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" Come on now, speak up—tell the nice man where it hurts!"
The 26th Annual Convention of the Blackpool Magic Circle attracted some 1,200 registrants and their new venue, the Winter Gardens, was a considerable improvement over the old location. The dealers — about 25 — were well provided for; stands arranged horse-shoe fashion ensured all had equal prominence — noticeably missing were Ken Brooke and Davenports. Trevor Lewis lectured on children's magic and there were plenty of 'names' on the Gala Show — Fred Kaps, Howard de Courcy , Otto Wessley and Christa, Van Buren and Greta, Somerville Marionettes, Cody and Oran (rope spinning and sharpshooting), Scott Christian and Family, The Wychwoods and Ian Kent. An excellent bill with plenty of variety, the performers having the luxury of a proper stage and the audience comfortable seats. Food and drinks available most of the time.
So far so good — an unqualified success, but now the not so good news for those whose chief interest lies in close-up magic, and that means readers of this magazine.
There were two sessions, the second being a repeat performance by the same four performers. If we assume that two-thirds of the total number of registrants watched this event — a low estimate — it means that there was an average of one hundred spectators at each table, of which about 30 would be able to see in comfort. Such a situation would have been unacceptable to spectators watching the Gala Show and would have caused something of a riot.
It was something of an ordeal for the performers having to do eight shows, an experience something akin to being on a treadmill.
Starting about 30 minutes late the first performer at our table was Fred Kaps with cards and coins and in the latter included the effect wherein a coin held in a spectator's hand changed places with the works inside his wrist watch. In spite of the large audience and performing seated he succeeded to a large extent in getting over close-up material, which was, as always, superbly performed. Gordon Bruce with excellent card effects, also seated, suffered most from the conditions, his tricks requiring that the attention of the spectators be directed to cards lying on the table much of the time leaving little opportunity to 'project' beyond the first couple of rows. Bob Read next — as usual performing material from his publications — both tricks and patter. Here we saw the advantage of performing standing when in this situation which is a lesson in itself to those contemplating building a close-up routine. Andrew O'Connor — by far the youngest member of the team, also on his feet, amongst other material used giant cards and no doubt most could follow with relative ease the effects performed.
Should it be thought that the above observations are a 'stirring' operation the assumption would be correct. They are made with the sole objective of making organisers of similar events aware that there is an ever increasing interest in close-up magic and more consideration should be given to this aspect of magic both when budgeting and making arrangements for its performance.
In respect of the above event the organisers are to be congratulated on their efforts by providing proper tables with a suitable covering. Jugs of water for liquid refreshment were available for the performers who were properly introduced to the audience. All these amenities were suggested as essential to the smooth running of such events by Bert Graham in his article entitled 'A Plea' which appeared in Pabular Vol.3 No. 10. A further excellent idea was a table shielded with a large screen behind each table giving cover for the performers to set up, but the closed circuit television proved to be a waste of time.
All the above was fine but the real problem remains. How to arrange matters so that such a large number of registrants can see close-up magic in comfort. Not all who attend are particularly interested in close-up magic and a partial solution could be to provide for them an alternative attraction to run concurrently. This could be lectures not likely to be of interest to close-up performers and possibly a show by the dealers each showing one speciality, thus substantially reducing the number attending the close-up show.
Even with the above or similar ideas it would still require at least a dozen tables and two or more sessions to enable the event to be one which could be truly called 'close-up' magic. Whatever arrangements are made there is no way it is possible for every performer to be seen to advantage by all the registrants when they number a thousand plus. Lastly there is no possible way in which only four performers can satisfactorily entertain so large a number of spectators.
During the interval of the Gala Paul Daniels received an illuminated message to Ken Brooke signed by the Conventioneers from top comedian and magic nut Ken Dodd. A nice thought by the Blackpool boys.
The performer displays a pack of playing cards. Fanning them faces towards himself, he removes a single card, which he holds with its back towards the audience. The balance is put aside.
A spectator is asked to freely name any playing card. The performer hands the card he is holding to another spectator. Addressing the first participant, the performer says, "Sir, I let you exercise a totally free and independent choice in the naming of a playing card. Is that correct?" The spectator concurs. "With this freedom of choice," continues the performer, "you elected to name the two of hearts."
Turning to the second participant, the performer states, "Madam, you are holding my prediction would you inform the audience as to precisely what card I predicted?"
She says, "The two of hearts."
The card taken out of the pack at the start of the routine is actually a blank card, whose back matches that of the rest of the pack. On the face of this card, prior to the performance, you have written:
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Magick is the art and practice of moving natural energies to effect needed or wanted change. Magick is natural, there is absolutely nothing supernatural about it. What is taught here are various techniques of magick for beginners. Magick is natural and simple and the techniques to develop abilities should be simple and natural as well. What is taught on this site is not only the basics of magick, but the basics of many things.