The Northern Magic Circle Summit
Friday 21st, Saturday 22nd and Sunday 23rd April
Reported by Donald Bevan
its sixty-year celebrations, Northern Magic Circle returned to grass
roots, the city of Newcastle, scene of its first convention in 1957
followed every year by a variety of venues. Organising team of President
Rob Temple, Ken Dyne (Kennedy) and Bill Temple (president’s dad and
Editor of Northern Lights magazine) produced convention events
which were highlights of magic, laughter and friendship. The main
convention events were ‘under one roof’, the exception being the
Saturday Gala Show. The County Hotel proved ideal, being comfortable
with good food and facilities.
Festivities began on Friday night with a dinner. Totally informal, dress from sports shirts and jeans to smart suits and dresses, diners enjoyed a two-course meal with no speeches or other asides. Entertainment came from singer Lou Coel who warbled her way through a 30-minute spot with a variety of songs, and magic from talented professional magician Darren Mac, a former N.M.C. Junior of several years ago. Darren had good, fast patter lines with five cards (throw two away etc.!) leading to a clever climax, and an animal version of what I call ‘McCombism’, an assistant choosing a picture from an unknown all-alike selection, only to finally match the performer’s prediction.
Saturday – We’re off!
After registrations and opening of the dealers (including World Magic Shop, Adrian Sullivan, Mental Underground [Ken Dyne[), and The Magic Box), President Rob Temple welcomed everyone before introducing the first lecturer, David Penn. Known internationally as innovator of numerous effects, David’s offering consisted of producing a glass tumbler and levitation of said tumbler, culminating in the sudden appearance of a large bottle of wine. The concealment, method and handling being specially devised. A borrowed coin which bent in the spectator’s hand (using a marketed gimmick) followed, before David detailed a special effect for weddings in which the stem of a wine glass visibly bent. The only gimmicks used being a blow-torch and the cheekiest of misdirection!
Next a 30-minute break for refreshments, to check out the dealers and for chat. These breaks came between each event. No dashing from one to another, missing a meal or snack or having to decide what or who to see. Very civilised! On with the motley, for the Ken Dyne lecture. Ken is a mentalist who travels the world (off to Israel shortly, then to America). He set out to prove mentalism can be entertaining not boring, and proved it. First a book test, usual chosen word revealed but with a simple, stunning and excellent method. A prediction routine involving a spectator’s choice of coloured envelope had all the attributes of ‘magical theatre’, and four spectators choosing coloured balls enabled Ken to divine who had the odd one out – a golden ball. Mentalists boring? Not this one!
After the lunch break, the inter-society Close-up Competition, organised and introduced by Stuart Clarkson. With seven performers representing magic clubs affiliated to the Northern Magic Circle, a good mix of talents was on show. James Piatt for Durham S.M. opened with manic approach and facial expression as cards, ribbon and a ring were manipulated into a pleasing spot. Gordon Wardle for Newcastle N.M.C. had slick patter for a routine with cards depicting ‘This and That’, changed kings to queens and then to jokers, and had fun with a pen which would ‘write any colour’! Rick Tynan for Liverpool Mahatma M.C. revealed his ‘chosen card coat’ – 52 cards displayed on the inside of his jacket, before revealing matching cards from a shuffled deck in an entertaining routine. Daniel Johnson on behalf of Darlington M.C. was slick with an amusing prediction and numerous card revelations. North Western Society of Magicians fielded Adam Hudson who opened with an amusing maths puzzle, predicted the totals of thrown dice and also a birthday – all with success. Nimmo Clarke for Middlesbrough M.C., not exactly in the prime of youth (like your reporter!), showed skill with predictions, revelations and neat presentation of shuffled deck halves placed in two glass tumblers revealing matching pairs. Finally, for Northern Magic Circle, veteran performer Hedley Fawcett who smoothly romped through a neat spot stick routine, manipulated card fans, had fun with rubber bands, and showed why his matchboxes were haunted. All with smooth, entertaining presentation.
Another break, before a feature lecture by Martin Duffy, well known to many magicians and one of the busiest performers in the north-east. The lecture was special on two counts: one it was Martin’s first on the subject, two it was aimed at children’s performers. Not however the ‘party magician’ but educational magic for schools, Martin’s specialist forté. He explained how he divides his work into age groups, effects used covering maths, English, geography and other subjects all wrapped up in one package – fun! His workbox or trunk has a combination lock which the children solve, his sponge ball routine is fun (counting), and numbers on a silk scarf magically jumped around. There was sound advice on how to approach schools, suggested fees and effects. Excellent.
Northern Magic & Variety
This ‘Gala’ set in the Tyne Theatre and Opera House, a classic theatre of gilt and plush was billed as ‘A night of world class magic, comedy and variety’. And so it proved. Featured were The Mimic Men (clever impressionists with a range from Bruce Forsyth to other well known stars), one of whom, Alfie, stood in as compère as the original, Steffen Peddie was indisposed.
