Last night I had the pleasure of seeing Derren Brown talk about his new book, Confessions of a Conjuror at the Cheltenham Littary Festival. He didn’t perform any magic, but instead talked about his book which in part is an autobiographical account of his time working as a professional close-up magician.
The Centaur in Cheltenham is a large venue and was packed with about 2,000 people. Derren offered funny, captivating and as usual, incredibly intelligent answers posed to him about his performances and his new book. While I’m only one chapter in, the book itself seems to be an honest, yet slightly cynical perspective of performing close-up magic for a living. It’s clear that the bustle of the close-up magic environment doesn’t allow magicians to really stretch themselves dramatically and getting out of that environment seemed to allow Derren to push himself into much more interesting directions.
As a professional close-up magician, it’s incredibly interesting to hear Derren’s perspective. Just before he became famous, he wrote a couple of books for magicians and one of them in particular details this kind of discomfort that he had being a close-up magician. Those books are now incredibly difficult to get hold of, but really offer a different perspective on being a close-up magician.
For now, I love performing close-up magic and don’t see myself changing direction. I’ve performed on stage and suchlike, but for me, the interaction and fun that I have with my audience in a close-up magic environment makes it the perfect type of performance for me.
Got a keen card player in the family and want to get them a unique gift? Here’s an idea: I’ll play cards with them and win … every single time; that’s a guarantee!
Even the best card players and casinos in the world can’t beat undetectable sleight of hand and card counting, so I’m willing to play against any card players and cheat my way to success (for fun, not profit!). One game that I often play takes this to the extreme as I allow the other player to choose every single action that I do (even allowing them to look at my cards), yet I still win, every time without even touching the cards!
Being cheated at cards for entertainment purposes (i.e. not for money) is a very fun, unique experience. So if you are thinking about hiring a sleight of hand magician for your party, I’d be happy to perform a close-up act that consists of some great magic, along with some gambling and card routines that involve me cheating my way to success in apparently extremely fair card games.
View my sleight of hand magician page for more details on this kind of magic.
I recently performed magic at a wedding in Cheltenham (see my Magician Cheltenham page), where I met a fantastic wedding photographer called Mark Chivers. His photos are amongst the best that have been taken of me at an event and he’s allowed me to post them here. Check out his wedding photographer website for more info.
Recently, I’ve been booking “Mystery Room” magic shows. The idea is that at various points during a party, small groups of people get invited into a room labeled “Surprise Room”. Only the organisers know what’s in the room; to everyone else, it’s a secret!
When each group get into the room, I perform ten or fifteen minutes of magic (maybe longer if there are less groups) and everyone gets to see great close-up magic performed in the perfect environment. At the end of the show, I remind everyone that what’s inside the room is a secret and shouldn’t be talked about until everyone has seen the show.
This is a great idea for house parties where it’s often busy and loud, making it difficult for people to really get to see close-up magic. In these scenarios, I normally end up performing very simple tricks because people can’t hear me very well. With the surprise room, however, everyone gets to see a magic show in exactly the same way that Hollywood stars get to see magic at the famous Magic Castle in LA.
I don’t charge any extra for mystery room shows than I do when I perform as a walkaround magician, so it’s definitely a great addition to your party!
For any magicians reading this, the secret room idea was pioneered by Alan Hudson and I think it’s a really great way for people to see magic.
Last weekend I returned to Hereford to perform close-up magic at a birthday party. This time, I performed at the Merton Hotel in the centre of Hereford.
There were about 75 people of all ages at the party and the audience were all incredibly nice. As some guests were standing in a reception room and others were sat at tables in another room, it gave me the perfect opportunity to perform both styles of magic that I enjoy. My job is to make sure everyone at a party has a great time, which is always helped when I’m having fun myself!
Here’s a brief extract of a really nice email that I received from the hosts of the incredibly successful party:
“Thank you for such wonderful entertainment last Saturday evening. Everyone enjoyed the magic… even those who do not normally want to watch! We had so many compliments about you and how good you were!”
—Sally and Paul, Hereford
If you’ve been waiting for years to see the BBC bring back magic on a Saturday night since Paul Daniels left our screens in 1994, I have good news for you! The BBC will soon start filming a new Saturday night prime-time show called The Magicians.
