I.B.M. British Ring 85th Convention 2023


An overview by Fraser Stokes

The I.B.M. British Ring magic convention returned to Eastbourne on 7th - 10th September for a second year post-pandemic. A superbly sunny convention this year with a packed schedule of lectures, shows, dealers and competitions. This year the British Ring celebrated its 85th convention! A milestone achieved with Oliver Tabor (pronounced TAY-BOR) at the helm as President 2022-2023. I was excited for this year’s convention because Oliver has a unique brand of creative magic and showmanship which I expected would reflect in his chosen line-up for the convention... and it did!

Many attendees arrived the night before on Wednesday 6th to enjoy some pre-convention socialising at the ‘Stage Door’ bar. The bar, which is perfectly sandwiched between the convention centre and Devonshire Park Theatre, transforms into an unofficial meeting hub outside of the scheduled programme for the magicians to socialise, grab a drink and talk everything magic.

The convention officially opened on Thursday at the theatre. Swiftly after this Griffin and Jones took to the stage with their Fringe show ‘A Life Changing Magic Show’. Their show was packed with hilarity and high energy, this double act won the British Ring 1st place trophy the previous year and their show exemplified why!

What I enjoy about the British Ring as an organisation is that they consider their members’ and convention attendee’s experiences. All of those attending got given a free gift, a compilation book of magic tricks published in past issues of the Key Ring magazine and a unique I.B.M. branded coin. No extra fee!

The convention this year had many lectures and talks on a large variety of subjects. There is truly something for everyone: hobbyists, professionals, family entertainers, close-up workers, prop makers, show makers etc. Lectures included Chris Congreave, Brian Lead and Joy Spencer, John-Henry, Christian Grace, Griffin and Jones, Charlie Caper, David Wood, JezO, Terry Herbert, Adrien Quillien and Chris Wood.

As there were so many wonderful lectures I will just mention a few of my own highlights although all the talks and lectures were enjoyed by many. To me the overriding ethos of this year’s lectures was creative magic, show creation, make it yourself and finding your unique performance quality.

John-Henry, from Sweden, on day 1 can be described as a wonderful surprise of creative energy. He described how he designs tricks and makes the gimmicks or props himself. He said “Magicians are like cover bands” meaning that many of us do the same tricks but package them differently, his approach was fresh and pushed ideas further than many magicians would. He covered many areas in creating tricks including 3D printing, utilising a variety of materials, reels, prototyping, finding simple solutions etc. He also talked about the performance aspect saying everyone should have directors for their show and playing with your props is where discoveries are made. His lecture was sewn together with humour throughout, he is a true eccentric and he embraces it. His humour is best portrayed by these words: “Hot glue is hot, scissors are sharp. Don’t put either in your mouth and run around.” - John-Henry.

Griffin and Jones lectured on their material as a double act. They talked about their ‘5 golden rules’ for performance and how their show implements these rules. They made it clear that the ‘rules’ are their own opinion but they feel if every magician used the rules then their shows could be elevated. The rules endorsed the idea that we should always be evolving. There was a strong sense that Griffin and Jones valued the audience experience including how they are treated as volunteers. They had a clear idea of what makes a good show this includes trimming the fat from your act and making an act that suits your personality. What typically seems like a crazy slapdash performance from the pair we discovered from their lecture they are in fact very calculated and well-rehearsed. Their show as a final product is a credit to their preparation as performers.

Charlie Caper on day 3 was a lecture I think many people looked forward to. If you know his work, you know he is an act that cannot be missed. Charlie doesn’t do many conventions so having an hour of him sharing his thoughts on magic and performance was something special. He covered street shows, and his career and gave some advice on show creation. A major focus of his material is being true to your character. Being able to describe yourself in 3 words means you have defined yourself as a performer. He held similar beliefs to Griffin and Jones and said “Charm lies in the shadows of perfection”...certainly lessons for us all!

On the same day, another highlight lecture for me was JezO. He has infectious energy and enthusiasm in truckloads! Also, his set-up seems to be truckloads! JezO does not hold back on putting in the maximum effort he can for his shows. This was the main lesson to take from his lecture “To be more!” for example instead of 1 broken wand, why not use 10! instead of 1 appearing cane, why not 10! instead of your energy being at a 5, why not 10!

