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South Tyneside International Magic Festival Review – Darren James

South Tyneside International Magic Festival

I’ve been to every one of the conventions and every year I can’t wait till the next one, being mainly sponsored by the council (as well as Magicbox) this is like no other convention you will ever go to. The organisation skills of the same team that run the Great North run shows though time after time. This year was the first year free lunch was not provided and was only missed by a few complainers (I for one did not miss the free lunch as this give me a chance to explore the town centre).

The whole event is held in The Customers House which is a 400 seat theatre, and you would think it was purposely build for conventions, tiered seating cinema for lectures and close up sessions, outstanding modern theatre, Bistro and bar and a great hall for the dealers.  The quality of this convention never fails to surprise me year in year they produce the goods as well as some names in magic that seem to be off the standard convention radar.


Due to work commitments I missed the morning kid’s show where they bring over a Kids entertainer to perform a show for local kids, then the kids leave and they lecture to the magicians.  I heard many great things about Tim Sonefelt, so sorry I missed him, must try to get there next year on Thursday night.

We did get there for the talk with Simon Drake (via Skype), I was wondering how this was going to work and in fact was pleasantly surprised at how well it worked (technical hitches aside). I was impressed with the way Simon discussed exposure and he appearance on The Gadget show, he told the audience he expressed his views to the production company very strongly and understood the outcry the show has created on the magic forums. He went on to explain some of his top effects on the Secret Cabaret (as they say this was worth the entrance fee); he also discussed his House of Magic in London as well as other projects.

Next was Ron Shacknaey lecture, this did very little for me as his style what can be explained as bizarre magic, and where some of his thinking behind his effects were interesting, the presentation style was not to my liking.

Joshua Quinn Lecture had a host of clever thinking, this guy is like the rain man to cover his ideas would take up to much space, enough to say he has some great thinking on word forces however as shown on the Gala show in performance some of the ideas can look a bit flat. His book test idea did sell quickly and I sure a few of us will be working on the presentation of the effect.

Friday Night Gala Show

Compeer was Brad Manual; his name was not new to me as his products are well known in the magic world, bucket head to name just one. I should of guest that the mind that thought up bucket head was going to be entertaining.  Very funny guy and proved to be a hit at the convention and again another name to be brought over to the UK for the very first time to a magic convention. He fooled every magician at the convention; tons would have paid him a great deal to tip the shot glass productions of which he did many during the weekend.

Richard McDougal was very entertaining, you can tell he has studied mime (something I wish more silent act would), some of the best cigarette manipulation I have seen. He also showed he could patter as good as the best comedy magicians and had us all in tears; I don’t want to give too much away as some of the gags will get lost if you ever see this act, it enough to say I had tears running down my face and the whole audience loved him.

Mathew Dowden showed his trade mark style, fine card manipulation, nice version of gypsy thread as well as showing another string to his bow (get it!!!!) by playing the violin.

I’ve never seen Lenard Green perform to a lay audience and was concerned they would not find it entertaining however he proved he is not just an outstanding card technician but also very accomplished entertainer.  Very funny touches and the audience warmed to him straight away, the card magic was also presented very well for the stage with the help of Bob Hamilton

The Friday night Gala show was closed by the Legend that is Wayne Dobson, on form as always and just watching him with a spectator is a master class in audience control. Even after the trick going wrong, Wayne managed it perfect and got the laughs.

It’s was then back to the Sea View Hotel (Convention HQ hotel) for the midnight show, where we had hot buffet food (extra cost) and good singer Jen Stevens and comedian Rudi West, who had me laughing, with some stock jokes but some good off the cuff remarks. This event was not well attended as some felt that the midnight show should have had a magician instead of a comedian (like there is not enough magic during the weekend).


Having Lennard Green lecture first thing on a Saturday morning may not have been the best idea for a running order, some people did not turn up as they thought his material was too advance, there loss as he performed and explained a host of effects, one that went right into most of our repertoires. I never thought self working card magic could be so baffling and some classic (in his words) thinking and concepts had all the card mechanics thinking. I was guilty of losing track during one of the explanation and confusing matter more by asking questions (however bet I was not the only one lost at that point).

Next was the Wayne Dobson experience with Michael J Fitch, Michael opened with a clip to remind us how much TV Wayne had in fact done, the concept of the presentation was interesting, a mixture of clips, discussions with Wayne and some hands on explanation of some great routines.

Something completely different was a voice couch session with Pete Ross, which I sadly missed but got rave reviews from everyone that went.

Then we had the close up sessions, Joshua Quinn, performing a poker deal, a rock, paper, scissors effect, and his utterly incredible linked business card, where two cards are torn from one, and are genuinely linked (later on in the weekend for a extra charge Joshua did a workshop on this effect, where more a puzzle that trick it was very clever). Brad Manuell assisted by a very good assistance (me), performed bill change, ring flight, card to show, followed by bottle from show (he does love producing stuff from his shoes must be an Australian thing. He then showed his dice stacking skills with some great bits of comedy thrown in. Lennart Green then showed that he was not just a card guy by performing the classic shell and pea routine.

Saturday night Gala Show

First act on tonight’s bill, was Shahid Malik and Lisa, some classic effects performed wonderfully, I think as magicians we forget that most audiences have not seen these classics and the lay audience in the audience loved them, they also performed the signature cardboard box as well as the cube-zag with a very nice little touch that I’m sure more illusionist will be ripping off in the near future. This showed the power of having mainly lay audience in the gala show, as magicians can watch what works in the real world.

Mentalist Joshua Quin followed, I think Joshua proved to be just too clever for most of the audience and some of his effects were lost due to confusion presentations. Nice guy but the act did not go down well in the large theatre. Saying that I liked his presentation idea for the magic square which made the audience look like geniuses

Next was Brad Manuell and Candy, stuff coming out of his shoe, this hand every magician scratching their heads and watching for the steals.  Brad had the audience in stitches and proved to be the highlight of the weekend to many of us.

The finally was Jeton the Gentleman Juggler, and boy did he impress the bit with the mirror was outstanding, and any mistakes he made can be blamed on me and Martin Duffy for keeping him up the night before till 4am.


After another fun packed night in the bar (ask Michal J Fitch to show you his new effect), we went into the final stages of another great weekend.

Brad Maunel was the first up to lecture, the main point of the lecture was making it entertaining and make your spectators feel relaxed and don’t insult them. Sadly he did not explain how to steal the shot glasses but did sell a product that would help the many interested on the road (well you don’t want to make it too easy for people)

The final lecture of the convention proved to be one of the most powerful messages I have heard in magic to date, Richard McDougall lecture moved the whole room, some to tears as it was a powerful and sometimes painfully correct, the state of magic today is low down the entertainment league table and we all have the accountability to lift our game. Richard should lecture this at every magician society/club/association in the country.

Darren James is a member of The Prestigious Magic Circle in London as well as Equity. www.closeupillusions.co.uk