We’re stil waiting to hear who the magicians on the show will be. A couple of my friends auditioned for it, so I think it will be an interesting line-up. Whoever is on the show though, it’s great to see magic given a prime time slot again and I truly hope that the new series with show magic in a fun and interesting light and that it gets the respect that this art deserves. Knowing several members of the production crew, I’m certain that it’ll be a great show and am looking forward to seeing The Magicians on BBC 1!
If you go down to the bookstore today, you’ll sure have a big surprise.
Actually, you probably won’t, but I felt like it was a nice introduction to this blog post. If you do go to any major bookstore though, check out Magic: The Complete Course by Joshua Jay. It’s one of the biggest selling magic books of all time and features, amongst other magicians … me! The author published a short biography of me (calling me a “modern master”), alongside magicians such as David Blaine, David Copperfield and a couple of well known magicians. It’s obvious that I have no place alongside those great magicians, but I’m certainly very proud to be featured!
You can learn a trick of mine in the book where you are able to correctly predict somebody’s favourite subject from their schooldays … while talking to them over the phone! It’s a fun trick to perform and over the past year, I’ve met several people at gigs that have performed the trick, which is always a great compliment.
If you don’t speak English (which I assume you do, if you can read this!), the book will also shortly be available in French, Russian and Chinese!
Tomorrow I leave to spend a couple of days at a conference called The International Brotherhood of Magicians British Ring Conference. Quite a mouthful for a name, but it’s basically a bunch of magicians doing tricks for each other!
The International Brotherhood of Magicians (IBM for short) is a worldwide association, a bit like The Magic Circle but on a lot bigger scale. Their logo is on the left, which contains people shaking hands, a little naked ice-skating man and some acorns. I’m not really sure what it means, but trust me, it’s all official!
The conference alternates between Southern and Northern places, making it a little frustrating for those of us who live in the Midlands and have to travel wherever it is! This year it’s in Eastbourne, which is the perfect place as it tends to mainly attract elderly, retired magicians who use this as their annual meet up!
Luckily for me though, many of my professional close-up magician friends will be there too so we’ll all have a great time drinking, eating and probably getting into a little mischief like we normally do!
It’s not all fun, fun, fun though. I’ll be leaving the conference a couple of days early to fill a few engagements that I’ve had booked for a couple of months. I enjoy conventions a lot but it’s even more fun performing magic than it is talking about it!
Yesterday I performed at a wedding in Cheltenham. It’s always nice to perform locally (I live in Gloucester; just a few minutes from Cheltenham) and it’s nice to perform in a venue that I’ve been to before. I worked at the Pittville Pump Room, a well known Cheltenham wedding and function venue.
I was asked to perform at this wedding after a performance I did for Sozo Design in Cheltenham. It’s a great pleasure when someone sees me perform and immediately asks me to be part of their event and that’s exactly what happened here!
I performed magic during the wedding breakfast, taking about two hours to perform for the ten tables. Everyone was a lot of fun and I noticed a couple of people from the Sozo party, so it was great to see some familiar faces … I have a separate performance set for people I’ve met before, so I was well prepared to show them something different from the last party!
Tonight I’m working locally again; performing in Hereford. More on that later!
I meet a lot of people that are surprised that I’m not like “most magicians” and to me, that’s a very positive thing. Here are the common misconceptions that people seem to have about magicians:
1. Magicians all old, bow tie-wearing, balding men.
Not all magicians are like that. I admit that a lot of them are; but I’m certainly not. I’m young, wear nice suits and still have a full head of hair (appart from a small amount of receding that I don’t like to talk about).
2. Magicians are for kids.
If you’ve never seen a group of adults gasp in amazement at close-up magic, you’re in for a real treat. Almost everyone likes magic when it’s performed well.
3. Hiring a magician is incredibly expensive.
You’ll be surprised at how inexpensive hiring a magician can be. Get in touch for prices.
4. Magicians are cocky and generally unliked.
That’s just a small number of magicians giving a bad name to the rest of us. We’re a fun, likeable bunch who perform original, funny magic without being cocky, insulting or – dare I say it – pervy.
5. A magician’s hand is quicker than the eye.
OK, so that one’s true. But ssssh.
6. Magicians can’t count.
Damn. I guess you’re right about that one.