On the last day, we had a lecture called ‘Cocktails, Magic and Potions’ from Adrien Quillien. This for many attendees was a highlight of the convention. After seeing his show-stopping Gala performance the night before he revealed his thinking and show creation techniques in his lecture. His lecture taught us how we can add an extra flare to our magic with confetti, fire and atmosphere. Adrien has an endearing energy and a clear love for what he does. He presented his lecture in a more dramatic way than you would normally see which was very appealing to a quieter tired day 4 convention audience. Following the themes of the lectures from other days, Adrien touched upon creating props and effects, particularly focussing on cocktails. I found watching this to be quite motivating, particularly after hearing how he became a magician and won several awards in recent years. If you don’t attend the full convention you miss out on lectures like this one on the last day.

The convention caters for everyone with its selection of dealers. There was general magic, card magic, bespoke items, balloon twisting supplies and kids' magic all available to purchase.

The I.B.M. British Ring is host to some of the most prestigious magic competitions in the UK. The highest available award for stage magic and close-up magic in the UK can be won only at the British Ring. The stage competition was held on the first day. 1st place went to Daan Ho. Daan had unique and ambitious ideas layered throughout his act, using colour-changing violins, appearing feathers and a jacket that magically puts itself on the performer. He stood out as a clear 1st place winner by trying something different to what we usually see in magic acts. Whilst the judges deliberated we were entertained by the always-perfect Mark James. Mark never fails to bring the energy up in a room, a true master of variety entertainment. The Close-up competition was well attended this year. The 1st place award went to Edward Hilsum. Edward presented a flawless performance with an act that drew on feelings of nostalgia. His effect with a photograph appearing in a frame was unique following this was his beautifully elegant coin routine named ‘Silver’.

I highly encourage people to enter these competitions. It gives you a goal to work towards and helps raise our standards as performers.

The shows are the thing I love most about conventions. We learn so much just from watching other performers. The I.B.M. British Ring convention gala show was packed with variety and a high standard of magic this year. Our compère's for the evening were Keith Fields and Lady Sarah. Two very funny and engaging hosts for the night. Opening the show was Yollin Lee with his effortless-looking but highly skilled card manipulations (trust me they were not easy to do!). Coming in fast as the second act was John-Henry with his slapstick performance of magic, juggling and physical comedy. Michael Jordan was third with a flawless juggling and skills performance including plate spinning, juggling, unicycling and balances. TV Star and magician Richard Cadell closed the first half with large-scale danger escapology. The second half burst into action with Adrien Quillien from France performing his cocktail magic act. His act was an explosion of pure visual delight. Our compère's then performed a funny magic segment after Adrien. Louise Andrée from Fife followed with a variety of magic, a lovely act specifically bespoke for the British Ring. Everything in her performance was visually appealing and considered. Closing the show were the comedy illusionists Safire. Big box illusions with plenty of giggles. A fantastic evening of magic and variety.

Charlie Caper closed the convention on the 4th day with his solo fringe show. His show started from the moment you entered the theatre as he spoke to people coming in. His show was full of charm and jaw-dropping magic. Charlie is an expert in misdirection, he would continually make his bow-tie disappear and reappear throughout the show. In the middle, he performed a routine with a robot he had made himself. The entire show was magical, wrapped in mystery and engaging. I still don’t know where the bow-tie went!

The convention closing ceremony began after Charlie’s show with some words from the president Oliver Tabor. Oliver said, “The convention was an amazing time, thanks to everyone for coming and he appreciates every one of the members for their support”.The chain of office was handed over to Philip Partridge who is now the president for 2023 – 2024. In his closing words about this year's convention, he expressed how much he enjoys attending. He is keen for more people to come along and get the chance to enjoy the yearly convention he said “Next year, bring a friend!”.

A glue that holds the British Ring convention together is Moira Fletcher. Without Moira, the convention would not have the amazing content that it does. She strives to make every year a special one. I spoke to her and asked if she had anything she would like to share with me for this article, she said simply “Your support helps the convention grow, if you didn’t come you have missed out”. I agree, if you didn’t go you have missed out.

What I love about the British Ring convention is that it isn’t overwhelming like some of the largest conventions but it is by no means small either. You can see world-class shows and lectures and not miss a thing due to overlaps in schedule. I believe you get so much more than the value of your entry fee. Conventions only get better with attendance, I encourage you to go because you will absolutely get something from it. I take that weekend off every year and I am willing to travel over 9 hours to do so. Don’t miss out.

© Fraser Stokes, September 2023




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