Peterborough 21st Day of Magic
Millfield Hall, Peterborough
Sunday 5th April 2009
Overlooked by Al Smith

This annual event is not and was never intended to be a “pure” magic convention. It’s a good old jumble sale; well more or less. There are things to buy and sell, but there are also lectures, workshops, “proper” dealers, car-boot dealers, tea and buns, loadsafun and crowds of Magic’s famed long-pocketeer purchasers-in-prospect. Yes more than just a jumble sale, the title Sale and Exchange, positions it slap bang in its rightful place.

Actually there’s one thing wrong with that opening paragraph. This year there weren’t any “crowds” to speak of. There were more than several registrants, but sad to say attendance numbers were down considerably. They were down last year, but still high for a fairly low key event. Last year probably only regular attendees noticed the slight fall off. This year I think even the occasional passerby would be aware of the fewer folk.

That said I did chat to one first-timer who, not having any previous visits to compare thought it was a very pleasant and cosy affair. Which it was.

The format was the familiar one, three workshops and two lectures and time to buy, sell and/or exchange. Or not.

Magic Circle stalwart Mandy Davis ran the workshops, the subject matter being a basic course in the use of a thumbtip. The lectures came from David Penn and Rob Cox.

The day gets under way at 10am with a presidential official opening at 11am. In previous years a guest of honour has been invited to open the day, but that tradition seems to have been gently laid to rest and resident President Josh Miller did the business. The PA system was either turned down to zero or (as I suspect) wasn’t very powerful and as a result Mister Miller’s pronouncements, were frequently inaudible. But the job got done and officially we were on our way.

“Official” dealers included Albion Magic, Hocus Pocus Magic, Magic Books By Post, Merlins of Wakefield and Keith Bennett.

First on teaching duty should have been Mandy Davis, but due to some sort of communication breakdown she thought she was doing two sessions not three, so didn’t arrive in time. There was an interval where this session should have been until it was time for David Penn.

David’s lecture won the award for best session of the day from those I spoke to. Good ideas, all performed and explained thoroughly and with enthusiasm. One of our experts who asked not to be named thought it was a pity that a trick with ropes that clearly owes its genesis to a Paul Curry notion did not come with the requisite credit.

If you’re looking for one thing in a lecture and it’s something else, it’s not enough for some to say “Not my cup of tea,” it has to be expressions of negativity. So it was with the Rob Cox session which received mixed comments. Some thought too much exposition and not enough tricks, but where have we heard that before? A detailed analysis-cum-dissertation on the psychology of the Six-Card Repeat and the Tossed-Out Deck seemed to stir the most pique.

The two Mandy Davis thumbtip events received good notices. One or two commented on the feeling that they were sat in on a tutorial for the London Magic Circle’s Juniors, but if you’re looking to learn from an experienced tutor, what’s wrong with that?

The Peterborough Experience is a full day. Good value, good magic, good company. Like everybody else we’re all more skint than usual thanks to the predations of the financiers, but I’m not sure that’s the entire reason for the fall in numbers this year. The Northern Magic Circle has shifted its Easter Parade and this clashed, as did the Wessex Association Of Magicians convention. All these things probably had some effect, but even in combination don’t tell the whole story. Oh yes, it was school holidays, too. Mind you it seems to me that the schools are always on some kind of holiday.

The Peterborough Bash has been a success for some time now and a major part of this is down to the hard work of the members at large and the progressive and practical thinking of the key members. I’m sure there will be a postmortem on this year’s event, because there always is. My hope is that whatever the results drastic corrective action is not the first thought. One apparent hiccough does not mean that things have gone suddenly wrong.

Listening to several of the dealers, both proper and carbooters, the consensus was that although spending was down this year, the event was still worth turning out for. I agree. I picked up some gems anyway and at the right price.
Here’s to next year. And more of the same.


© Al Smith, April 2009