The 40th International Magic Convention and London Festival of Magic

14th - 20th November 2011

Reported by Matthew Field MIMC

Photos by Arto Airaksinen

This year marked the 40th anniversary of ‘Ron’s Day’, so called because it is in honour of the late Ron MacMillan, and the convention was preceded by a Festival of Magic with some outstanding events. The main venue for the convention is the wonderful Mermaid Centre in London, with reasonably priced hot and cold food and beverages on site.

As a special celebration of the 40th anniversary, the London Festival of Magic preceded the main convention with five days of events at the nearby Bridewell Theatre beginning Monday 14 November. During the day Bob Yelland gave a talk on Marketing for Magicians, while in the evening a special tribute to Monday Night Magic featured John Lenahan (the original organiser of the London show, with Anthony Owen), John Archer, Nick Einhorn, Mark Shortland and Alan Hudson. Tuesday afternoon was devoted to Advanced Card Techniques with four of the greatest card handlers in the world: Guy Hollingworth, Jason England, Ben Earl and Paul Wilson. That evening featured a double bill of Hustle! with combined shows by Guy Hollingworth, Jason England and Paul Wilson, followed by the extraordinary (former) street magician, Peter Wardell.

Wednesday had a mentalism theme, with presentations by Andy Nyman, Mark Elsdon, Luke Jermay and Chris Cox, and two evening one-man shows by Quentin Reynolds and Todd Landman. Thursday saw Eugene Burger and Larry Hass speaking on ‘Making Magic Meaningful’ while in the evening there was an interview with the legendary Max Maven. On Friday an afternoon symposium on Creativity had presentations by magic and toy inventor Mark Setteducati, Sweden’s Tom Stone (whose new book Maelstrom is eagerly awaited), and another legend in magic, Lubor Fiedler, whose inventions include the Gozinta Boxes, Rubber Dam Penetration and many Tenyo effects including The Blue Crystal.

Friday evening, 18 November, was the opening of the convention itself featuring Harry Anderson, the American magician, author and actor, starring in TV series Night Court and Dave’s World as well as appearances on Cheers and Saturday Night Live. “Harry the Hat” gave a performance on stage followed by a nearly two-hour lecture in which he explained all.

Saturday morning was filled with the 28th Close-up Competition, with 16 competitors from around the world vying for trophies and cash prizes. First prize, the Kevin Reay trophy and £1,000, was won by Spanish card expert Woody Aragon (whose book A Book in English has been getting rave reviews); Italy’s Trabuk came second (trophy and £500) with a comedy cup and ball routine; and the USA’s Andost came third (trophy and £100) with a routine involving coloured light bulbs and cards which changed colour when placed under the bulbs. Merit awards were given to Germany’s Hayashi who performed a multi-climax Cups and Balls routine that was an audience pleaser; France’s Ludovic Juliot who performed a Godfather-themed act with coins and a watch vanish; and Spain’s Hector Mancha who performed card magic which included an instant Triumph and a shadow story of a fisherman in a boat at sea.

Saturday afternoon featured lectures by Eugene Burger, card expert Jason England (I was in heaven), and the outstanding and outrageous David Williamson. The David Williamson lecture featured some excellent material and then a unique event. On a TV show, produced by John Fisher many years ago, David was asked a day before the live show to perform “Stretching the Lady”, which requires a special gaffed card. David arranged for the card to be shipped from Gary Plants’s home in Texas to London, at a cost of several hundred pounds. Performing for a fresh-faced child, David said he had three cards and put them on the table. The kid, seated low and close to the cards, informed Williamson that there were four cards on the table, picked them up and destroyed the gaff. Williamson reacted wonderfully, making for some great television. Convention talent coordinator Noel Britten found the kid, now in his 20s, and he and David were reunited on stage – an amazing and unforgettable event. (Link to that actual footage: Click Here)

On Saturday evening I attended the separate-entry Max Maven show while the first of two Gala Shows took place at the outstanding Mermaid Theatre complex, the convention’s home. Max’s new show, Thinking in Person, is subtitled “An evening of knowing and not knowing” and that theme was well-explored in the packed but intimate Bridewell theatre, which had quickly sold out after the event was announced. Max combined the ideas of great thinkers and writers with some fine mentalism, finally playing a sort of practical joke on the entire audience with his closing effect.

All day Saturday, and continuing on Sunday, the Dealers’ Fayre took place in several rooms in the Mermaid complex. More than 30 dealers were on hand from around the world, with extensive displays by International Magic at which Harry Anderson spent two hours, Germany’s Card Shark, Japan’s SEO Magic (with the new range of Tenyo items), Patrick Page Magic, Colin Rose’s Five of Hearts Magic, Wayne Dobson, and lots, lots more.

Sunday morning’s events began with a Larry Hass lecture, “Creating Magic out of Tricks”, followed by an excellent close-up show with Mr. Hass, Tom Stone, Jason England, Eugene Burger and David Williamson. The afternoon brought lectures by Max Maven and Tom Stone, followed by a highlight of this convention each year, the presentation of the David Berglas International Magic Award. The winner, and a most deserving recipient, was Derren Brown, who was surprised by the award since he had come to the theatre under false pretences. Derren graciously answered audience questions for more than a half-hour, and stayed for more than an hour meeting attendees in the theatre’s bar. He received several standing ovations from the audience for his extraordinary contributions to mentalism on television and on stage, and for his excellent books.

I saw the Sunday Gala Show performance (a repeat of the one on Saturday), featuring compere Noel Britten, Alana (from Germany) who performed astonishing animated costume effects, Sweden’s Tom Stone with a variety of effects including the amazing finale to his sponge ball routine, UK comics Simmons & Simmons, France’s legendary Al Carthy with his Frankenstein-themed act, France’s talented and innovative shadowgrapher Jerome Helfenstein, Korean inventive and unique card manipulator Hun Lee, the wild and crazy and very talented David Williamson, and black-art act Les Chapeaux Blancs who were most impressive. The audience, more than half of which is made up of ticket buyers from the general public, loved the almost three-hour show, a well constructed mix of great stage magic and variety acts.

The convention is organised by the MacMillan family, with events, including the Gala Show, booked and organised by Noel Britten, who did a fabulous job – in fact, almost superhuman considering the additional five days of performances and lectures in the Festival of Magic. Next year’s dates are 16 to 18 November 2012 and I’m already looking forward to attending. You’ll be able to get more information at


© Matthew Field, November 2011