Travis Perkins Assembly Seventeenth Anniversary Day of Magic
Sunday 5th July 2009
Overlooked by Al Smith

It doesn’t seem like 16 years since the TPA burst onto the magic scene in Ferrybridge, West Yorkshire. It used to be a quid to get in; now it’s not. But at £3-50 it’s still a bargain and remains Magic’s Pound Shop equivalent.

This year there were no workshops, or Workshopettes, which is a shame. But there were two lecturettes—snapshot versions of full lectures. These were Behind The Red Curtain with International Magician and Illusionist Andrew Green and The Nike Lecture—Just Do It! with Magic Circle Stage Magician of the Year John Archer.

The day began with a brief introduction from TPA organiser Michael Shepherd. As well as a quick overview of things ahead, Mike also presented a special TPA Silver Platinum Award to Colin Fox, aka The Silver Fox. Long service and loyalty still count .in some quarters.

Andrew Green kicked off the magical proceedings with his Behind The Red Curtain lecturette. This was an interesting mix of silent, fairly intimate stage magic accompanied by slightly too loud music. It was all quite arty, representing Mister Green’s self-confessed performing arts background and love of all things theatrical.

During the explanation, Mister Green referred to this as being (jargon alert) a “chilled out routine.” The magic consisted of a torn and restored newspaper which morphed into silk from the restored paper, then silk to candle and back again.

Following this came a selected card routine, performed for a single spectator. Then we were treated to Mister Green’s expanded version of much the same trick, but which opened out the action to include four spectators. The whole was rounded off by a couple of anecdotes concerning Mister Green’s adventures in the crazy world of theatre.

Following a break to allow spending came a Cavalcade of Comedy Capers Question & Answer Session featuring Tony Stevens and John Archer, with Mike Shepherd as chairman. Question cards were available on arrival and come session time a number had been submitted by the attending Travistas. Mister Stevens and Mister Archer are familiar faces on the magic circuit; their various performances suggesting that they know a thing or two about comedy. This caperette gave them a chance to prove it. And they did. The session was a humour-packed 50 minutes, but none of the gags got in the way of truckloads of astute comment and observation. No tricks, but there was gold among the chuckles.

Comedy magician or not, John Archer revealed himself to be a heavy duty thinker, repeatedly emphasising the fact that if you’re a magician, you should magish. Presentation is all and make ’em laugh, but keep the magic strong. Always leave the audience in no doubt that no matter what else is going on, when it comes to magic you really do know what you’re doing.

Mike Shepherd did a solid job as chairman and the two participants were well up to the mark. A very well received session.

Following the Q&A came a break for lunch and another bout of non-spending, then John Archer returned to action with The Nike Lecture—Just Do It. Strong magic enhanced by strong comedy. The three tricks performed, explained and discussed were, ostensibly, Kenton Kneppper’s Kollosall Killer, Magic Square and something Mister Archer called a Psychic Word Reading. Superbly performed, they clearly illustrated the points made in the Q&A session. The John Archer treatment is unquestionably what made the performances special, but the explanations and the thinking behind the methods are things that anybody can adapt and apply.

Being a move junkie from way back, I was particularly taken with the John Archer Forty-Five Degree Twist Palm, used to facilitate a card to wallet load.

Another break now for more non-spending and then we were into the finale: The Showette.

Doubling as compere, Tony Stevens opened with no magic, but a gag-filled comedy spot. This concluded with some lunacy involving a box of props and Frank Sinatra bellowing Come Fly With Me. One of those you-had-to-be-there routines.

Next was Andrew Green with the routine he performed and explained in his lecturette; torn and restored newspaper, silks and whatnot. For me a repeat too far, I’m afraid. This was followed with a selected jumbo card thing performed to music. Although a spectator joined Mister Green on stage there was no overt dialogue. The effect was Martin Lewis’s Cardiographic, in which the magician makes a sketch of what proves to be the wrong card rising out of a card box. The sketch then changes into the correct card. A brief and not altogether complete description, but it’ll do.

Mister Green closed with another silent routine involving a vanishing bottle, sponges, D’Lite and coils from mouth.

John Archer brought the proceedings to a close with a demonstration of his genuine talents on the ukulele—George Harrison and Macca eat your hearts out. Sandwiched between the strumming was an expensive looking three object divination. Three spectators each removed an object from a box and using nothing more than the power of his mind, Mister Archer divined the object. I get the feeling I should know the name of this, but I can’t bring it to mind.

And that was it. Another TPA Day over with for another year. The next is set for July 4th next year.

As I’ve noted before in Abra (remember that?) and will again, the Travis experience follows a well thumbed footpath. Dealers, dealerettes (carbooters) selling—or at least offering—their wares to a cheery ensemble of magic fans. This year attendance numbered 159.

In no particular order, the Proper Dealers having the time of their life were Castle Magic, Merlins Of Wakefield, Black Cat Magic, Romantica Jewellery and Bradford Magic Studio, aka Cliff Lount. The carbooters were Bob West, Sue de Courcy and the Barnsley Circle Of Magicians (well, three of ’em, anyway). Somewhere in between were the performer/lecturers.

The credit crunch has added a whole new section to the long pocket encyclopaedia of excuses not to spend, but business did seem brisk. And the feeling was that most of those with things to sell were not too disheartened.

As always, Mike Shepherd, custodian-in-chief of Castle Magic, masterminded the day’s proceedings, ably assisted by The Sheperdettes—Christine Shepherd, Sue de Courcy, Maurice Johnson, and Bob West. Pat Gresham and Irene Webster did their usual unrivalled work on the turnstiles, vigorously off-loading raffle tickets on the unwary along the way. Mrs Higgins and her team of helpers, kept the tea and buns and cakes and ale flowing at a price we could afford.

By “regular” convention standards the TPA is fairly a low key affair and I wouldn’t recommend a super-long journey to attend. But that said, over the years any number of folk have been travelling up to a hundred miles and consider it worth the journey. Something is right somewhere. And yet...

Nobody can get to everything and the stuff of life does get in the way of things. But anybody who lives within shuffling distance and simply can’t be bothered to get off their backside and have a couple of quidsworth needs a refresher course in how to be a magic enthusiast. Sadly there are a few.


Photo: The Q&A Panel. Tony Stevens, Mike Shepherd, John Archer


© Al Smith, July 2009