The Session Convention – One Attendee’s Perspective
January 27th + 28th 2008

Mark Elsdon


Over the weekend of January 27th/28th there was only one place to be in the UK: Gloucester. Why? Because Andi Gladwin and Rob James had arranged the third outing of their rather splendid ‘Session Convention’, the UK’s only dedicated close-up magic convention.

And session we did – heck, even I did a trick! One of the most unusual things about this weekend was the sheer number of star names and professional performers who were simply attending the convention. With the registrants so talented, the booked performers had better be good! Guess what? They were. Whilst I didn’t see every event or performer, here is a brief rundown of who I did see and what I thought:

Chad Long – absent from these shores for far too long, this was most people’s first time seeing him in action. His brand of original, commercial magic mixed with his oddly British sense of humour showcases why he is such a successful professional worker. One or two were whingeing that he didn’t have much new material. That’s the point! When your repertoire is made up of material this good, why change it?

Tom Stone – a mix of original magic and surreal humour that you either love or hate. I love it. His theoretical approach to magic means that he performs either original plots or standard plots from a decidedly skewed perspective. His performances were decidedly offbeat and he had really only just got going on the theory behind his magic when his lecture was scheduled to end. I can’t wait to read his big book when Hermetic Press eventually publish it, as I think Tom has some very important things to say about magic. Will he be the eventual successor to Tommy Wonder? Time will tell…

Matthew Dowden – his star is very much on the rise and it’s easy to see why. His infectious enthusiasm for performing is contagious and as his recent DVDs showed, he absolutely kills a lay audience (no doubt whilst getting an address book full of girl’s phone numbers.) This was only his second lecture and whilst he did appear a little nervous at the start, he soon warmed to his theme of commercial close-up and had the audience lapping it up. Whilst some of the material he chose may have raised a few eyebrows, like Chad Long he demonstrated a complete understanding of what works and what doesn’t. Finally, I’m sad that he has tipped his card-under-glass/card-at-any-number hybrid routine as I think he it would be best for everyone if there were only Matt and I doing that routine. Perhaps best to drop it from the lecture, Matt? Thanks.

Aaron Fisher – a creator and performer who certainly polarizes opinions. Of course, I can only give you one – mine. I think that Aaron is a force to be reckoned with and having already established himself as a proponent of exquisite technique he is now challenging himself with revolutionizing the lecture format. And on this evidence he is succeeding. His new effect Panic is beautiful and will be going straight into my working repertoire (be sure to watch the full routine on the DVD, it’s the way to go) and his Hit The Road trick has been one of my go-to magician-foolers since he tipped it. I picture Aaron in fifty years time sat like some latter-day Professor, dispensing advice to the youth of the day – I definitely think he’s in this for the long haul.

Michael Vincent – like a cross between Michael Skinner and Chris Eubank, Michael is certainly one of the UK’s classiest magicians. His gentle presentations evoke a bygone era and in this era of street magic and hip-hop tricks, I am glad that there are elegant performers like Michael to remind us that magic can be a sophisticated entertainment. His performance here was as relaxed and elegant as usual. Here is a performer completely aware of his own strengths and playing to them at every opportunity. My only criticism is that the looking-glass looked like it had come from a quid shop!

Alan Hudson – performed possibly the trick of the convention. Whilst dressing himself and a spectator as if they were members of the gay Ku Klux Klan, he performed a killer remote viewing effect where he named the colours of balloons the spectator was popping, climaxing with a prediction of the final colour. Such a bare description makes it sound trivial, when in fact it was fantastic and fooled everybody. It’s easy to see why Alan’s in such demand.

Dave Forrest – as well as being the man behind Big Blind Media, Dave is also a prolific creator and author of a number of great little booklets. Here I watched him perform a very off-the-wall effect involving a ‘Schrodinger’s Cat’ presentation of a Hamman-esque ‘Signed Card’ effect. It was a perfect piece of strange and unlike most science-mumbo-jumbo presentations this one played particularly well.

Ricky Smith – so laid back as to be almost horizontal, Ricky’s unassuming disposition hides a very droll wit and some serious card magic chops. The first trick he showed me he introduced as his ‘favorite layman fooler’. The effect? A palmed card vanishes from palm and re-appears on the bottom of the deck! His notes were a beautiful little envelope, containing just three small squares of paper which tell you everything you need to know. Oh and he performs every effect and sleight in the Earnest Earick book. Don’t cha just love magic?

A few of other highlights that it would be remiss of me not to mention: Firstly, the Jack Parker tribute and book launch. I never met Jack, but feel I knew him a little bit through our occasional e-mail exchanges and his published material. The tribute was handled with dignity and humour by Tyler Wilson and Andi Gladwin and the book ‘Jack Parker’s 52 Memories’ looks gorgeous and is filled with fabulous material. He would be proud. Secondly, Keith Fields showed me a fabulous prediction effect using a Chinese menu. It absolutely nailed me, as it did the others he showed it to. Look out for it when he releases it. Finally, the toast-monster Noel Qualter gave me a great gift – his iDeck. When you see him perform this you are in for a treat. It is clever, amusing, topical and fooling. There aren’t many tricks you can say that about!

Final verdict: a great convention, featuring an eclectic mix of talent and with an atmosphere that promotes sessioning, sharing and drinking. Amazing! See you there next year…

© Mark Elsdon, February 2008


Photos by Rob James. Top to bottom: Chad Long, Michael Vincent, Alan Hudson, Tom Stone.