Roy Davenport reflects on his award-winning Magic Kingdom in North Walsham
Tell us about your personal background.
I am 43. I was born in London and went to a Scottish boarding school. I met my wife Anne at the Mount View Theatre School in north London. We moved to Norfolk after I did a summer season at the end of the pier in Cromer and now live in North Walsham with our two children.
How did your interest in magic develop?
It's a passion that has been in the family since 1898 when my great grandfather Lewis Davenport, at the age of 16, started what is the oldest family-run magic shop in the world. My grandfather George then took over the shop allowing my great-grandfather to travel the world performing magic in some of the biggest theatres.
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My grandfather still practised magic as well and was once invited to a party at Sandringham performing in front of the young princesses Elizabeth and Margaret.
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How did you start performing?
My mother Betty took on the business in 1962 while my father Fergus had a 'proper' job and that's how I was brought up. I was serving behind the counter from the age of six and selling tricks by demonstrating them. It was a great place to learn magic.
The shop is still trading in Charing Cross, London, now run by my brother Bill. My aunt and uncle run a magic shop in Glasgow.
How did your career develop?
I won the senior title of British Magical Champion at the age of 15 and have performed all over Europe as well as the US. I spent nine months afloat performing on the QE2.
I am what is technically known as a manipulator, doing sleight of hand on stage, using anything from cards and coins to billiard balls.
How did the idea of a magic museum come about?
It was my father's. As a family we had amassed the largest collection in Europe focusing on magic and allied crafts, filling 6,000sq ft of warehousing. He started work on it in 1982, sorting through the collection and looking at various sites.
I took over in 2000, but as a busy magician we did not finally open until 2013.
Why North Walsham?
We are pefectly placed here, 10 minutes out of Cromer, officially part of the Broads and only a hop, skip and jump away from Great Yarmouth. North Norfolk District Council could not have been more helpful.
How have things gone?
To date we have invested over £1m of family funds and obtained a grant of £70,000 from the Rural Development Programme for England.
We have a core staff of six people and on busy days there can be 20 people working here.
We doubled visitor numbers last year compared with our first season and have reached a sustainable level.
Coach party business is growing all the time and I am confident we will double visitor numbers again. My aim is to exceed 50,000 visitors a year.
What are your plans?
We have added new attractions for this season to keep families occupied before they go on their museum tour in groups, seeing magic through the ages performed and ending up with a magic show in the theatre.
We have worked hard to develop our party bookings and can cater for up to 150 people seated for dinner.
We have tailored curriculum-based activities and plan to develop our work with schools.
I have given over 100 talks at WIs and other groups and we are reaping tremendous rewards from that.