Blackpool Magicians' Club 55th Annual
23rd - 25th February 2007
Reported by Peter Eldin
There is always an air of anticipation at the registration desk of a magic convention but it seems to be more intense at Blackpool. Perhaps it is because, with over 3500 delegates, it is the biggest magic convention in the world. Perhaps it is because it is the only convention that some magicians go to. Perhaps it is because organiser Derek Lever always provides a superb line-up of magical talent each year. Whatever it is it works.
It was my original intention to cover every event in this report but with so many things running simultaneously this is an impossibility for one person (what do you think I am, a magician!) so I will include only the briefest details possible.
At 1pm on the Friday the dealers opened and then it was non-stop action all the way. This year there were well over a hundred dealers plying their wares I counted 106 from 20 different countries!. They certainly seemed well attended.
Loads of Lectures
It is a cliché to say that the lectures provided something for everyone but with seventeen to choose from this just had to be the case. All proved popular and many were standing room only.
On the Friday evening delegates were treated to five lectures. First to take the stand was Marc Oberon, a young British performer who has fast made his mark (no pun intended) on the magic scene. His lecture included an interesting trick pack and a neat stretching spoon, both of which he was selling on his stand later.
It was good to see Simon Lovell back in the country of his birth with a superb lecture. In fact it was more of a show than a lecture and many were grabbing their notebooks to jot down some of the non-stop one-liners Simon used. Later that evening it was the turn of Randy Wakeman to impart some of his wide knowledge, concentrating mainly on card effects. Although tired from the day’s travel I managed to stay up for Ian Rowland whose writings in The Magic Circular are always interesting and I was not disappointed.
I went back to my digs for some well needed sleep so missed the lecture by David Shimshi which started at 11.30pm but I was told the following day that David, a star of The Magic Castle, concentrated on card work - from what I was told it was a bit too clever for me but I am assured that I missed a treat. Five lectures! And that was only the first day!
The first lecture on Saturday morning was from Michael Rubinstein with some incredible coin magic. Even when he was explaining the various moves he made them appear magical and yet they sounded easy - but when I tried some out later I soon realised that although simple they needed a lot of practice to get right. In all of my years in magic I have never seen a lecture so well attended as that by Jay Sankey - the room was absolutely packed to the gunnels to witness this master of magic.
The American performer Greg Wilson, well known for his “On The Spot” course on impromptu magic, showed some clever coin moves in his lecture Henry Evans from Argentina spoke part in English and part in Spanish (but he did have a good interpreter). One of his items I particularly liked was his Gypsy Thread using flash cotton. Because it clashed with the Henry Evans I did not attend the “Kidz R Us” lecture by Ricky McCleod but heard that it was very well received. The final lecture of the day was from Dirk Losander who had a nice self-contained floating ball effect which proved popular. What this man doesn’t know about threads is not worth knowing.
Dan Garrett, who was the first lecturer on the Sunday, offered something old and something new. This was my favourite lecture for all of the effects were within my capabilities and contained much creative, entertaining and original magic.
Aaron Fisher offered some easy but powerful card magic and talked about the importance of tension, focus and design in card magic as outlined in his successful book The Paper Engine.
Once again due to the overlapping of events, I missed the “Kidz R Us” lecture by Dave Allen but I did wander down to the Theatre Bar to take a look and it was well attended with many grown-up magicians behaving like kids at a party and having great fun in the process! In the afternoon we were treated to lectures from Nathan Kranzo who had some great card effects, David Roth on coin magic (naturally) and ever-popular Aldo Columbini.
The first of the championship shows was the European Magical Close-Up Championships which took place on Friday evening. The quality of the acts was variable but on the whole very high and the winner was Jerome Bourgeon of France.
The 20th British Magical Stage Championships on Saturday proved to be a very long show running from 7pm until 00.40am, in spite of the fact that two acts did not appear. The award for best in the Junior Section went to Joe Ray with an act themed around the production of money and the use of a tinkling coin ladder. The Manipulation Award went to Stuart Brown with a traditional manipulative act which included card productions, colour changing cane, other cane effects, and a giant diminishing cards. Keylan Leyser won the General Category with a quick change act and the Comedy Award was given to Alec Powell for an absolutely crazy act. It appeared that Alec was making it up as he bumbled from one item to the next but he assured me that the madcap mayhem was all planned in advance. Atmosfear won the Illusion Category with an act that started off with the novel idea of Dave and Beccy as old people. The overall winner of the Grand Prix Award for Magic was given to Keylan Leyser.
