Peterborough Society of Magicians 29th Annual Sale, Exchange & Lecture Day
Millfield Hall, Peterborough
Sunday 11th June 2017
Reviewed by Walt Lees

Peterborough's SEAL of Approval

Over the best part of three decades, the Peterborough Society of Magicians Annual Sale, Exchange and Lecture (SEAL for short) Day has evolved. It used to be primarily about buying, selling and swapping, with a couple of lectures thrown in for good measure. But after twenty-nine years, most attendees seem to be there for the lectures and very little happens in the way of horse trading. Perhaps, eBay has a lot to answer for here. Today's wizards would sooner offload their unwanted items on line, than get up at first light, lug them to a faraway town, sit all day behind a table haggling with possible buyers and time wasters, and still have to cart any unsold stuff back home afterwards.

Consequently, the few sellers who do turn up, tend to be mainly professional dealers, for whom dragging their merchandise around the country in the early hours is part of the job description. While it is always a pleasure to see them and their wares, it is the amateur trader, with his or her secondhand goodies, who provides the happiest hunting ground for the bargain seeker. It is among their piles of seen-better-days paraphernalia that are encountered the forgotten gems of yesteryear, or the occasional collectors item.

But most of the people who come do not appear to be particularly interested in this aspect. Many prefer to kill the time between lectures by chatting in the refreshment area, rather than browsing.

So what of the lectures? There were three and any one of them, alone, would have been worth the admission price. All were top class and completely different. First off the mark was Quentin Reynolds with a mixed bag containing something for everyone. He began by performing all the routines without explaining anything; then in the second part, he took us through the workings and, more importantly, the thinking which underpinned them. It was here that his professionalism and experience shone through. This was real-world working magic straight from the repertoire of a successful performer. It was obvious that everything had been presented hundreds of times to the paying public.

Most impressive were his miniature Linking Rings, which contained several subtleties that left the audience with the belief that they had handled every ring; his adaptation of the sucker T & R Tissue, with an added kicker at the finish; the Dissolving Knots which many associate with Slydini, although Quentin s handling owed much to Charlie Edwards and Dai Vernon. The slow-motion visible untying knot at the finish brought tremendous applause. We also saw a puppet routine for children, with a chicken and a fox; a handling of Supreme's Popsy Pegs, which included Eric Sharp's addition to enable the apparatus to work while out of the performer s hands; and a Linking Safety Pins using the Slydini gimmick rather than the better-known Andrus one.

Paul Gordon (second up) was really supposed to be doing a workshop, but owing to the large number in the room, decided that a lecture would be more appropriate. His energy and zest for card magic quickly infected everyone. That he had forgotten to bring a close-up mat and had to work on a bare tabletop did nothing to detract from the performance.

The audience were treated to some of his best-known routines, plus a few that he has not featured so often for magical gatherings. Notable among these was a signed card in wallet, where he openly thrusts the card into the wallet in full view of the audience without them realising. There was also a very nice four ace production, where the aces appear one at a time sandwiched between two other cards. Even so, the strongest applause came for old favourites like his estimation ace cutting and Ten Card Poker. But few are left in any doubt that, good as the tricks are, the real secret is Paul himself, his love of his subject and the enthusiasm with which he puts it across.

The final lecturer, following the raffle, was Andi Gladwin, whose style is much quieter and more matter-of-fact than Paul s but no less incisive, in its own way. His opening effect, a stand-up mechanical version of the classic Arthur Finley and/or Dai Vernon Matching the Cards brought audible gasps at the cleanness and unexpectedness of the final transformation. This was followed by a very neat version of the classic Oswald Williams and/or Oswald Rae vanish and reappearance of the magicians watch, money and wedding ring, with the Tommy Wonder approach of the articles disappearing from an envelope. Other highlights were an effective but simple discovery of three cards at high speed, a couple of novel card sleights and an elimination game involving six spectators, in which the winner turned out to have been predicted in advance.

The final effect (and what an effect!) was a magic square formed by random number cards, with a devastating kicker when everything is turned upside down and the numbers shown to produce a different but equally magic square. It is a show-stopper. And those who believe the cliché that there is nothing new in magic, should take note that this effect required a special computer program to be written in order to crunch through the thousands of possible numbers and generate a suitable batch. So a few decades ago, it would have been, if not impossible, thoroughly impractical to produce. Anyway, it brought the day to a fitting close.

Congratulations to President John Learoyd and his team for organising yet another excellent Annual Peterborough Day which definitely deserves more of your support.

© Walt Lees, July 2017