Unbeknown to the majority of the world, around half a dozen magic conventions are held in the UK each year. In fact, one held each February in Blackpool attracts over 3000 magicians from all over the world! My parents and I, of course, had no idea such a thing existed. Magicians are secretive like that. Yet that was until my granddad somehow happened to find out about one that would be happening just 20 minutes away from where I lived.
The Liverpool Magic Circle were holding a one-day convention, featuring shows, magic stalls, lectures and a special performance from Wayne Dobson. Now, I’ve come to learn that Wayne Dobson is a legend in magic. He had his own TV show in the 80’s and is considered one of the most formidable comedy magicians of our generation.
I simply had to go and begged my parents to take me along. Thankfully they agreed, and off we went to see just what this was all about, without any knowledge of how much of an impact this day would have. It was hosted by the current President of the Circle, Richie Smith, and it was incredible! The atmosphere was electric and the magicians were amazing.
Wayne, as expected, brought the house down with his act: he was quick, hilarious and like nothing I’d ever seen. It was a knockout performance from a pro who’d clearly been doing it for years. Following the show, Richie jumped on stage to thank Wayne, and joked, “Anybody else want to give it a go?” No one in their right mind would try to follow that. It would be madness! A moment passed…
“I will!” I shouted from the back of the room in a high-pitched, undeveloped Scouse accent. The collection of magicians turned to see who the voice had come from. “I’ll do a trick,” I repeated, as I unflinchingly stood up from my seat and made my way towards the stage.
I had nothing planned. Genuinely nothing. I had absolutely no idea what I was going to do, but something inside of me just seemed to instinctively speak up and offer to perform something.
My parents, who also knew that I had nothing ready, were left in their seats completely bemused by the whole affair. The truth is, even if I did go prepared with some of the basic magic tricks I’d been learning, there was not a single thing I could do that would even come close to the standard of the professional magicians in the room. But there was a certain confidence that came with my age, I suppose; a naivety which allowed me to do it. It forced me to do it, instinctively perhaps. I was magnetically drawn towards the stage in a way unlike anything I’d ever experienced before. It seemed like it was hardwired into me. It seemed as if, at that very moment, it was the right thing to do.
Earlier that day I’d noticed that one of the stalls was selling various lengths of rope (rope tricks were very much a magic trope, which bizarrely still continues), so I asked the owner if I could possibly borrow a few of them. Potentially more for the novelty value than anything else, he handed some over to me and I found myself in front of the audience.
One of the strangest things about being on stage is that the stage lights are usually so bright, and the audience so dark, that you literally can’t see past the front row. It’s as if you’re talking into a great abyss, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Ropes in hand, I stood in front of the collected 300 or so magicians and performed my trick - using all of the provided jokes and patter that came with the instructions. I don’t remember being at all nervous or daunted by the situation - I was really just a kid seeking attention… and it worked.
I finished my routine and took a little bow for the audience. As you can imagine, my trick and performance certainly wasn’t a touch on what Wayne had just done - but the warm, spontaneous wave of applause was tremendous, and it felt incredible. All eyes in the room were on me and I revelled in it. Absolutely. It was the best feeling in the world. It still is.
I don’t want to make this sound too dramatic or grand, but I think that this was the moment. This was the exact point I can look back at and say that was the day I knew that I was going to be a magician. The day I knew I was going to perform for a living.
Richie shook my hand and I returned to my seat, sitting down next to my parents and feeling like the whole world had just opened up to me. Butterflies flew about in my stomach excitedly as I realised what had just happened. At that moment, I was utterly dedicated to magic for my career - making it my life… and I think they knew it.
The magicians I met that day, especially Richie, went on to become an enormous part of my formative years and I can safely say they were a key part of shaping the way my life has gone. They say that being part of the ‘magic community’ is like being in an enormous, welcoming family, and I’ve found that to be completely true. It is something of a dysfunctional family, admittedly - but then again, that’s the best kind… surely? Just don’t make me spend Christmas with them.