Northern Magic Circle Magic Summit
April 13th, 14th 15th 2018
As seen by Donald Bevan
did it again! Led by principal organisers Robert Temple, Kennedy and Bill
Temple, hosted by President Rick Tynan & Carol, for a second year NMC returned
to the bustling city of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne and the County Hotel. Here several
score of magicians and others enjoyed a relaxing weekend of skilled,
entertaining magic coupled with the opportunity to chat with old friends and to
make new ones. No rush between events, everything carefully paced.
Unusually the first event, on Friday afternoon, was ‘private’ for NMC Members only – the AGM. This cannot be reported except to say that Roy Field, noted magical historian, writer and lecturer was voted in as President-Elect for 2018-19.
Friday evening we assembled for a casual dinner, with music, song and magic. An innovation was the Close-up Championship organised and hosted by Stuart Clarkson. Six performers representing varied magic clubs performed in a ‘table-hopping’ sequence.
In the order seen: Laylo the Magician (Derby Magic Circle) in a sparkling jacket, eased his way through a variety of effects using rubber gloves, sponge balls and, new to me, even had colour-changing kitchen scourers! For Northern Magic Circle Hedley Fawcett willed a nut and bolt. First the nut mysteriously spun on the thread, apparently unaided, then a spectator merely touching the centre of the bolt caused it to bend. A neat puzzle. Tom Bolton (Newcastle Magic Circle) did unbelievable things with Rubik Cubes, from simple solving to matching a spectator’s mix. All delivered in entertaining style.
Darren Wray (Middlesbrough Circle of Magicians) featured a version of Tossed Out Deck, delivered at breakneck patter speed. Personable presentation but a slower approach might have helped. Chris Stewart for Leeds Magic Circle glided effortlessly through a rope routine. Professor’s Nightmare – plus, plus and plus! Next a borrowed coin was signed, vanished and eventually discovered in not one, but a nest of several leather purses. A performer with skill and personality. Number six at my table was Luke Robson (Sheffield Circle of Magicians) whose card skills produced locations, predictions and other card delights, to put him, I imagine, among the high scorers. Score sheets collected we and competitors had to wait until Sunday for the results. Agonising!
The cabaret entertainment consisted of a varied selection of songs, from pop to classics, by Adam Strong whose voice was excellent – the volume control not so good – conversation difficult! Magic was provided by Dave Alnwick, an energetic bundle of activity and fun. An experienced Edinburgh performer, Dave rattled through perhaps a dozen or more routines of which I recall very few – a book test perhaps, something with cards, an effective piece involving spectators’ drawings (Psychometry?). Sorry, too busy laughing!
Lectures and Presentations
Throughout the weekend there were five lectures, two presentations and two stage shows. All providing an abundance of magic, laughter and entertainment. First up on Saturday morning was Harry Robson whose genial magic and humour keeps him at the top of his profession, especially when working the hospitality suite at Manchester United. I was so intrigued by Harry I forgot to take notes but recall several chosen card locations (along with explanations of forces and controls), an almost impossible Card to Wallet sequence and the creation of a faked deck from start to finish in one minute twenty seconds. Roughing Fluid out of the window! The uninitiated card boys lapped this up.
For a change of pace and style Alan Maskell catered for children’s performers, particularly young pre-school ages. Alan’s approach is quietly gentle, no noisy intros, shouting or ‘Turn it round’ effects. For routines Alan showed several commercial items, each backed up with stories the youngsters could follow and understand, simple bits of business and above all, fun. A Q&A session highlighted several problems children’s entertainers face today, such as the giving of gifts or prizes, especially sweets or chocolate, often frowned upon by some adults today. The whole lecture carried weighty advice for today’s children’s market.
The next lecturer revealed some of the inner secrets of manipulation acts. Except this was one particular act, that of Brian Sefton, whose card, ball, thimble and dove magic have delighted audiences for many years. Brian first performed his act (no doves!), then went on to explain loads, steals, body language, timing and other details which combine to produce an attractive, magical performance. Despite everything seen, the statement ‘It’s Easier Than You Think’ by Geoffrey Buckingham, still puzzles me!
For the next lecture we jump to Sunday and Craig Petty. He delivered a highly pleasing entertaining and instructive session in a quiet yet authoritative style. Noted for his coin work, Craig opened the lecture with his version of Coins Across. Expert sleight of hand? Included yes, but not averse to a gimmick for the final, clean result, proving it’s the effect that matters. The routine climaxed with the sudden appearance of two large coins – the second bigger and heavier than the first. There was fun with rubber bands, including transposing colours. Craig supplied rubber bands and soon had a number of people trying out the moves. A sequence of moves with a Sharpie pen, along with explanations was excellent.
The final lecture came from Steven Bridges, a professional whose work often includes the streets of London, busking. Steven did a number of striking card effects, with explanations, also the secrets of bending forks with the mind, seen in his stage act the previous night. It was however when he talked about busking the lecture came alive with audience interaction. Questions were asked, for example, “Do you need a licence to perform on a street? Answer “No, but you have to be aware of obstruction, to businesses, footpaths, entrances, right of way etc.” Summed up, not an easy life! This was an enlightening lecture.
