New Headquarters for Blackpool Magicians' Club
Reported by Peter Eldin
On 13th November several hundred people attended the official opening of the new, impressive headquarters of the Blackpool Magician’s Club. The opening ceremony, the obligatory cutting of the ribbon, was performed by well-loved comedian and Honorary Life President of the club, Ken Dodd O.B.E.
The opening ceremony was followed by a show in the headquarters’ theatre. First on was the ageless Mark Raffles with his wonderful Linking Rings routine in which the rings take on a life of their own and link to everything in sight - including Mark’s big toe!
Next was veteran ventriloquist Neville King who was hilarious with his drunk old man dummy and a very funny routine involving three members of the audience.
Arthur Casson, who compered the show, and who was later to be presented with honorary life membership of the club, then introduced the manic Clive Webb and his equally manic son, Danny Adams. It was a crazy act, with lots of sight gags and mad magic, that defies description. Danny works hard and gets the laughs and I feel he has a great future in the business.
After a short interval there was a change from magic with superb guitar playing and excellent singing from multi-talented Paul Dobie.
The final act was Amethyst with a mixture of illusions and smaller magic. They opened with the baffling production of Annette from an empty cardboard box. That got me scratching my head and there came even more scratching for solutions when Danny walked through a thick metal plate.
Smaller magic included colour changing records, a silk vanish and reappearance and the drink in newspaper. Each time Annette went off stage she came back wearing a different costume, culminating in a black two piece outfit for the final illusion. For this Annette entered a two tier box and a large tube was pushed through the lower part before the top half was dismantled. The effect is very baffling for there seemed to be no place for Annette to be but when the box was reassembled and the tube removed she stepped out completely unfazed by the experience - great stuff and a great finish to the show.
Then came a break for the free buffet (there was also a free bar!) and a chance to chat with old friends and make a few new ones in a friendly and relaxed atmosphere before the great man himself, Ken Dodd took to the floor. This man is an irrepressible comic genius and a great national treasure who, in addition to being Britain’s best loved comedian, is a great fan of magic.
At odd times during the evening I managed to take time to take a look around the new headquarters which is hidden behind a building in Sherbourne Road - the actual address being Rear of No.1, Sherbourne Road, North Shore, Blackpool FY1 2PW.
The building was formerly the Claremont Theatre Club which was founded by entrepreneur David Hall when he bought an old warehouse in 1988. For the next twenty years it was a popular venue but in February this year David, with whom I had along chat, decided to close due to increased running costs, government regulations and the nationwide ban on smoking in public buildings.
Within hours of the announced closure the indefatigable Derek Lever contacted David Hall with the idea that Blackpool Magicians’ Club could be interested in converting the property into a tailor-made headquarters.
David told me that both parties got on well together and the property changed hands quickly. Members and associates of the club then began refurbishing the premises. It is now a neat self contained headquarters adorned with magic posters, photographs and other items. There are display cabinets housing a wide variety of magic props, a library section, a magic shop, a close-up room, a bar and a theatre. The bar area even houses an indoor waterfall!
The whole is certainly astounding and the membership and associates should be proud of their achievement. In addition to being a meeting place for magicians the potential for lectures, shows, group visits and other events is extremely exciting and it will be interesting to see how it all develops. The opening of this new headquarters was a great day for the Blackpool Magicians’ Club and a great day for magic as a whole. Long may it prosper.
© Peter Eldin, November 2008