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My First Ever Convention

When the train pulled into Blackpool I had just about memorised the map of how to get from the train station to the guest house. It was about 2 inches on the well folded parchment in my diary, this translated to about a two mile walk, and there was no way I was getting a taxi – despite carrying a plethora of magic books, cards, rope and blank note pads in my rucksack. Six pounds! That?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s one packet trick I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢d have to deny myself. And I am Scottish?¢‚Ǩ¬¶

A half hour later I trudged into my guest house wondering how many magicians had or would perform a similar trip that day. I knew next to nobody, and I had travelled down from Edinburgh all by myself. It was only natural that after I unpacked I should hang around the hotel lobby in the hope that some guy wearing a top hat and holding a bunny would wave and introduce himself to me. At least then I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢d have an acquaintance to travel to the Winter Gardens with. No such luck. Two cups of tea later I returned to my room, filled my backpack and grabbed my golden ticket, it was time to enter my first ever magic convention, Blackpool 2005.

I made it to the venue in ten minutes flat and sauntered into the reception. I was greeted by two of the most unbouncerlike bouncers I had ever encountered, I thought that they must be magic bouncers. ?¢‚ǨÀúHave you got your ticket there mate??¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ I scrabbled to the side compartment of my back and pulled out the shiny ticket, he nodded his head and I walked in.

The Blackpool convention is held in a marvellous arena right in the centre of Blackpool. If you have my lack of sense of direction, just about everyone who lives here will know of the venue and point you in the right direction. When you make it there you?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ll be hit by the sheer size of the place. Immediately on arrival you can see the theatre to the left of the Winter Gardens, but the theatre outside gives no indications of the enormity of the inside.

Passing into the reception I immediately knew I was in the presence of magicians. The pub to my right was full of groups of people dressed in dark coloured garb riffling bikes from one hand to the other. Through the cigi smoke you could make out the reserved acknowledgements that magicians give other magicians when they see something that impresses or (G-d forbid) fools them. No shrieks or screams, just a great atmosphere, created by the desire of all in our art to share what devious methods they have concocted prior to the convention.

I had only ever been to Maths and Physics conventions before ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú on a professional basis through my research post. The mood was different here and the age range, children to pensioners, milled around all brought together by their love of magic.

?¢‚Ǩ?ìShyness is nice, but shyness can stop you from doing all the things in life you want to.?¢‚Ǩ¬ù Ask, Morrissey

I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢m a rather introverted chap, and am nervous around people I don?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t know so I did the only thing I could think of in this situation, I went to the bar, bought a pint, and talked to the barman about the weather. This didn?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t last long. The crowd at Blackpool are a real friendly bunch. Within five minutes I found myself in a conversation with a group of other magicians all performing routines they had learned or devised themselves. I was totally fascinated; I had never been around so many that shared my passion for magic and performing. The environment was such that even the most recluse amongst us could not shun the limelight and show everyone his latest twist on the double lift.

This really set the mood for the rest of the convention. Despite being here in Blackpool all by myself, I felt that I could approach someone I didn?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t know and always have something in common with them of which to speak about.

After signing up, and meeting more people in the queue, I flicked through the program in order to plan my day. The line-up was great, Jay Sankay, Bill Malone, Doc Eason were all high on my list. Not only are they great magicians but also great performers, I knew that even if I didn?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t see anything I could use I would enjoy the performance. I circled the lectures I wanted and then proceeded to what many call the highlight of these conventions ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú the Dealer?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s Hall.

Parting with my hard-earned cash is something I hate doing, but I was like a Kid in a candy shop. Even my canny, Scottish, money-clenching nature could not prevent me from some silly spending in my first hour down there amongst the dealers?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ stands. Once again, my excitement spilled out of me in the form of conversation, I met another Blackpool virgin at Steven Tucker?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s stall and we both made our way around the stalls, much of the time or jaw?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s dragging behind us due to the quality of magic on offer.

