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Blackpool Magicians Convention 2007 – An Overview

Magic Conventions come in all guises, from intimate one day affairs run by local societies, to large scale multi day events such as Blackpool.

As someone who has helped put on Magic Conventions at my local society I am well aware how much work is involved and so before I start I would like to congratulate the Blackpool Magicians Club for yet another truly amazing event.

This years Convention had a few changes from previous years, some good and some (in my opinion) not so good. Either way the Convention committee should be congratulated for trying to keep it fresh.

The VIP Tickets
The first big change was the availability of a VIP ticket.

The VIP ticket cost an additional £20, for which you got everything the Gold card had to offer plus a few extras such as better seating for the Saturday and Sunday Shows, Additional Lectures, Additional Close-Up Sessions in a private area and an opportunity to meet and greet the stars.

I thought this was a terrible idea when I first heard about it. You see for me one of the brilliant aspects of Blackpool is that it is a place for magicians to meet magicians without any sort of elitism. In my experience of attending I have always found that if I see someone I don’t know who I want to talk to, I just go up to them and introduce myself. I have always found everyone to be extremely approachable, be it someone showing a snazzy new effect or it perhaps a hero from a book or DVD, either way I have seldom found any sort of snobbery. So to introduce the VIP tickets to me is a step in the wrong direction. It has the potential to turn the weekend into an ‘us and them’ environment which is one of the things that Blackpool is famous for not having.

Another so called advantage of the VIP ticket was the chance to see several lectures and close up sessions not available to everyone else. The problem here was that there were so many events going on at the same time, that if you saw one of these additional lectures then you had to miss something else, so the feeling was that you aren’t really getting anything extra, just the choice for something different. For example, I bet there were quite a few VIP ticket holders who would have preferred not to choose between the Julianna Chen lecture and one by Jay Sankey.

The VIP Only close up sessions were also reported to me as not being so great (by both the performers and the people that attended). I know the close up sessions in the Horse Shoe lounge were a little noisy at times, but at least it still felt intimate enough to be termed a close up session. There were far too many people attending the VIP close up sessions to make it anything more than a parlour/stage event which I guess would have been fine if the performers had been aware of this from the outset. Maybe this will change next year.

The only other advantage of the VIP ticket seemed to be better seats in the Opera House. As I was sitting way back in Row DD, I have to say that alone would have been worth an extra £20 to me. Of course if you book earlier enough you are (in all likelihood) going to only be a few Rows back from the VIPS anyway, even so. I won’t be taking the risk and will pay the extra £20 for the better seats.

Extra Dealer Day
One of the other changes this year was opening up the Dealer hall a day early. In previous years the Dealers have been there on a Friday evening but only with limited space in the Horseshoe lounge. This year the Dealers were present with their full stock in the main Dealer halls from Friday lunchtime. I suspect this may have been due to the Flash Paper Episode at last years convention, but I thought it was an excellent idea. Especially as it meant registrations could start that much earlier and as far as I could tell the queues to register were much shorter than previous years.

X-Factor Style Competition
Dear oh dear. I am sure most reading this will already have heard about how the Saturday night magic Championships had an x-factor style format. After each act finished, the performer went to the front of the stage and stood there whilst the four judges commented on what they had just seen. I know the comments where meant to be constructive but it just didn’t work. I seriously doubt that this format will be repeated again next year.

Credit where credit is due though, you have to admire the organisers for attempting something different. Let’s face it on paper it should have worked very well, after all X-Factor is (supposedly) a very popular program and it was something to entertain the audience whilst the backstage boys were doing there work.

The reason it didn’t work I think can be attributed to several things. Firstly these acts weren’t unknowns auditioning to be the next best singer or pop group or whatever the x-factor actually does, but they were supposedly some of the best British Magic Talent around, otherwise they wouldn’t have been invited to the competition in the first place. So for the judges to publicly comment on each act the way they did not only made me feel quite uncomfortable but made the judges seem quite petty. A big shame as the likes of Derek Lever, Terry Seabrooke, Hank Moorehouse etc deserved better than that.

Don’t get me wrong, giving constructive criticism privately afterwards would have been an excellent thing to do, but it was no surprise that the judges were booed by all 3500 members of the audience after telling one manipulation act that he was too fat.

Another reason why I felt that this particular format for the competition didn’t work was because it seemed to contribute to the unfortunate over running of the evening. The show was scheduled to end at 10:30pm, and yet even with two of the acts cancelled it still dragged on to 12:30. Perhaps next year some of the non competition acts could be booked to perform in front of the curtains whilst set changes take place.

Final Thoughts
Having re-read what I have written so far it would appear that my comments may come across as overtly negative which is a big shame as actually I love the Blackpool convention.

For me there is none better and us Brits are very lucky that it takes place on our own doorstep. The organisers should all be patted on the back and whole heartedly congratulated. I know they sometimes come in for a lot of stick but we should never forget how wonderful the weekend is and how lost we would be without it.

The lecturers and performers are all selected from the very best that the world has to offer. The events (for the most part) are always on time and go off without hitch and the choice of dealers has to be seen to be believed. Certainly the majority of them seem to be there.

The variety of magic that can be seen at Blackpool means that there is always something for every magician present, no matter what their preferred genre of magic actually is.

For me though, the best part of the whole weekend is the socialising. The people that attend are (in the words of Tina Turner) simply the best. I have never seen a more friendly bunch anywhere and each year I not only meet up with many old friends from the magic community but always make loads of new ones that I just know I will stay in touch with (even if it is only seeing them again at next years convention).

This year I met a particularly interesting group of Icelandic magicians that will shortly be forming a new IBM Ring in Iceland. (So anyone who fancies lecturing in Iceland please get in touch with me and I will pass your details on).

Will I be going to Blackpool next year? You betcha! See you there.

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About the author….Simon Shaw is the Secretary of The Ipswich Magic Society and a contributor to several online and offline magic resources.