The Kathleen Davis Dancers opened the show, a smart dozen-plus team of girls of varied age and size in a neatly choreographed set. Graeme Shaw (of The Magic Box) provided the first magic, restoring an already torn newspaper, had fun with a borrowed finger ring and sawed a volunteer girl in two using an unusual set-up. The Mimic Men in a lengthy spot were followed by Lorenzo Carcione, finalist in this year’s Young Magician of the Year competition at The Magic Circle. This smartly dressed young man manipulated cards, coins, bubbles and doves with style, closing with the standard dove cage vanish.
My notes on the next act simply read ‘Tossed Deck’? If any one effect of the entire weekend hit the magicians, this must have been it. First what appeared to be the usual Hoy routine of Tossed Out Deck in which three spectators each peek a card from the deck and the performer names the cards. That’s all? Not this time, because with three spectators having peeked their cards and still standing, Kennedy named their cards and correctly aligned them to each person! Certainly a new twist I had not encountered before although I understand the routine is marketed by Kennedy. Great stuff!
Change of pace now, very much so as Michael Jordan bounced on stage to juggle large rings and continually spin about ten dinner plates atop slender poles. No wonder he stays slim!
Opening the second half, the dancers again in a frenetic routine of speed and precision. An excellent team. The Mimic Men returned with a clever and fast A to Z of voices. Cris Cross, a former NMC Junior of years past, now a successful professional performer, played simply for laughs with a well-presented strait-jacket escape. Next came ‘Gut-Wrenching Regurgitations (as programmed!) by Kieron Johnson, whose swallowing of coins and their reproduction head or tails up, as requested, is not exactly ‘after-dinner entertainment’!
Finally, closing the show High Jinx (Michael Jordan and assistant) with fast-paced illusions featuring repeat penetrations of the poor girl’s body by blades, rods and laser lights. The audience of several hundred, the greater part of which were general public, showed warm appreciation for the performers.
Sunday Lectures and Convention Close
First event early Sunday morning was the N.M.C. AGM, which cannot be reported, except that Rick Tynan was confirmed as President for 2017/18, with Stuart Clarkson as President-Elect.
In the History of Mystery slot, first lecture of the day was by Walt Lees, whose experiences of selling Svengali decks in such prestigious venues as Harrods, Selfridges and Hamleys for more than a decade were fascinating and enlightening. Walt explained the techniques and psychology of ‘pitching’, detailing ‘tricks of the trade’ to gather a ‘tight’ crowd at the table. Walt’s record, along with a pitching partner, was to sell 1,000 decks of cards in one week! The lecture concluded with a ‘pitch’ demonstration showing how to handle the cards and deliver impact effects.
After lunch came a brief dealer demonstration by Graeme Shaw for The Magic Box, showing a novel version of Louis Histed’s Papyrus effect, using bathroom taps and plugs (often incorrectly referred to as Ali Bongo’s. Ali’s Pom Poms routine was his version of the Histed effect). Adrian Sullivan had an intriguing deck of cards from which numerous choices were made and immediately named by the performer, and Kennedy plugged his Passed Out Deck seen in the Gala, on special offer at £50!
The afternoon opened with a lecture by Kieron Johnson, who sadly had only arrived on Saturday from Canada, but his luggage didn’t! In almost borrowed clothing and none of his lecture gear (which I can vouch as being crazy, clever and intriguing) Kieron settled for mainly showing a routine with borrowed table forks, which mysteriously bent and at one point not only bent but completely separated, slowly, the tines falling to the table. Out of nothing came – magic!
After the obligatory break, the next lecture was by Darren Mac, who first explained the full routine, method and psychology of his Five Card Repeat, the cards dropped into a cardboard box the front of which had changing pictures. Finally the cards vanished and the box shown empty. Following came a mix of excellent ideas and effects for children, general close-up plus cards. It was an instructive and entertaining lecture.
For the after-dinner event came the presentations and official close of the convention. N.M.C. Secretary Brian Lead announced the prizes and President Rob Temple presented them. First came membership awards, followed by The Eric Bland Trophy for best contribution to Northern Lights (N.M.C.’s magazine) to Paul Guy. The Close-up winner for the Jim Lumley Cup was Hedley Fawcett for Northern Magic Circle, also receiving the George Eyre’s Vice President’s Trophy for best club entry. The runner-up was Nimmo Clarke for Middlesbrough M.C., receiving the John Pye Trophy. The special President’s Award for services to the Northern Magic Circle went to Kennedy. Finally Northern Lights Editor Bill Temple announced winners of a competition he had set over several months as Paul Guy and Donald Bevan.
With the hand-over of presidency from Rob Temple (who had been a great ambassador for N.M.C. and magic in general) to Rick Tynan and wife Carol, was that all? No! To wind up the weekend Rob Temple and Kennedy, with side-kick Emma, put together a magic version of the TV quiz show Pointless, with four teams of two competing. Questions, pictures, anagrams posed puzzling subjects, cleverly researched via ‘100 people’. No prizes, but the winners were Brian Sefton and Kieron Johnson. It was fun, lots of laughs and a lively social end to the convention.
So ended the anniversary convention of the Northern Magic Circle which welcomes new members (www.northernmagiccircle.org.uk). Check out eventual details of next year’s convention and aim to be there. No hassle, a relaxing magical weekend.
© Donald Bevan, April 2017.