.

I will try to use the opportunity to improve my performance as a close up magician. Fay Presto is the most successful table magician in the business and her act is brilliant. Added to that she is keen to share her experience with the younger generation of magicians. Unfortunately that puts me well outside that remit having just turned 30. I can but try though. Nevertheless it will be a great learning curve and a fantastic experience.

This year has started brilliantly and is on track to be the busiest year of my career as a magician. That’s great news.

With every event I do I gain experience. With every experience I gain professionalism. With professionalism I gain……. Turns out I’m not quite the philosopher I thought I was.

Never mind, back to the card tricks……

Magic Circle Christmas Show 2014

I had the honour and privilege of being asked to perform at the Magic Circle Christmas show (along with my double act partner Richard Young). The Christmas shows are 14 shows that take place between Christmas and into the New Year which are open to the public. The cast of the show remains the same and it’s a flagship show that helps to promote the art of Magic.
It has been a brilliant few days and once again I have been fortunate enough to work with some of the best acts around.
The picture attached is of the cast of the show. To the right is a performer called Richard McDougall, who has performed for the Queen on 5 separate occasions and is responsible for a lot of the ideas behind the Derren Brown television shows. Second from right is one of the most talented people I have ever met. A suitcase foot juggler from Germany (Antje Pode), who’s act is world class.
In the middle is an American comedy magician called John Lenahan who has spent the last 25 years working on the comedy club circuit and had a lot of television success. Also included in the photo is Rachel Keane (a full time professional dancer) who recently graduated from Tring Ballet school. And finally Romany, who is a cruise act that boasts visual, poetic and traditional magic. All in all a great cast of lovely people.
The feedback from the show has been unanimously positive and working with such professional people helps to elevate my own performance.
Also working at the show were a small team of close up magicians who I spent time watching perform when I could.
At times, being a magician can be a solitary profession so working with a team of magicians, in the most prestigious Magic venue, is an electric feeling. Let’s hope for more of this in 2015!

Antje Pode’s act:-

It’s important in any business or industry to keep at the sharp end of what’s happening. Magic is no different and by mingling with performers of all disciplines of the art, it should in theory make me a better performer.
The biggest investment I can make in my magic business is personal development and growth. In this respect attending magic conventions, having good friends that are magicians and keeping up to date with news in the magic community is vital. It will hopefully pay off in the long run.
That is why being a part of the countries largest touring magic show is both an honour and privilege. Working alongside 4 other magicians and spending days on end with them, has taught me a huge amount. The show is called Champions of Magic and it’s touring again in the Spring, to include some dates in Scotland (the trailer lists the shows). The performers include:-

Fay Presto, who has been at the forefront of close up magic for past few decades. Learning ‘tricks of the trade’ from her has helped my close up act immensely.

Alex McAleer is a mind reader that can tell you what you’re thinking and predict behaviour of an audience; a vital skill set of any performer.

Ed Hilsum is a manipulator of objects and sleight of hand expert. Spending time learning some complicated sleight of hand has been a real eye opener.

Richard Young. Young is my very close friend and an extremely talented close up magician. Having one of my best friends as a business partner has helped my career no end.

Hopefully by the end of this run of stage shows I will be a more knowledgeable, professional and ultimately better magician, which is what every magician should strive to achieve!

Circular Cover

I have been a member of the Magic Circle for 8 years or so now and it’s a real privilege to be involved in such a well established and well respected Magic Society. It’s been a great year for me as I was promoted to become an Associate Member of the Inner Magic Circle and have also been asked to perform as part of the Christmas Show (14 shows over Christmas that are open to the Public and represent the Magic Circle at it’s best). However, the biggest honour of all was to appear on the cover of the magazine. The magazine is distributed to all members, both in this country and abroad. Included in that distribution list are the likes of David Copperfield, Prince Charles and Dynamo. Getting respect and admiration from your peers is one of the greatest achievements in my career- especially in an industry that all too often likes to put performers down, rather than congratulate them on success.
I am ambitious and there is still more to achieve within the framework of the Magic Circle. Time, perseverance and hard work will get me there and that’s something that I never like to shy away from. I have to wrap this post up now as the killer afternoon of daytime television starts promptly at 12pm……

This is the trailer for the show I am taking part in, which tours in the Autumn. Although stage performance is very different from the close up magic, I will gain valuable experience, which I can apply to Close Up Magic. Spending so much time with 4 other magicians (who are experts in many magic disciplines) can only help to improve my act and ultimately make me a better performer.
One of the acts on the tour is a magician called Fay Presto. Fay has been a close up magician for the past 35 years and has one of the best close up magic acts in the country. She is partly responsible for the ‘new age” close up magic which wasn’t really seen in this country until the 1980’s. There is so much to learn from someone like her and that’s an opportunity I will embrace.

It’s not long now before I head to Edinburgh to perform as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. I do this alongside my double act partner Richard Young. We will be performing a show everyday in a large venue called the Jam House, on Queen Street. The show will feature some large scale illusions and we are fortune enough to have a suitable venue. This will be the second time we have performed at the Jam House after a run of shows last year. It’s always good fun and the audiences are great! I’ve uploaded the flyer of the show on my Facebook page for the details.
Shortly after August we are taking part in a touring show called “Champions of Magic”. The show consists of our act alongside 3 other performers- it should be brilliant fun! The theatres we are performing in are all pretty big, ranging from 400 – 2,500 seats. Again the details of the dates and venues are on my Facebook page.
In the meantime I am keeping my hand in with close up magic with a number of events every week. Those events range from end of year proms to 90th birthday parties. Weddings, anniversary parties, corporate events and leaving parties. I love them all!

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