Peterborough Society of Magicians 23rd Annual Sale, Exchange And Lecture Day
Millfield Hall, Peterborough
Sunday 10th April 2011
Overlooked by Al Smith

As supporters and regular attenders are aware, this event is not a pure convention; it’s a Sale and Exchange. A Bring & Buy, a Jumble Sale, almost. But with added finesse. As well as things to buy and sell, there are lectures, workshops, “proper” dealers, car-boot dealers, plenty of fun and all at a price you can afford.

The lectures this year were supplied by Paul Gordon and Ian Keable; the workshop by Alexander Allen.

Following the official opening by President Keith Downs the first 45 minutes were dedicated to browsing the various stands. At a quarter to eleven, Paul Gordon kicked off a 90 minute session of cards, cards and more cards. Ninety minutes of cards?!! Hell for some, but with Paul Gordon the opposite is the case. The time dashes by because Paul is a magic fan in the best sense of the word; an enthusiast. And it’s his enthusiasm that carries the day. This is not to rubbish the material he performs and explains—he’s not trying to build something out of nothing. The material is solid enough, but benefits greatly from Paul’s energy. Great stuff and proof that in the right hands even the humble card trick can comfortably entertain a crowd of fifty or so people. Note: In the right hands.

Alexander Allen is less a firebrand than Paul Gordon, but has developed his own style and mastery of sleeving. It’s something of a lost art these days, but maintains its status as a classic tactic. It’s also remains a useful catchall “explanation” for layfolk. Pat Page and Roy Baker, both of whom I’ve seen lecture at Peterborough are two of the best sleevers I’ve encountered, but Mister Allen, has his own take on the subject and is well worth studying. He’s not all sleeving, but that was his keynote strategy.

Ian Keable’s lecture was titled Stand-Up Classics and that’s what we had here; all presented by a skilled performer. I saw Ian’s one-man show a couple of years ago, delivered to an audience mostly comprising layfolk. There were magicians present and I hope they learned as much as I did; that the classics of magic aren’t classics in name only. And that audiences lap them up. They need to be in safe hands, but the quality of the material is a good starting point. I’m not going to offer a list of actual tricks, because that will not be particularly inspiring. It’s the curse of the fraternity not to be motivated by anything until we see it live and large. All I will say is that Ian is that increasingly rare individual, the thinking magician. If you get a chance to see him, take it—either his public show or his lecture. Preferably both.

Among the recognisably “official dealers” were Merlins, Zanes Magic Shop, Mick Hanzlik, Hocus Pocus, Albion Magic and The Magic Trick Shop. On the car boot side of things were David Hawkins, Alan Maskell and John Green. There were several others, but this is largely from memory and the odd leaflet and price list I collected, so as ever, sorry for those I’ve missed.

Sadly no one seemed to be especially busy. The Peterborough Day is a full one and generally passes almost before you know it’s begun; all over for another year. As always, good value, good magic, good company. With two lectures and a workshop of this calibre, it would be hard pressed to be anything else, really.

However, it’s sad to report that this was the first “Day” that really gave some indication of the malaise that is affecting live magic events in general. Numbers were down markedly, both sellers and buyers. The Peterborough Society is an active one and the members work hard to fly the magic flag, not just on the “Day” but all through the year. They’re not doing anything wrong; if they were, they’d fix it. But like the rest of the fraternity the problem doesn’t have a quick fix; possibly no kind of fix.

But from a personal point of view, I find it dispiriting that the level of enthusiasm abroad in the fraternity in recent times is distinguished largely by its absence. To repeat, even without the dealers, the lineup here represents very good value. Why miss out? End of sermon.


© A E Smith, April 2011