James Freedman


James Freedman was born in London in 1965. After school and university he qualified as a Chartered Surveyor and enjoyed a career in property becoming a director of a public investment company. Then after 14 years he gave it all up to develop a new business based on magic. He is now a director of Magic Management, a company that takes the psychology of magic into the business arena.

So what prompted that decision and why was magic so important?

"I have always been interested in magic. On my fourth birthday my parents gave me a Merit magic set that got me started. I can remember Derek Moore performing at several birthday parties when I was young and kindly teaching me for my first proper show when I was about 8. I was also encouraged by my great grandmother's second husband, Harry Adler who, as 'The Great Adler' had performed an escapology challenge act which toured much of America and Europe in the early 1900's. Even with two generations between us, 'Uncle' Harry lived until I was 16 and was a huge influence on me."

"So magic was a hobby. I’d perform at school concerts and for a charity called Friendly Faces which was a group of children that put on variety shows for sick and underprivileged children. Somewhere along the line, while I was still at school, I started doing paid children’s parties and as I wasn’t much older than the audience, I started to wear clown make-up so the parents booking me couldn’t tell how young I was! Although ‘James the Clown’ retired in the 1980's, his act still gets performed for my nephews and nieces once or twice every year!"

"In my teens I would visit Davenports and Alan Alan’s Magic Spot and I became more interested in close-up magic and small effects that could be performed big. Philip Jacobs, 'Jake, The Clown Prince of Magic' who served me on my first visit to Davenports and Alan Alan who (for some reason) never told me to "Just go and look in the window!" were both kind to me and offered me good advice and I am indebted to them both."

It was also around that time that James saw Paul Potassi and Mark Raffles and decided that he wanted to learn to pick pockets.

"There were no pickpocket books available then apart from Eddie Joseph’s booklet so I just went out and tried to copy what I'd seen! I would steal pens from my school friends' pockets and after I saw Borra perform I went back to school and taught myself to steal ties from the fourth formers. I'm not proud to confess that they’d often be punished for not wearing full uniform."

"So I ended up doing a lot of close-up magic combined with a few pickpocket steals and that generated good beer money while I was at university. When I graduated and returned to London my first priority was to get employed although a very close second was to visit The Magic Circle! On my first visit to the Chenies Mews headquarters, Francis White made me so welcome that I applied to join immediately."

"In 1992 I won The Magic Circle Foundation Challenge medal and the title Magic Circle Close-Up Magician of the Year. Over the years I've been the club's Monday night MC, the honorary auctioneer, entrance examiner and I even sat on the board of The Magic Circle Foundation for a while. I love The Magic Circle. It's a unique club and I'm extremely proud to be a member."

So magic was still only a hobby for James. Then in 1994 he met John Woolvett and the idea for a business was born.

"John and I got to know each other through The Magic Circle though we had met briefly when I performed at 'Ever So Sleightly', London's first modern weekly magic show which was conceived by Richard McDougall. Actually, it was John and Richard who both helped and encouraged me to completely redesign my act, eliminate all the magic and just feature pickpocket routines. They were absolutely right and I am so grateful for their advice. John also dreamt up my stage name, 'The Man of Steal'."

"Anyway, back to the business idea. I’d been working as a portfolio manager for a property company and had become involved in shareholder presentations, analyst briefings, marketing and so on. I realised that most of the techniques I was using had been derived from magic principles. Not the physical tricks you understand, but the understanding that magicians have about the way that people form perceptions."

"John was already very passionate about these psychological techniques and had been using them in his own career so with a common interest we formed Magic Management in 1994 with a goal to provide companies with strategies for effective communication. It still took me five years to give up my 'proper job' though!"

From offices in London, Magic Management now operates in three areas, Marketing Services, Training & Learning, and Personal Development delivering Magical Innovation™ - the psychology of magic for business success, to a wide range of companies, organisations and individuals.

"Magic Management uses the psychology of magic but we never do any actual magic tricks. That would devalue what we are about. If a client insists on any physical magic for say an exhibition or corporate event then this will be supplied by our subsidiary company, Dynamic FX Limited, which we acquired in 2001 and is now the UK's leading supplier of magical entertainment."

"Frankly though, I'm so involved with running Magic Management that performing has become a bit of a hobby again which is great and means that I can pick the jobs that I really want to do."


"Dynamic FX books my pickpocket act regularly for corporates and I perform as a magician occasionally just for the fun of it. I've been resident magician at The Court Hotel for the past eleven years which gives me a motivation to practice and learn new material."

So what are James's plans for the future?

"Well obviously I am going to develop Magic Management. We have a terrific team of very talented and creative people who are all so passionate about the services we offer that it's a pleasure to go to the office."

"As for other work, I love doing the pickpocket act because you never know what you’ll find in people's pockets. I’m working on three new pickpocket routines that will eventually be added to that act and I'm currently doing some pickpocket consulting for a BBC drama series."

"I've also just released a DVD called 'Stealing the Show - The Ultimate Pickpocket Guide' and a book called 'Go On…Steal Yourself'. Both explain the art of picking pockets for entertainment and are available online." www.pickpocket.co.uk 

So you could say I've been 'Taking it Easy!'

Top Trick?
"Linking finger rings. No obvious props, emotional involvement and a wonderfully clear and perplexing effect."

Top Book?
"Martin Gardner's Encyclopedia of Impromptu Magic' has saved my skin on more occasions than I can remember. It's packed with the types of stunts and tricks that magicians soak up over a lifetime of playing with toys, gadgets, magic and science. As host at The Magic Circle once I was running around trying to help find a few volunteers to do something in Mitch Devano's annual 'Tricks and Stunts for Christmas' that was scheduled for that evening. Two members said that they couldn’t perform because they didn’t have any props. Well that certainly amazed me!"

Top Magician?
"For chutzpah, Borra, Houdini and Malini."

Top Magic Quote?
"All done by kindness" David Devant.

Top Magic Moment?
"There have been too many to remember but one I really enjoyed happened a few years ago on the top deck of a London bus. A small girl on the seat in front of me was sitting beside her mother playing quietly with a red balloon dog. Suddenly the balloon burst and the girl started to cry and scream and soon everyone was watching. Well, I just happened to have a red modelling balloon in my suit pocket. (Don’t ask!). Without really thinking, I asked the girl to give me the pieces of broken balloon. I 'restored' them and fixed her dog and she was delighted. As I went back to my newspaper, I realised that all the other adult passengers who'd seen this lucky miracle were now staring at me wondering how I'd done it. It has just occurred to me that David Devant knew how."



© MagicWeek 2003




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