The judges pontificated after each act and although this was a good idea and their comments made good sense it added to the overall length of the show as did the inclusion of three extremely good guest artistes in the shape of Stan Allen, with Killer the rabbit, the magic knights of German comedy Die Zauderer, and Sos & Victoria Petrosyan with a novel interactive performance of the dancing cane. Special mention must be given to Tony Stevens, probably the best magical compere in the country, who kept the proceedings moving along with wit and personality.
The 55th International Gala Show
The Gala Show at Blackpool is always the highlight of the convention and this year was no exception. It was a great show emceed expertly by television comedian Adrian Walsh. First on were Sos & Victoria Petrosyan with a spectacular quick change act, the changes being interspersed with some fire effects and dance sequences. Then came the clanking knights of the German comedy act Die Zauderer which was absolutely brilliant. Jerome Helfenstein performed novel hand shadows combined with modern interactive screen technology. Next came Shimshi with card manipulations and a very convincing illusion in which a girl was visibly divided into three sections.
The next act brought the house down. It was the ventriloquial mayhem of Marc Metral from France. Absolutely marvellous, hilarious and highly entertaining. I look forward to seeing him again sometime. Final act of the first half was the world champion manipulator Juliana Chen with an act consisting of mask transformations, dance movements and card productions.
To open the second half Ken Dodd presented the various awards which included two Murray Awards, one to Betty Davenport and one to George Kovari (who responded in Hungarian), and a well-deserved Lifetime Achievement Award to Blackpool stalwart Tom Owen.
A convention favourite Omar Pasha then presented his popular black art act before Adrian Walsh introduced the manipulative act of Nestor Hato from France with colour changing card fans, card productions, and a surprise colour change of his full head of hair! The next act, also from France, was Frank Truong who passed a bed of spikes through a girl, a quick substitution trunk, the Egyptian Princess illusion (using the magician as the victim instead of a girl), and an effective substitution routine. Dirk Lossander showed some of his spectacular bubble work and floating routines which included a floating bubble à la Zombie routine, a brilliant dancing handkerchief and a floating table. Top of the bill was the sensational dove magic of Greg Frewin who had flown in from Canada that afternoon especially for the show. This guy does not just produce doves, they materialise from thin air. The finale in which a bird cage transformed into a girl was truly magical.
This brief rundown of the show does not do it justice for it was possibly one of the best Gala Shows ever. No doubt I have said that in previous years as well for the high quality of the Gala Show year after year is a feat of magic in itself.
As I said at the beginning, it is impossible for one person to cover the whole of the Blackpool convention for there is so much going on. As a result there are many gaps in this report. I have not, for example, mentioned The United Kingdom Children’s Entertainer of the Year Competition because it proved so popular I couldn’t get into it! The award was given to Michael J. Fitch who promptly donated his prize money to Colchester Children’s Hospital. Nor have I mentioned the International Forum on Friday evening which, much to my surprise, was very well attended. Stan Allen, Wayne Dobson, Terry Seabrooke, and Hank Moorehouse answered questions on subjects as diverse as the Masked Magician, mentalism, advertising kid’s shows, and the popularity of magic posed by members of the audience aided and abetted by Derek Lever. Neither have I described the two International Close-Up Shows which presented such luminaries as Aldo Columbini, David Roth, Simon Lovell, Randy Wakeman, David Shimshi, Dan Garrett, Aaron Fisher, Nathan Kranzo, Jay Sankey, Michael Rubinstein, Ian Rowland, Gregory Wilson, Henry Evans, Dirk Losander, Marc Oberon and Jupiter. How’s that for a magical line-up!
Thanks to the hard work of Derek Lever and members of the Blackpool Magicians Club the Blackpool Convention goes from strength to strength and every year is a resounding triumph. Derek Lever is already working on next year’s Convention (22nd to 24th February, 2007) and has some exciting things up his sleeves. How he manages to achieve such an enormous success each year is magic of the highest degree and I suggest that you book early if you want to attend. You will be in for a treat.
© Peter Eldin, March 2007