One hundred pounds later I found myself at my first lecture. As a scientist I was well prepared. I dug out my notepad and pen, put on my specs and immersed myself in my first ever magic lecture. And let me tell you that despite Einstein?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s theories on the matter, time moves a lot quicker in a magic lecture than it does in a Physics one. So Mr Sankey, lets see what you got?¢‚Ǩ¬¶

When the day is done, when all the lecture notes have been taken, when your bag is full of expensive effect you will never use, and your head is full of ideas from the garnished performances of the day ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú there is only one place to go to relax, socialise and have fun in Blackpool. And no I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢m not talking about the Phantasy Club. The only pub in Blackpool that allows magicians to drink until 5am, and anyone that?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s been there before will know it well. That?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s right ladies and Gents ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢m talkin?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ ?¢‚ǨÀúbout ?¢‚ǨÀúThe Ruskin?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢.

Even a first timer like me had heard from the throngs of people at the convention that this is the place to go and chat magic. It?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s not really all that great from an outsider ping of view, a reasonably sized hotel/bar that can hold a couple hundred people at a push. However it?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s a must for all Blackpool revellers. I met many of the acts I had only hours previously seen adored by many in the lecture hall, in the Ruskin. I even bumped into Paul Zenon, (he?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s not as big in real life as you may think) of course I apologised, before quickly making my way to a new group of friends I had only just met at the bar.

It?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s a great way to end the day, a really jovial bar, submerged in the sound of cards being cut, sprung, flipped, shot, riffled, turned, dropped and being picked up again. I eventually made it back to my guest house at 2am, having made countless friends and having had a great day.

Next morning I got up at 8am for breakfast. Much to my surprise the hotel was full of magicians all eating their breakfast too. I sat down, ordered a Full English (eggs sunny side up) and started chatting to another chap named Dave. After Breakfast we both made out way to the Winter Gardens. It isn?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t that long a walk when you have someone to walk it with.

So I made it in for 9am, despite the heavy drinking session with the boys, good going I think, and clocked the first lecture. I went down to the dealer?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s hall after the lecture and before lunch, again, this time more wary and money conscious. It?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s a good idea to go round with a pad and paper, taking notes of effects your like, where they are and how much they cost. I managed my money a lot better when I did this and would recommend it to all. I eventually made it along to Pat Page?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s stall. His stall is always, always bust. Pat is a great performer and puts on a show for all and sundry. We?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢d met a few months earlier on ?¢‚ǨÀúFaking It?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ but I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢d had a haircut and he took a couple minutes to recognise me. He?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s a legend, and I recommend any Blackpool first timers going to his stand and watching him perform, you get all his experience for free, especially if you dig deep and buy something.

The entire weekend build to a climax on Sunday night ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú the Gala show. This is a collection of the greatest magical performers in the world brought together on stage in Blackpool for a magic feast. This year Vegas illusionist Rick Thomas topped a fantastic bill with his award winning and very visual magic show. It was a great spectacle to end a fantastic weekend. It really inspired me to work hard and hopefully achieve the same level of success as Rick.

Another few hundred pounds later I found myself penniless and at the end of a great weekend. Just as well, I couldn?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t afford another day of this! As my first introduction to a magic convention, Blackpool was great. Everyone is friendly and very generous with their time. You will come away with new friends, even if, like me, you went along knowing no-one. When I returned home, I immediately went online and booked a ticket for the next year. It is a great weekend and I recommend it to anyone with any interest in magic whatsoever. It was my first ever convention and I came away with loads ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú advice, effects and renewed enthusiasm for magic, but most importantly many new friends.


About the author….Kevin McMahon is a professional magician based in Scotland. He started performing magic in 2005 when he appeared on reality TV show ?¢‚ǨÀúFaking It?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢. Scientist-turned-magician, Kevin, performs at weddings, corporate events and private parties up and down the UK. His new stage show ?¢‚ǨÀúTricks I Have Learned Since Being On Telly?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ previews at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August 2006.