South Shields International Magic Convention

March 17th - 19th 2006
Reviewed by Roni Shachnaey

To say “It was excellent” would be an understatement. To say “It was Awesome” would be slightly closer. To say it was “The best ever, most excellent and awesome” brings me closer to my real thoughts re this convention. The organization skills of Martin Duffy combined with South Tyneside County Council represented by the wonderful Karri Prinn brings about the best one can hope for.

So what do you get for your money?

• Hospitality that has no equal
• Special rates at the headquarters Hotel
• A cold buffet lunch
• A hot buffet lunch
• Coffees and tea at break times
• Busses to ferry you to and from the Customs House Theatre
• 2 Gala shows incorporating the best and most original top line performers.
• Four top-of-the-line lecturers
• And if all that is not enough - what about a time to socialize with friends in the comfort offered by the organizers

I don’t know of any convention at least here in the UK that can top that or even come close! I can’t wait for next year! Laraine and I arrived on Thursday afternoon and almost immediately started to catch up with friends. Around 7.30 pm we have registered. That was done in minutes without any hassle at all. Thursday evening is a good time to socialize without any pressure and watch the magic that takes place by individuals.


The bus collected us from the Little Haven Hotel and ferried us to the Customs House to watch the Children’s Show that was beautifully delivered by Charlie. The council made sure Charlie had a theatre full of children supplied by one of the primary schools in South Shields. The show theme was helping the environment by recycling our “Rubbish” and straight afterwards we where treated to a very informed lecture by Charlie that taught us how and why to create children’s shows with the emphasis on education. Apparently this is the “IN” thing now with a Government financial backing to the tune of eight million pounds!

After the show and lecture we where invited to take lunch and when we where all done the buses took us back to the Headquarters Hotel where at 2pm we were treated to a Question and Answer afternoon with the “God Father” of modern mentalism David Berglas. David delivered as only he can do. Polished and Professional. He told us with the aid of slides and short video clips about his career, shows and TV appearances. There is so much to learn from this giant of a man. What a treat this was.

At 7pm the buses were ready to ferry us once more to the Customs House Theatre for our first Gala Show of the convention. Paul Stone compered the show in a most professional manner.

First act was Dania (of David & Dania) with her Hoola Hoops. Her skills where amazing and her abilities to entertain whilst juggling and spinning the hoola hoops were truly amazing and dazzling.

Next was Whit Hayden with his charming Southern American lilt, he took us all into his light humorous type of magic that was done with tremendous skill. What a delight.

Next in show was Alec Powell with his non-stop visual gags ending his part with his volunteer from the audience (??) disappearing into the mouth of giant cannon that fired with a huge bang only to reappear bedraggled and blackened by the experience. The audience roared with laughter throughout his act well done!

Our own Geoffrey Durham closed the show as fitting for his “Prince Charming” type act that is so magical so entertaining and so slick the only way to describe Geoffrey’s act is “Pure Gold”.


However, I must say that some acts go a little too long, but this is my humble opinion which may not necessary take the view point of others. After the show back on the buses and off to the Little Haven Hotel. From gentle whispers I hear that not many went to their beds before the next morning arrived!

The convention started off with a very tasty dealer’s demo that put all of us in a good mood for buying new tricks.

Then Docc Hilford gave a great lecture including the world’s easiest Magicians Choice routine. He showed why he is at the top of the mentalism tree!

Lunch was announced and we where all treated to a hot ‘serve yourself as much as you want’ type lunch. Absolutely wonderful!

Reported by: Pat Sullivan

The trio of performers on Saturday’s close-up show had something to please everyone. This was run off in three separate shows, to cater for the large crowd. No full rooms of people here; close up magic as it should be! I attended the 2nd show which commenced at 3:50pm as promised. First on the bill was Whit Haydn from Los Angeles who promptly won the spectators over with some very strong and obviously well tested magical effects. Whit is a mature student of the school for scoundrels!

Having flown in from Dubai, though originally from Buenos Aires, sleight of hand artist Gaston Quieto immediately captured his audience with some brilliant coin work. He followed this with some equally skilful card work and built to a dramatic finale. Surely a new rising magic star.

