01 January 2011

2010 International Magic Convention

As ever at the end of November, International Magic held their annual convention in central London.  As ever at the end of November, I was there to enjoy what was, in my opinion, one of the best conventions it has been my pleasure to attend in quite some time.  It was a great chance to catch up with friends that I hadn't seen since last year's convention - and some I hadn't seen in 4 or 5 years!

This year, I was staying at the Clink Hostel on King's Cross Road.  Granted, it was a bit of a walk from the convention at the Mermaid Conference Centre (about a mile and a half at 2am - after the late night sessions had finished) but it was exactly what I was after - clean, cheap and a bed for the night.

Events kicked off on the Friday night with a show by the German collective commonly known as "The Flicking Fingers".  Simply put - brilliant.  Running gags through the show, including the most English of English magicians, Guy Hollingworth, trying to join the Germans(!), as well as some brilliant magic immediately made this one of the highlights of the convention.  After that, an interview with Canadian magician David Ben.  Ben had been a student of Ross Bertram, a brilliant Canadian performer and creator (if you can, you really should try to find both books that he wrote - The Magic and Methods of Ross Bertram and Bertram on Sleight Of Hand - as well as the DVDs that L&L brought out some time ago of his performing and teaching films).  The interview, conducted by Matt Field, was both fascinating and entertaining with Ben demonstrating his wide range of skills including coin magic and some brilliant card table artifice.

For me, the Friday ended with the first of 2 amazing dinners to happen that weekend.  Somehow, I ended up at the Bengal Tiger Indian Restaurant in Carter Lane (just round the corner from St Paul's Cathedral) with all the Flicking Fingers and around 5 or 6 others.  It was entertaining walking into the restaurant without a booking and asking for a table for 20 or so!  But, they were great and seated us at a couple of tables.  I ended up sitting at a table with 6 of the Germans (there's got to be a joke there somewhere - 6 Germans and a Scotsman in an Indian Restaurant...!).  Great fun it was, too.  Thanks to Pit Hartling, Jorg Alexander, Gaston and the others for keeping me part of the conversation and for making it a very enjoyable evening.

Saturday morning saw the 2010 International Magic Close Up Competition, which is now widely regarded as one of the most prestigious competitions in magic to win and whose list of winners reads like a who's who in Close Up.  The standard of this year's competition was pretty decent with the major prize winners all standing out from the rest of the crowd, yet difficult to separate.  In the end, the award winners were:-

1st Prize: Mathew Wright (UK)
2nd Prize: Kim Min Hyung (Korea)
3rd Prize: Alexander Hansford (UK)
Merit Awards: Paul Sommerguter (Austria), Rene Jensen (Denmark) and Andost (USA)

Saturday afternoon saw the first of the lectures with David Ben talking about presentation and illustrating it with a masterful performance of the classic Egg Bag.  Very interesting stuff.  After David were 2 of the Flicking Fingers - Jorg Alexander and Jorg Willich.  Alexander taught a wonderful borrowed ring to nest of boxes routine while Willich talked a lot about presentation, illustrating his points by producing a full can of cola from inside his shoe.

The lectures were followed by a special tribute show in honour of the late, great Jim Cellini.  Cellini was a good friend to the International Convention, always there simply to hang out and meet up with friends.  He was regarded by those in the know as the greatest street magician of all time - possibly the greatest street performer of all time - and the line up of talent that gathered to pay tribute showed how well loved and well respected he was.

Because of the size of the auditorium at The Mermaid, the Gala Show at the International Convention is performed twice.  I usually go on the Sunday night and this year was no different, meaning that I had the Saturday night to do what I like.  This year, I went to dinner with a group of people who are regarded as some of the best performers and scholars in magic.  I looked at the group I was with and realised that, as a magician, I was the only one I'd never heard of!  It was a fascinating evening of conversation, magic and phenomenal Italian food.  I also ate crab for the first time!

From left to right, Me, John Carney, David Ben, Paul Kieve,
Michael Albright, Guy Hollingworth and Peter Lamont


Sunday gave us another cracking day.  The Close Up Gala was of the highest standard.  Hosted by John Lenahan, highlights included Tyler Wilson managing to get a card on the ceiling of the theatre and having to climb up a massive ladder at the side of the stage to get to it; Derek Hughes had the whole room laughing while he fooled us and Manuel Muerte performed his brilliant FISM act - and yes, the mouse went kaput!  After the Close Up Gala came another lecture from more members of the Flicking Fingers - this time Pit Hartling and Manuel Muerte.  This time, it was magic all the way with very little in the way of theory.  Some great stuff.

My next event is always highly anticipated by everyone who attends the convention.  For the last few years, the David Berglas Foundation for Promoting the Art of Magic has presented the Berglas Award to a surprise recipient.  The first time, in 2007, it was presented to the MacMillan family for all their work with the convention.  In 2008, it was Uri Geller, who then stayed and took part in a fascinating question and answer session.  2009 saw David Copperfield being presented with the award and, thanks to the magic of Skype, he was gracious enough to participate in a Q&A session.

This year, it was presented to the brilliant Juan Tamariz - the Spanish card expert who is a house-hold name in the Spanish speaking world as well as being one of the most respected performers and thinkers within the magic world.  As with last year, a Skype conference had been set up between London and Spain so that Sr Tamariz could answer our questions but technical problems caused the image to freeze after only a couple of questions.  A few moments later, David Berglas proved that he could fool over 500 magicians by, with a magical gesture, producing Juan Tamariz live on stage in London.  Sr Tamariz then went on to answer questions for an hour.  It was a great surprise and something that none of us that were there will easily forget.

Tamariz freezes on Skype with David Berglas onstage

Moments later, and Tamariz joins Berglas on stage 

The Gala Show was excellent.  Personal highlights included Noel Britten's (usual) brilliant hosting of the show, including running gags galore, Gunther's first Magicians' Anonymous meeting and Tom Noddy performing his wonderful bubble act.



Tom Noddy's Bubble Act

And so, with the Gala Show, the 2010 International Convention came to an end.  Well, apart from the late night gathering in the bar.  Loads of magicians talking and showing magic until the wee hours of the morning.

Chris Korn, one of the stars of BBC1's new show "The Magicians",
with
Derek Hughes "passing by"
 

Next year's convention is the 40th edition and the organisers have a number of special events being planned for next November.  If you're a magician, keep an eye on the International Magic website for more details.
 
Speak soon.
The Cardman :-)

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