"Flying to Holland always reminds me of my first flight there in 1946 to attend the First International Congres of Magicians sponsored privately by Henk Vermeyden. I was incidentally the first British Dealer to Exhibit on the Continent since before the War.
Arrived safely on Thursday, August 7th. and made my way to Vermeyden's Studio. Henk and his chief assistant welcomed me and we chatted on things magical and the coming Congres. On hearing that Henk was travelling to Breda that evening by car, I was fortunately able to cancel my hotel booking and travel with him.
An extraordinary ride it was too, at least from a Britisher's eyes, for in nearly three hours travelling we did not go up a single hill of any kind. The country is all dead flat—and traversed the whole way by perfectly straight dual carriage way highroads on which there is no speed limit.
We arrived eventually—in pouring rain, and drove straight to the house of Mr. J. De Nijs, whom I discovered was the son of the original famous performer, Ten-1-Chi. This is a story on it's own, however, and more of this later. There were several people in the house, making night before preparations. Soon however I left them to it and departed for my hotel . . . and bed.
The next morning I found that my bedroom was right opposite to that of Horace Masterman of Dewsbury, an old friend, and joint organiser with Harold Beaumont of Huddersfield of those splendid one day Conventions held by the Mystic 7 Club. Together we explored the town, which is old and very picturesque. Incidentally the reason for holding the Convention here was that the town is celebrating it's anniversary. Founded by William of Orange (before he took a sight-seeing trip to England) the townsfolk have a lot to be proud of, for never have I seen such a lot of what must be extremely old property, in such a wonderful state of repair and preservation. The Dutch are, of course famous for their cleanliness and their homes, and they certainly look after their property. All the streets had vied with each other in decorations, and these had obviously been designed by real artists. The predominent colour everywhere was of course Orange, and even the flowers in the beds in some of the main streets matched exactly the colour.
Registrations commenced at three p.m. in the Town Hall, and I was soon chatting to many old friends not seen since I was last here in 1949. Judging by the Programme, there was a full list of events planned for us, with several unusual features.
At seven p.m. we foregathered at the "De Kroon" Hotel to welcome the arrival of "Merlin", an impersonation of the old necromancer of the Court of King Arthur. Presently arrived a procession of horse drawn open carriages, with footmen in uniform, and Merlin emerged from the Hotel dressed in the traditional garb with tall conical black hat, and black silver starred robe and long star tipped wand. His make up and wig were perfect, and he did, indeed, look the part of the venerable sorcerer!
He was wildly acclaimed by the town folk, thousands of whom lined the streets of the town, and proceded by a large silver band the procession started.
In the following carriage, in morning dress, with his beautiful wife came the President, Mr. ). De Nijs, following by Mr. and Mrs. Bill Stickland with Mr. and Mrs. Geoffrey Buckingham, then M. and M. Rene Jadot and two more carriages. Then magicians motor cars joined on, and then the magicians themselves.
In and out of the twisted, winding streets we went. Police on bicycles kept order . . . people laughed, clapped or cheered as the fancy took them. Cameras clicked . . . Cine cameras purred and it was all great fun.
After a time however just when one thought that now they would finish . . . no, they went round still another corner. Half way along the route, however, we came by a large car whose owner was a friend of Stewart Revers (who deals in magic in Brussels) and this heaven sent opportunity was too good to miss, and thus it was that Stewart, Horace and myself finished the rest of the way standing either side of the car on the running board and holding onto the luggage grid on the roof, much to the amusement of the onlookers.
Finally they came to the park, and here again there were crowds to watch. To a reserved enclosure came the magicians to seats set in a semi circle, on a lawn surrounded by huge trees. On a platform with a microphone, President De Nijs gave a welcoming speech to all present and then came Henk Vermeyden, resplendent also in morning dress, and he too gave one of his usual witty and pointed addresses, and performed the Opening Ceremony.
This was followed by Merlin performing his own brand of Wizardry. Three large and ancient looking jars were emptied of water, but kept refilling at intervals during the act. A large drawer type box, proved empty, was opened at the other end to find a big quantity of silks, and finally a large frame on stand was covered with a paper panel front and back . . . only to be suddenly burst by a dozen doves, who at once took wing and soared away over the treetops—no doubt glad that that trick was over! And so with the National Anthem the proceedings closed. Having met up our dear friend Bab, and "Spook" (Mrs.) Nienhuis, of Amsterdam, and Gerard Eras, from Tilburg, we wended our way across the park to see the re-construction of the ancient town as it was so long ago. Amongst a terrific array of growing flowers, were concealed lights, giant mushrooms all lighted outlined the patches, and trees, lakes and bridges were festooned in thousands of lights—predominantly orange.
After dinner at an Indian Restaurant, we went to the Orange Pavilion, a really tremendous hall where the magicians and public alike were sitting at tables, drinking and showing pocket tricks. There must have been well over one thousand people, in the centre of the hall was a dance floor, and from time to time, the proceedings were stopped to announce a performance on the platform. The public were easy prey to the enthusiastic close up workers, who were still going strong when we left at midnight.
As I write this on Saturday morning, there is a series of competitions at the Military Academy, so I must go and see how it is progressing.
It is impossible in these notes to give a detailed report of every act, but amongst those taking part were:
Ad de Lunes appeared with a flash, then stick to Silk and Bouquet, following by Cigarette Manipulations, Billiard Balls . . . eventually holding 12, Sympathetic Silks.
He was followed by Anne Hardu who sang in French as she worked. Mutilated Sunshade was followed by Flash Flower, Cut and Restored Belt. Removing the band of her pillbox type hat and unwrapping paper revealed the Tambo Rings and this gave eventually a giant silk production. Flying Gramophone Record followed and Production Flag to finish.
Top Left. Merlin sets out in his carriage. Top Centre: Merlin with Mrs. J. De Nijs and Henk Vermeyden. Midd'e Left: Merlin performs in the open air. Bottom Left: A9vara—The Drunk Act. Top Right: Ad de Lünes second pr.'ze Manipulation. Bottom Right: Anne Hardu, and Centre: Hedri and Lisette, Grand Prizewinners.
Eade Shuis gave various manipulations, then milk to cone and back. Cut and Restored Bicycle Tube, Diminuendo, Cups and Balls with liquid from the last cup.
Of those acts I saw, you will be able to judge the style from this description of three of them.
Others appearing were:— Van der Linden, Oldenbech, Alvara & Partner, Hedes.
Most of these acts were exceptionally well presented by immaculately dressed performers. I would like to pay a tribute to the present standard of magic in Holland, which has progressed tremendously in the last few years.
On Saturday Evening the Dealers' Exhibition was held in the Foyer of the vast Concordia Theatre, and later a Ball commenced where previously all the seats had been removed. I sold my goods very successfully, arrived back just in time for the Cabaret.
LES MOREE were first on—a very good double Act, then ALVARA presenting an original type of drunk act, followed by VAN EMBDEN. This last act was unusual, and announced as a serious act it eventually developed into a riot of laughter.
HORACE MASTERMAN (of Dewsbury) then presented several mental items which registered extremely well.
On Sunday morning the Originality Competition was held, and the most exciting illusion I have seen in many years was a Knife Throwing Act. A girl was strapped on 6 ft. Target which revolved slowly. The performer showed a stand of long sharp 1 2" Knives, and he threw one at the girl ... it just missed her ear! ! She /linched as it came . . . and I shivered. In all about 12 knives were thrown, all round her . . .a terrific, sensational illusion !
In the afternoon a Close-up Session followed by a cold meal with speeches, presentations of bouquets etc., to the President's wife, in which the British contingent were represented.
(Continued on Page 143).
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