The 46th Bristol Day of Magic
14th May 2006
Reported and photographed by Mandy Davis

Once again the Bristol Society produced an amazing one day convention with something for everyone. The organising committee of Mandy Farrell, Paul Preager and Barry Savage kept the welcome speeches very brief to ensure that every moment was filled with magic instead.

The first part of the day was explicitly for the children’s entertainers. Louis Baerts of the Balloon Brothers, from Holland, gave a brief lecture on the usual aspects of entertaining children before introducing a very worthwhile brainstorming session. Grouped in tables of ten, people were given set topics written on cards and each table discussed these one by one, ensuring that each of their group was able to contribute. Everyone learned something and came away with very valuable information from this.

Graham P Jolley didn’t offer a lecture as most magical entertainers tend to do. Instead he performed his full 45 minute mentalism show and had the entire audience rocking with laughter. His acerbic wit, combined with some very strong effects, amazed and entertained in spite of the fact that the majority of the people were magicians and understood many of the methods he used. His work with a telephone directory and divination of the colours and whereabouts of billiard balls placed in a spectator’s pockets were particularly well received.

As soon as Graham’s show ended 30 young people stayed in the ballroom for their very own workshop organised by the Young Magicians Club. Ian Adair, a prolific contributor to YMC’s magazine, Secrets, gave a half hour insight into inventing and developing ideas of one’s own and also gave each person present a free trick to take away with them. There was a short Bring a Trick session and then Tim Shoesmith and I split everyone into two groups for some card magic.

I had no time for a break as this was immediately followed by the Michael Finney lecture. Of course he gave us his ideas and variations on tricks such as Six Card Repeat and Cut and Restored Rope and these routines were both fun and surprising too – unusual for such standard effects. However the value came from his life story and the tales Michael had to tell along the way. His advice to young people was right on the button such as suggesting that they should hang out with the more experienced older performers. He told of the advice he had received from the Great Tomsoni, Shimada and Dai Vernon who had told him: ‘Finney, you don’t do much magic – but you are funny!’

He showed us his press pack and explained what was in it and why. He recommended that every magician should video their act as ‘you are your own best critic; you will be ten times more critical than anyone else.’

Michael started out as a bellboy in a hotel and was working as a bartender when he bought his first trick for $100! He saw a colleague vanish a lit cigarette and nagged him for the secret until he was offered it for that price - so he saved up until he could afford it – and was given…. a thumb tip!

He told us how he drummed up work at the beginning by entertaining a queue outside a restaurant. The owners didn’t complain as this was keeping people happy. One night Michael popped in to tell them that he wouldn’t be along the following week as he had paid work at another restaurant. Of course this made the original venue decide that they would pay him in future to secure his services (not knowing he had lied about the payment in the first place!)

Michael started life with a cleft palate, a squashed nose and a hole in the top of his mouth. From all that he has achieved he had this message: ‘The only thing stopping you being successful is YOU!’

He has worked in venues holding 5000 and for small gatherings of 14. He is adamantly against exposure. ‘Our secrets are precious – don’t give them away!’ In fact he was a good friend of the Masked Magician but no longer talks to him since the programmes.

This was such a valuable lecture with great insight and advice. Michael Finney on stage is a loud, brash street-wise performer but the lecture proved him to be a person who cares about the world of magic and the perception of magicians across the world.

The conventioneers had been split into two groups with tickets designating which of two identical close up sessions each person was to attend. I saw the second set and there were some unusual settings. For instance, Peter Wardell, street magician, performed in his usual environment. He worked outside the building, gathering passers by to watch him as well as the convention audience. His cups and balls has already been well documented but it was a real joy to see his byplay with lay people.

Michael Finney started with a close up act and deviated into a lecture on the watch steal! He opened with sponge balls and a confused spectator who was put right with a great gag using a giant sponge ball. I was aware of Michael trying and rejecting a watch steal (I was sitting with the spectator’s arms almost reaching over my shoulder); he moved on to another but had to admit he had failed and was determined that we, the audience, should understand why. The first watch seemed to have a normal leather strap but turned out to have a Velcro fastener, whilst the second watch had lost its small leather loop and this had been replaced by a rubber band! However during the explanation Michael broke the watch strap completely which made him acutely embarrassed, but he did confess that this had happened a couple of times before - maybe a warning to those hoping to learn this effect?

Michael continued with a chop cup routine using a small cup and ended with Professor’s Nightmare using unusually long ropes.

David Jones used a dinner table setting to perform his act. He started with two decks of cards. Selections were made from one of them whilst these were then found by David from the second deck which was kept in his pocket throughout. Four coins then vanished to reappear inside a Ramsey Cylinder before vanishing completely and a bill switch was followed by a three ‘thought of’ card revelation.

The local restaurants then filled with magicians for an hour or so before the start of the gala show at the Playhouse Theatre.

Richard Cadell had brought the Studio One dancers with him and they opened the first half with a routine which ended with the production of Richard from a shadow box.

Young Magician of the Year, Steve Dela, opened with his slick and stylish award winning act of gloves to streamer, ball vanishes and appearances - using both bare hands and silks - card manipulations and candle productions. Irish music played faster and faster for a routine with Ninja Rings and various sizes of coins appeared and vanished. A large ball was used for some hand juggling, then it was back to cards ending with a fountain from a casket which closed automatically as the act ended.

John Archer was as funny as ever as he ambled through a Tossed Out Deck routine before launching into a part-sentimental, part-comedic story about his grandparents which explained the presence of a wooden box. Volunteers were invited to take unknown objects from it and place them into their pockets before returning to their seats. John was then able to name the objects and who held them whilst telling wonderfully involved stories about each one.

Richard Cadell brought his assistant Stacey onto the stage to perform a mini Zig Zag before introducing Roy Davenport who performed his current IBM award-winning act of coins with coin ladder, thimble manipulations and Linking Rings. Roy is always such a joy to watch; he positively bounces on stage and his huge smile displays how much he is giving to the audience!

After the interval the Studio One dancers were back before Richard introduced the Balloons Brothers. They performed a short act, building bikes and guns out of balloons to Blues Brothers music.

Michael Finney, in bright yellow suit, worked hard at Six Card Repeat and didn’t seem to be able to reach the audience at first. He had trouble finding a female volunteer but then proved how amazing he is as a performer. He started to play with the audience verbally until he had them eating out of his hand and was then able to go back to the magic and received huge ovations for Cut and Restored Rope and Card to Forehead which were interspersed with a giant card gag and sponge balls. This master of comedy had lots of great lines which were delivered very clearly and just tore the audience apart – a great lesson to all professional comedy magicians.

Richard Cadell performed a Metamorphosis illusion with a slight twist at the end as a different girl came out of the box instead of Richard who was now discovered to be one of the two policeman assistants.

The final act, David and Dania, was as immaculate and amazing as always. Their famous costume changes were interspersed with bouquet and botania productions as well as a bottle from silk. The final few minutes of changes were breathtaking even when one had seen the act before – that shower of glitter culminating in the Union Flag dress brought a huge round of applause.

The only question after such a brilliant Bristol Day of Magic is: how can the organisers possibly better it next year? But you can be sure they will!


Photos: 1. Graham P Jolley 2. Michael Finney 3. John Archer 4. David & Dania

© Mandy Davis, May 2006