The Commercial Close-Up Forum
Sunday 29th January 2006
Reviewed by
David Hawkins

Newbury Town centre on a freezing Sunday morning in January may seem like an unlikely gathering place for close-up magicians, but this was the venue when around 60 close-uppers got together at The Chequers Hotel for the very first Commercial Close-Up Forum.

It should come as no surprise that the event was masterminded by Mark Leveridge, who has done so much for close-up enthusiasts over the years with the British Close Up Symposium and various other events. However the Forum really was unique and unlike anything I have ever attended previously. The idea behind the Forum was to create an environment in which like-minded people can learn and exchange information on all aspects of working close up for money. As well as Mark himself and the ever present Ros, Mark had invited along two of the top professional close uppers in this country – Nick Einhorn and Martin Sanderson.

The day began with complementary refreshments in the hotel bar, then a quick hello from Mark and a rundown of the day’s events. The attendees (purposely limited to 60) were then split into 3 groups who went off to three separate rooms for the first session of the day – performances by Mark, Nick and Martin. Because of the small numbers in each room everyone had a perfect view and the whole day had a friendly, intimate feel to it. The performances from the 3 guys were excellent which each holding nothing back and performing material from their commercial acts. By the end of the first hour I had already been badly fooled numerous times, but the day had only just started.

The remainder of the Forum was taken up by lectures by Mark, Nick and Martin separated by recess periods (a large room had been laid out with tables, refreshments and close up mats as a chill out area during these recess times). However these were not lectures in the usual sense i.e. trick explanation, trick explanation, trick etc ad nauseum! Mark had arranged for each of the three lecturers to tackle a specific aspect of commercial close up performing, really convey the important information about how to perform in a commercial situation, and illustrate certain points with the aid of items from their own repertoires. In my group Mark conducted the first session and talked about performing at dinner functions. For example how do you cope with all the different layouts of tables you might encounter, how do you approach a table, what type of material works best for these sort of events and so on. This was a real masterclass in commercial performing and Mark managed to conveyed a huge about of valuable information. He also had for sale copies of his book “The Strolling Magician” (which I can personally recommend) along with his new L&L DVDs and a new version of his Ring Box (perfect for these kinds of functions).

Second lecturer of the day for our group was Nick Einhorn who concentrated on mix and mingle magic. Again a few examples from his own repertoire together with an incredible amount of information about this type of performing. Nick was on top form and proved why he is one of the most successful performers in the country. Nick also had a few items for sale and I can recommend his set of 3 lecture notes which contain a whole host of commercial effects and some of the best advice on making money from magic I have ever read.

The final session of the day in my room was hosted by Martin Sanderson, again one of the top close-uppers in the country and, like Nick and Mark, he was really buzzing. Again a huge amount of advice about commercial performing, marketing ideas, how to deal with all kinds of performing situations – all illustrated with items from his professional act. Like the other two Martin also had some items for sale and I can thoroughly recommend his DVD - worth far, far more than the asking price.

After a final recess for coffee and cookies, everyone gathered together in the main room for a Discussion Forum. Continuing the pattern of the day, this was also one of the most valuable sessions I have ever attended. Some great advice in response to questions from attendees, a few memorable anecdotes (most notably Nick Einhorn with a story about a borrowed ring and some thought provoking advice concerning public liability insurance) and a few revelations – For example I was surprised to see that from a room full of working magicians only around 3 or 4 used thread in their commercial work.

I’m sure everyone present would agree that this was a truly unique and enjoyable day. The amount of invaluable information and advice presented was amazing, the chance to witness three of the best close up magicians in the country both performing and sharing their experience was fantastic, and plenty of time during the day to socialise, chat with old friends and make new ones all contributed to a wonderful atmosphere.

The story of the Forum isn’t complete without one other mention. In the early hours of Sunday morning the hotel unfortunately suffered a major plumbing disaster resulting in considerable structural damage to part of the hotel and the room that we were supposed to use being completely flooded. It must have been heartbreaking for Mark and Ros to arrive at the hotel to find several fire engines and the whole place in chaos. However things were sorted out quickly, alternative rooms were set up, the hotel were able to provide food and drinks as normal and the whole day proceeded without a hitch. This really was a true miracle!!!!

A very sincere thank you to Mark, Ros, Nick, Martin and all the hotel staff for overcoming a major problem and providing an exceptional, informative and enjoyable day.

© David Hawkins, February 2006.