From Miami came the weird and bizarre Docc Hilford presenting his brand of magick. I feel this kind of entertainment is even more effective in close-up. This American master of the black arts and hypnotism even over ran his allocated 15 minutes. This was a value for money convention!

Paul Stone Lecture
A corporate and charity events producer over 25 years with 15 London Palladium productions and over 200 large scale events under his belt, Paul started with his own performing background and touched on the influence Ken Brooke had on his career. Paul ‘demmed’ some of Ken’s most commercial items including Confabulation and Nemo 1500. Paul owns the world manufacturing and marketing rights for all of Ken Brooke products. Paul offered advice from a bookers view point on how to get more work for better money in the Tradeshow areas and demonstrated his well paced version of the Chop Cup and hilarious Card to Wallet. His experience and expertise shone throughout his “Marathon” 90 minutes session.

Next on the bill were the tea, coffee & biscuits. Here delegates had a chance to chat about what they had seen. No performance criticism here. Soon it was time to board the free luxury coach for the short trip to the custom house theatre. Just time for a drink in the theatre bar before curtain up. The special guests including the Mayor Bill Lynch were at this time enjoying a welcoming drink with organisers Karri and Martin. Walkaround magic was provided by John Bowden from Ireland, Jonathan Prinn and Charlie Peterson (who did the children’s lecture).

Everybody was seated at 7:30pm sharp as compere for the evening local comedian Brendan Healey took the stage. Using a short routine of topical gags he introduced the opening illusion act Latin Magic. This attractive lady and partner danced their way through a variety of illusions including Harbin's Assistants Revenge.

Following this came John Archer, comedy mentalist with a hilarious 30 minute routine. Using quick gags and putdowns in the style of Bernard Manning he joked his way to the interval and great applause.

Just time to stretch our legs and have an ice cream when curtain rises on part two.

Docc Hilford is back with a lengthy session of bizarre magick. An appreciative audience gave him a well deserved ovation.

To conclude, we enjoyed what is probably today’s worlds best touring quick change act. David & Dania are a husband and wife team from the U.S.A. & Russia respectively. The male half does some effective magic including colour changing gloves, while his wife changes her very spectacular dresses up to 10 times. These changes are instantaneous with minimal cover, the last being in a shower of confetti. This has to be seen to be believed! A great finish to a most enjoyable and compact magic show.

Back at the Little Haven headquarters hotel came the special midnight show featuring whit Haydn once again. Introduced by Brendan Healey, the comedy came thick and fast as with audience helpers he romped through linking rings, rope routine, borrowed ring in egg etc., the undetected watch steal at the end floured everyone and proved Whit is a master of strong impromptu magic and I know we will see him at future British conventions.

All in all a great day of varied magic. Full marks to the organisers for providing a well balanced group of magical performers.


Is it Sunday already?
We started yet another day of first class magic. First we where treated to Whit Haydn lecture. This was something I can watch again and again. Whit started by telling us his life story and how he did street magic in New York to subsidise his student fees. He went through amazing card miracles and what he calls ‘Cons’ including a wonderful treatise on how to do magic for the blind! He went through the Pea and Shell game with explanations that taught us how to go about this what he called “Con”. It was a great lecture delivered by a great personality.

Next on the bill was Gaston Quieto. Gaston’s approach to magic is well oiled. He took us through some card feats that made my eyes go funny and the explanations that followed made my head spin. Sometime you think to yourself “This is beyond me” and indeed it would be very difficult to replicate Gaston’s sleight of hand but, if you decide to try come and see me in 10 years! Gaston’s coin routines are first class. His ring on the spectator’s finger was amazing and all was explained to the last detail.

Later on in the afternoon those who paid the extra fees stayed and had Master Classes with: Docc Hilford and David & Dania. From what I hear the students got more then their money worth!

To sum it all up in few words is very difficult but here I would like to yet again thank Martin Duffy and South Tyneside Council for such a great event. I feel that in short time this will become one of the best events on the magician’s calendar. I do hope that this convention will continue every year and this is not just me saying that but each and every registrant I have had the pleasure to talk to.



© Roni Shachnaey, April 2006