Session Convention Interview
Andi and Rob are the organisers of the Session Convention. Since 2006 they have organised this intimate close-up magic convention in Gloucester and built up a strong fan base. We are very greatful they took time out from their busy schedules to answer a few questions for MCG.
In 2006 you held the first Session. Why did you do it?
Andi: The primary reason we held the convention is simple: to showcase some of the great magicians that we’ve met during our travels. We’ve both traveled to a lot of magic conventions across the globe and have met some fantastic magicians that aren’t really known in Europe. So, essentially, The Session was our way of spending time with friends from abroad and helping them break into the European market. It’s a different rationale than most conventions, but based on the response from our attendees, it seems to work.
Rob: When you attend a lot of magic conventions you can’t help but think how things could be done better. After going to TSD and MAGIC Live! In the US, it made me and Andi realise that virtually everyone who runs conventions in the UK sticks to the same tried-and-tested formula. We knew it would be a challenge putting an event on but the idea was to put on something that we personally would like to go to and hopefully everyone that went would ‘get it’ and have a great time. I also remember I had some friends who ran a big convention and I would tell them about great new acts I had seen and they would just stare at me blankly and then go and book someone completely overexposed or just plain not-that-good. That was very frustrating.
What were your biggest obstacles to overcome in order to put on The Session?
Andi: Working with Rob! That’s a joke but it’s somewhat true. Rob is a busy full time magician and I work long hours in my day job in IT. Trying to find times when we’re both free to organise the convention is extremely difficult.
Rob: There’s a lot of work to be done that people don’t think about. I didn’t become a professional magician from a love of admin work.
What do you feel is missing from other conventions you had been to?
Andi: In my mind, each convention has a few small things missing – and those things are different for each convention. Most conventions worry about getting as many registrations as possible, mainly because it’s good for their bank balance. Most also tend to cater for the lowest common denominator. The Session is aimed at intermediate to advanced magicians and because of that the whole learning experience becomes a lot more worthwhile to those that attend.
Rob: People need to step back and think about how to improve their conventions. Try and make it a better experience for everyone who goes. Organisers in the UK are scared to take risks, whether that be upping the registration price, trying new ideas or booking new acts.
The Session sold out months beforehand – why do you think that happened?
Andi: We treated the whole convention like a proper industry event. We didn’t just print a few fliers on our home computer or get a 12 year old to design a website – we actually spent money on getting professionals to market the convention. I think that has been part of our success – so far our advertising reflected everything we intended the convention to be.
Rob: We also deliberately limited registrations to keep the event intimate. Our motives for running it are not monetary so that didn’t really matter. I think everyone who fitted in to our target demographic who saw the line up realised that this was something not be missed.
What was the first convention you went to and what are your memories of it?
Andi: My first was the Reading Junior Day in 1997. The first lecturer on the day was Ali Bongo and I still remember most of the tricks that he taught. That day was a good learning curve for me – I learnt what happened at conventions, how to behave around other magicians and of course, I learnt lots of great magic.
Rob: I think it was a Supreme Super Day somewhere. I can remember seeing Ken De Courcy and Janet Clare do close-up. Terry Herbert lectured and at one point David Berglas got up on stage and spoke about seeing David Copperfield’s show. I think it was around 1992-3.
Do you lecture for other magicians?
Andi: Sometimes. I’ve lectured at the well known TSD convention in Florida, Magic Live! in Las Vegas, at the first Session convention and at a few magic clubs. By the time this article goes live I’ll be on a 14 date lecture tour of the States.
Rob: No. Perhaps in the future.
Which 5 magicians would lecture at your dream convention?
Which magician would you have loved to see lecture but never had the
Andi: Ed Marlo. He didn’t really give too many lectures outside of Chicago, but I would have likely traveled to America just to see him lecture.
Rob: Dai Vernon in the Fifties or Sixties. As someone who was quite instrumental in popularizing the magic lecture as we know it, it would have been interesting to see how he went about it.
About Rob James and Andi Gladwin…Rob James is a successful close up magician who works all over the UK at weddings, private parties and weddings. Andi publishes magic books about card tricks. Interview by Noel