Vagabond Pickpocketing Course
London 26th April 2015
Reviewed by Prof Jon Holt

On a sunny Sunday, coinciding with the London Marathon, I made my way to Treadwell’s Bookshop in London to attend a day’s training with the Vagabond pickpocketing course. The course had around 20 attendees with a couple of additional helpers popping in and out throughout the day.

The day was set up and run by Anthony Jacquin, who I have met a few times over the years since attending his excellent hypnosis training weekends in Derby. The trainer for the day was the incomparable James Brown (no, not that one) who I have seen perform a number of times over the years at various conferences, events, on TV and on YouTube.

First of all, James is a first-rate trainer who is a master of his subject area, which is theatrical pick pocketing. He is also affable, witty and very engaging.

The day started with James giving us an overview of pick pocketing and talked about the physical skills, but mainly the mental attitude required to perform the deed. Anyone already familiar with James and his work will recognise aspects of his POWA (Professional Opportunist Wronglessness Approach) philosophy that shines through in his teaching.

James got up a volunteer and proceeded to show us the first simple technique, the side pocket steal. We were then all thrown in at the deep end by selecting partners and trying out the techniques. After the first exercise I wondered if I could ever master this as a skill, with my clumsy attempts to steal items from the outside pocket seeming more like a brutal mugging than a subtle extraction. The course continued, however, and by lunchtime we were all stealing items from one another and, very importantly, surprising each other with the techniques.

The basic problem that I think we were all initially struggling with was having the wrong mind-set – rushing and panicking when we should have been relaxing and taking our time. Once we had achieved this level of mental calm, James was absolutely right, and there was no stopping us.

By the end of the day we were stealing items from inside and outside pockets of jackets, front pockets of trousers and jeans, ties, cufflinks and, in some cases watches, rings and even glasses!

James showed us how we could use these skills to enhance our magic and hypnotism routines but, above all, how to control and misdirect our victims. It turns out that pick pocketing is about 90% misdirection and about 10% light-fingeredness! Even if you never pick a pocket after attending this course, the lessons in misdirection will be of fundamental importance to any magician or hypnotist. Treat this course like a masterclass in misdirection and you will still get more than your money’s worth.

Overall, the day was truly outstanding and more than justified my trip from Wales to attend and provided excellent networking opportunities with like-minded folk, including magicians, hypnotists and even a few people with non-magical interests – possibly criminals!

I cannot recommend this course highly enough.

Thanks again to James and Anthony for such a fabulous day.

© Prof Jon Holt, May 2015.