One question I am nearly always asked is how did I start in magic or how did I get into magic. Well, despite not have the ‘Paul Daniel’s Magic set – I did have a ‘Hocus Pocus’ magic set which was brilliant. It was full of puzzles and tricks.
Now back in the 80’s (when I was a boy) boxes of cereal were usually promoted through their free toys. This was a highlight for me and my brother – to run to the supermarket shelves which held the cereals and we could pick one box each. Invariably mine was weetoes and nearly always contained small magic tricks – which I still have today. Combine these with my 35 magic tricks from my box of tricks and you had a show!!
I went to a party the other day and was refreshed to see a box of tricks with gorgeous wooden tricks and well-made bits and bobs with no scrimping on the cost. Uusally when a child is excited to show me there box of tricks, despite being excited that they have one, I am invariably disappointed to see that have of the box is full of plastic wrapping to bulk it out and the other half is made up of fiddly little, cheaply made plastic tricks and an equally uninspiring book of instructions. (Marvin’s magic has cornered the market in this stack them high sell them cheap magic sets and I would say is to blame for this current trend in poorly produced, brightly coloured box of tricks).
At 5,6,7 or 8 years old who wants to sit down and read instructions? But you have to. Once you have read them, you need to understand them (the mechanics of the trick) and then practice them. With such uninspiring instructions, I can’t help but think these are produced purely for the profit and not to inspire magicians.
The best thing to do would be to break the tricks into chunks where, once you master one effect you can move onto the next one, and they get increasingly difficult in their mechanics and skill level required…. But I suppose that is just my ramblings and profit for the retailer and producer will be paramount over encouraging young children to practice, perform and excel at magic.
With that diversion over, the tricks in my box of tricks were well made of wood, plastic, rope, metal – beautiful looking. The instructions whilst not the most engaging where well presented in a glossy book with pictures and drawings. Couple this with the simple but effective tricks inside the boxes of cereal and I soon had a repertoire.
My first show was a double act with my brother, who incidentally also performs magic. He had a handmade top hat, made out of cardboard and me a cape. Together we were a double act performing after dinner show’s when my parents friends came round.
A mixture of stage and close-up magic gave me the confidence and excitement to continue performing.
As a grew older, so the style of magic had changed. Enter David Blaine (with a side note and tip of the hat to Paul Zenon) and on the millennium evening I stayed at home to watch the TV specials which would inspire and change my life forever.