By CHRIS HILL
Monday, January 7, 2013
From amazing illusions to mystifying mind tricks, the traditional appeal of magic is being kept alive across our region – by a dedicated array of entertainers who are equally as diverse as their acts.
The Anglian Magic Society was founded more than 25 years ago and meets every month at the White Horse Pub in Trowse, near Norwich, to share ideas and discuss the latest techniques and props.
But for its December meeting, the group opened its doors to put on a show, giving the performers a new audience and introducing the public to the wizardry of their local magicians.
The society’s membership number fluctuates around 45, with a spectrum of ages ranging from a talented schoolgirl to an experienced octogenarian.
Some perform professionally, some just for fun. But their diverse experience spans a magical world of clubs, weddings, variety shows, TV and cruise ships, with acts including close-up card tricks, sleight of hand and mental manipulation.
The society’s oldest member is 80-year-old Ned Potts, from Hempnall, who has been a magician for 55 years and has appeared on Anglia TV shows in the past, as well as performing in clubs around the country
“We’re very proud of our little society,” he said. “I think magic is like a brotherhood, and the lovely thing is that it is a great leveller as well.
“Having said that it is not a selfish group. We exchange ideas and that’s where the club aspect comes in. You very rarely see comedians exchanging jokes, but here we share ideas and help the younger ones coming up.”
The youngest member is 12-year-old Katherine Keogh, from Attleborough, who left her audience dumbfounded with a levitation trick on her Barbie doll.
The Wymondham College student honed her performance, and her comedy patter, during talent shows on family holidays in Devon.
“It was just fun looking at people’s expressions,” she said. “It is harder here, though because you know everyone is really watching you.”
Katherine also recently performed her act during an audition for TV competition Britain’s Got Talent. She said: “It went well, although I’ve been told I’m not allowed to give too much away.”
David Carter, 60, from Honingham, outside Norwich, is a semi-professional magician who juggles his performances with his day job as an electronics engineer.
“I have only been doing it four or five years,” he said. “A lot of guys can make it professionally, but I have probably left it a little late now. So I just want to enjoy what I’m doing while I’m doing it.
“I show the tricks to my friends and family before I go out to perform them in public. They get to the point where they know what’s coming next, even if they’ve not seen it. They get very suspicious. But if you can perform in from of these guys (the society members) and impress them, then the general public won’t see how it is done either.”
Top billing during the show was given to international star Chris North, 64, from Bungay, who has been a professional for 44 years – a career which has taken him around the world on cruise ships, and on several TV shows.
“I am one of the original products of TV talent shows,” he said, “I was on New Faces in 1977 and I won the national ‘club act of the year’ award the next year as the best speciality act in Britain.
“It opened lots of doors. I went on from being a ‘not very much money per night’ act to a ‘lots of money per night’ act. I did about 15 national TV shows, including The Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club and Tom O’Connor’s London Night Out.
Mr North said his act had now evolved from illusions to “mind-reading and mentalism” and he said he was happy to use his experience to help the society’s aspiring professionals.
“For me, this is a social thing and I can give advice to some of the younger members, because I have been there and done it,” he said.
“People ask what it is like to do a cruise ship or a TV show, and I can tell them. They ask: ‘Should I turn professional?’ – and that’s a difficult thing to ask. When I did New Faces, 21 million people used to watch it because there were only three TV channels.
“It is a different game now and with so many different options you need a different way to sell yourself. There is so much entertainment at home these days, and not so much live entertainment, which is part of the problem.”
Although magicians are notoriously protective of their stage secrets, club secretary Kevin Craig, from North Elmham, near Dereham, said most of the illusions and conjuring tricks have been published in books or on the internet.
“Most of it is out there so, if you wanted to go and study how these tricks work, you could,” he said. “But that would spoil the fun for the audience. There are certain effects I don’t even tell my wife because it would spoil it for her.”
Philip Dann, the society’s president and a master puppeteer, agreed. He said: “We won’t be giving any secrets away tonight. It is a closed shop, but our members feed off each other’s ideas.”
Adam Strange, from Norwich, combines comedy, magic and balloon modelling. Although he always harboured a love of magic he took the opportunity to turn professional when he was made redundant seven years ago.
He said sharing ideas was an important element of the society’s appeal.
“You have to show a genuine interest in magic before you get into the society, but once you are in the door you can learn a lot,” he said. “There are so many tricks available on DVDs and on the internet. You could look up a trick in five minutes if you want, but that does not make you a magician. It is all about the way it is done and the interaction with the audience.”
Sean Goodman, from Ormesby, near Great Yarmouth, is a full-time professional specialising in psychological magic and “mind-reading” tricks – but he said he could always learn new tips from his fellow society members.
“If you go with the attitude that you know it all, then you’ll never learn anything at all,” he said. “You always pick up little tricks and techniques. You are always learning, and that is what is great about coming to a society like this.”
The show was compered by committee member Steve “The Tricky Twister” Majes, who said: “We are a friendly society to encourage magic. The Magic Circle is a bit more elite, but we need clubs like this around towns and cities to really encourage young people or middle-aged people to get into magic.
“We don’t want to scare people away, but we are a protective society as well.
“We won’t tell a young member everything in one week. They have to earn it. We don’t give our secrets away willy-nilly.
“Anyone can come along to an open meeting and show us a few tricks or audition, and if we see some kind of spark or talent there we can invite them to become a member.”
For more information, see www.anglianmagicsociety.co.uk. For membership enquiries, contact firstname.lastname@example.org