Kidology 2004
6th September
Reported by Mandy Davis

At last – a magic convention for professionals! How do we know this? Well, it took dealers Practical Magic and Albion Magic to realise that children’s entertainers normally miss out on weekend events because they are working. Consequently the first Kidology convention took place on a hot Monday in Wolverhampton and the two hundred people who attended had an enjoyable tailor-made day.

A buffet lunch was included in the price of the ticket and there were also four lectures and two workshops as well as a ‘Bits O’ Business’ competition.

I missed most of Gerry Luff’s lecture but Ian Adair told me that it was very informative. Gerry talked about and demonstrated things that could be made rather than bought and explained how to use computerised artwork in our magic. He showed us several effects using Jumbo cards which were adapted to various themes and we also saw an Easy-to-Assemble table and Gerry’s own version of Johnny Geddes’ “Five Green Bottles”. A balloon routine using only three balloons eliminated the necessity of making a model for every child. Gerry ended with a compass effect with black and white rabbits.

Marc Dominic’s lecture was a must for anyone who performs anywhere other than private birthday parties. Marc terms all other shows as corporate and he gave us a wealth of information on everything from the history of corporate work to how to decide whether this market is for you. He presented a very long list of questions you should be asking yourself – although not all were answered. Risk Assessment was something that many performers don’t consider but Marc felt that supplying this information would weigh heavily with clients when they were at the decision stage. Within the hour Marc introduced Steve Evans who showed exactly how to take a theme and use it to ‘customise’ a regular show. He breezed through several effects with hysterical explanatory patter and it is hoped he will provide a cameo appearance in all Marc’s lectures.
Marc continued by explaining the difference between Features, Advantages and Benefits and gave various examples of how to take skills and direct them as marketing tools for clients to increase their turnover by using a kids’ entertainer.
This was an excellent hour and the accompanying lecture notes took the form of a thick book at a very cost-effective price.

Ron Popple introduced the ‘Bits o’ Business’ contenders with the whole audience filling voting slips to find the winner. Ron started the proceedings extolling the uses of a squeaker and using a telephone ringer in conjunction with a balloon pump. He then introduced David Silk who demonstrated the use of a gag bag. Richard Ballinger explained that, by greeting the adults as well as the children, he got everyone’s attention from the start and he then demonstrated a trick using a change bag and some colourful balls. David Adams used a magic tin throughout his show, proclaiming that if he opened it the magic would fail. Between every trick he would suggest doing just that and the audience would call out to stop him. Finally a card routine ended with the tin being opened and a spring snake appeared with the card selection in its mouth. David Oakley used a combination of 20th Century Silks and a change bag to good effect whilst Bob Cockbill used Miser’s Dream coming among the audience to gather coins.

Malcolm Malan used silks in various ways, incorporating a wand which produced different silks at one end when he wasn’t looking. There was a lot of fast-paced comedy and he was the eventual winner of a voucher to spend with the dealers.

The final competitor was Eric Sharp who explained that he had retired from performing four years ago and hadn’t done a trick since. He went through various bits of business – how to rid the audience of any balloons they may have brought with them to the show - and advised us to always smile as a serious face causes children to cry. He used a demon box to produce silks, ending with a giant one. Finally he dressed a child in a jacket (representing a cloak) and did some great gags by putting a large magic wand in the pocket and removing it when the audience weren’t watching.

After lunch Ian Adair began his lecture. He raced through many, many ideas, some of them excellent, but unfortunately overran by half an hour. This was considered most inconsiderate to the other lecturers; some of them had to cut their running time as a consequence. Ian demonstrated items such as a magic painting routine, several variations on magic palettes which vanished the colours, a magic hooter which only worked for him, a torn and restored paper strip, a magic potions trick and a large variety of changing bags.

Ali Cadabra literally raced through some useable tricks and ideas. His balloon rabbit which found a selected card was a definite winner for many people as was as puppet and change bag routine which gave a different result every time! He enthused about a Chop Cup routine for kids and also demonstrated a butterfly paper cut out sequence and an invaluable melting snowman. His baking routine without mess can be used anywhere and a simple rope and pegs routine was a cheap and cheerful way to add a new item to a repertoire. Everything he demonstrated was simple but fun – it was just a shame that the lecture notes were pricey compared to those on sale from the other lecturers.

Finally Mike Stokes of Playtime Balloons gave us some food for thought with some amazing balloon models which he sells in shopping centres and other places where he works the crowds. A simple eyeball hat was a real winner as was a teddy on a stick with a heart. His dolphin was a good replica and he taught us an excellent helicopter and butterfly. It was just such a shame that his time had to be cut short.

All in all this kids’ magic convention was considered a great success and people were already planning who to travel in with next year!

© Mandy Davis, September 2004