Special Feature Presentations
The first of these on Sunday morning in the History of Mystery slot, was by Roy Field. With PowerPoint illustrations, we saw books, magazines, even children’s comics on the art of ‘Home Entertainment’. These often included magic tricks and, through the comic Hotspur, opportunity to join the Boy’s Magic Club of Prestatyn, the starting point for many of today’s older enthusiasts. Roy obviously has quite a collection of such memorabilia detailing various pastimes. The cover of one of these books we saw on screen; then Roy displayed the actual book – measuring about three by two inches! Another enlightening and instructive session.
At 2pm the large audience settled down for the second presentation, by Richard Cadell (and Sooty!). Readers at Blackpool Convention this year may have seen this and will know of its impact. For sixty minutes and more, Richard regaled us with tales of the international puppet’s life, beginning on Blackpool North Pier in the early 1950s to the present day, with highly regarded television series and stage shows. We saw film clips of Sooty’s original ‘boss’ Harry Corbett in interviews, the very first Sooty show on TV, and the take-over of the show by Harry’s son Matthew. Details emerged of a disastrous period when new producers of the TV show made a complete hash of it and ratings fell dramatically. The company owning the Sooty rights decided to sell, which is where Richard and his brother David stepped in and bought the show. The rest is a success story! Fascinating, educational stuff receiving a great reception from the audience.
At this point I must confess to a serious crime: on Saturday afternoon Richard Cadell presented The Sooty Magic Show to a near sell-out of 700 seats at The Tyne Theatre and Opera House. Sadly for personal reasons I missed this. Richard was supported by clowns Clivo and Jeani and local magician Graeme Shaw. From reports, a great time was had by all!
We move on. To the second show in the theatre – Northern Magic and Variety Gala Show on Saturday night.. Returning from last year, comedy impressionist Cal Halbert compèred the show, lively opened by a dozen slick girls of The Kathleen Davis Stage School. The first magic act was unusual, a mentalist! Not just any mentalist, but Kennedy whose work is different and entertaining. With two spectators their respective choices of a name and a place were revealed, creating a double prediction.
Stephen Bridges ‘attacked’ the audience by solving a mixed Rubik Cube, bending forks in a spectator’s hand with power of the mind, and a spirited Chop Cup presentation. This was followed by borrowing a bank note, vanishing it, to be discovered inside a lemon which had appeared beneath the Chop Cup. Stephen is a ‘worker’, as detailed in his lecture, and it showed.
Next act to close first half, more mentalism! James Phelan in smart chequered suit, began with Tossed out Deck (standard Hoy with an added twist). Then things moved on as a young lady cajoled on stage handed James her mobile phone. First he did a mathematical sequence with it. Impressive. Then created mayhem by dropping it into a bucket of water! Full of apologies James pressed on with swallowing a number of examined needles, followed by a length of thread. Little need to detail the finish – the needles appearing from his mouth spaced along the thread. Was the spirit of Houdini present I wonder? The unexpected climax to an unusual act was the appearance of the lady’s ‘phone inside a water melon!
Opening second half, the dancing girls, followed by the loud, brash, dynamic presence of Craig Petty. Just two effects, both vitally strong. Cards Across like I never saw before, utilising a handkerchief and the well known Glorpy gimmick to produce hilarious adult entertainment. Earlier Craig had deposited a wooden box with an audience member and now retrieved the box to discover inside, and removed by the assisting spectator, a previously selected, vanished card – with inevitable torn corner fitting perfectly.
To close the show Graeme Shaw offered slick illusions – Twister, the girl’s head and body turned and turned and turned, the cabinet designed like a microwave oven – which passed me by! Their Sub. Trunk had a novel presentation, the girl squatting in front of the trunk the front panel of which had a small hole in it. Briefly, very briefly covered by Graeme, the girl was gone and discovered inside the trunk. Different. The act ended with the poor girl penetrated by wooden tubes from all sides of the cabinet and a solid wood ‘spike’ thrust vertically through all to make sure. She survived!
Back-track now to Sunday afternoon for official and internal presentations. Internal for membership awards and other NMC details announced by Secretary Brian Lead. Three items stand out here: first the invitation to Richard Cadell of Honorary Vice President of the Northern Magic Circle, which Richard graciously and emotionally accepted. Second, winner of the Close-up Championship proved be Chris Stewart, who received an attractive trophy which he keeps, plus £100 worth of magic and related items donated by Murphy’s Magic of Chicago. In addition Chris’ club, Leeds Magic Circle received The John Pye Trophy to hold for one year. Finally came the installation of the new NMC President as Rick Tynan and Carol handed the insignia to Stuart and Claire Clarkson.
So was that it? Not quite, as following on from last year’s Pointless Quiz, Rob Temple and Kennedy devised a mixed magical quiz comprising magical name anagrams, magic related songs and music, on-screen picture identity, name the magician described and other teasers. All in a spirit of fun teams of four competed for the prize – a box of chocolates! End of Summit Convention.
© Donald Bevan, April 2018.