2008 Blackpool Convention

It is crazy, busy, rushed and leaves you shattered at the end of it. Yes, another edition of the Blackpool Magicians’ Convention is now a memory. It’s a chance to meet up with old friends, make new ones. It is a Convention with enough events to easily fill a 4 or 5-day Convention crammed into 2½ days!

For years, I’ve been travelling down to Blackpool on the Thursday morning so I can go play some American Pool in one of the American Pool Halls in the town and this year was no exception. I arrived at the Riley’s American Pool and Snooker club to find that I could practice on the table used by the reigning World 9-Ball Champion, Daryl Peach. Daryl, sadly, wasn’t going to be in town that weekend as he was playing a EuroTour event in Paris. Ach well, so much for congratulating him in person for the World Title that he won in November. The table that Daryl practices on is tapped, has the proper cloth and has 4½-inch double shimmed pockets. Now, that won’t mean a great deal to you if you don’t play American Pool, but to those that do, they are pretty tough conditions. I even got to meet up with Lynette Horsburgh, one of the top all-round cue sports players in Britian, who I hadn’t seen since she came to the Scottish 9-Ball Championships in Kirkcaldy back in October. It was good to be able to sit and catch up.

Friday was the start of the Convention. Registration at 10am, then nothing Convention-wise for some 5 hours, so I went back to Riley’s and played more pool (again on Daryl’s table) until things started. After meeting up with friends and a couple of laps of the Dealers’ Hall (which is where we buy all our new tricks, books, DVDs, props, etc.) my first event was to go and see Shawn Farquhar‘s lecture. I’ve seen Farquhar perform at the last 2 World Championships and he has always impressed me. He performs with enough energy to power a small town and is not scared to perform some impressive material – both in terms of technique and effect. His lecture was full of very easy material (he likes easy!) and the same energy that he gives when I’ve seen him perform in the past. Although I, personally, would not use any of the material that he taught in the lecture, it was great fun to watch and I would highly recommend that you go and see him if he’s in your local area.

Me with Justin Lee Collins and Alan Carr


Saturday was going to be a busy day for me with 3 lectures pretty much back-to-back. The first was David Solomon from Chicago – a student, friend and confidant of the legendary Edward Marlo. It was, as expected, all cards, some technical stuff including a great thought-of card across from his current book “The Wisdom Of Solomon” that fooled me 3 times in a row. Well worth the book just for that effect alone! Next up was Jean-Jacques Sanvert of Paris who, amongst other things, taught his Bill To Cheese routine that was published in Genii a few years ago. Really, really clever! Finally was the one person I was wanting to see perform, lecture and meet – JC Wagner from San Diego. JC is one of the best Bar Magicians in the world and is the sole reason that I learned to perform the Card Under Glass – so now you know who to blame! He did a whole bunch of old and new routines, including Card Under Glass which made me smile as those around me missed it completely. I had the great pleasure of meeting him afterwards, as well as at the end of the Convention itself and he was the nicest of the nice people. I’m glad I went!

Me with JC Wagner

The Saturday night is, traditionally, the “British Magical Championships”. This year, however, was a little different. They still called it a “competition” but there were no judges, no marks, no point(s). The first half consisted of all-UK performers with John Archer being my personal favourite. The interval came 2½ hours after the show started and after the first couple of acts in the second half, I – along with the folk I was sitting with – gave up and headed round to the Ruskin Hotel, the Headquarters Hotel of the Convention, to sit and chat. It turns out, however, that I missed one of the classic MC gaffs of all time. The MC for the show was Stu Francis – he of “Crackerjack” and who would say “ooh, I could crush a grape” or “ooh, I could test-drive a Tonka” (my personal favourite) – and while he seemed to be getting a little over-excited on stage at what was going on, he really didn’t seem to have a grasp of things. He was mis-naming performers all over the place. He gave Shawn Farquhar 2 different names – both of them totally incorrect! You can read Shawn’s own thoughts on the situation – as well as his thoughts on the Convention itself – at his Blog (you’ll need to go to the stuff that he wrote in February to get the Blackpool stories).

Paul Wilson with French card genius Bebel

Sunday was, for me, a quieter day. I went to see some of the Close Up shows that were going on and saw JC Wagner and Shawn Farquhar. Both excellent – I still have no idea how Farquhar manages to get a signed card inside a fully sealed deck of cards! After that, I made a decision to see friends instead of events. Coffee with Paul, Mhairi, Kris and Christina. Shopping with Julie. That sort of stuff. All very enjoyable. After dinner in the American rock diner across the road from the Winter Gardens, it was time for the Gala Show. Nowhere near as long as the night before (thank smeg!) but while it wasn’t the best, it wasn’t the worst Gala Show I had seen. My favourite had to be Topaz’s “Childhood” act based around a playroom. I had seen that act before (I can’t remember where, possibly at FISM2003 in The Hague), but I had forgotten just how good that act was.

Me with Florida card expert Kostya Kimlat

Everyone went back round to the Ruskin after the Gala Show and a party of sorts started up that lasted well into the night. I managed to get some time to talk to Emma, a friend that I had initially met for a few seconds in Southport when she dropped her mobile phone, and ended up watching some of the crazy things that tend to happen during these nights – Ian Kendall pushing the inside of a biro pen up his nose, then trying to write with it!!! Pretty gross, but VERY funny! I also got to watch one of the most amazing magic sessions I’ve seen in a long time between my good friend Paul Wilson, JC Wagner and French card genius Bebel. I had seen Bebel perform before but he was on top form this night and baffling everyone that could see the table top.

How many people can you cram into a hotel lobby?

It was a good weekend. Not the best, but certainly not the worst. Of the stuff that I bought, I’ve been listening to the audiobook version of Michael Close’s book “That Reminds Me: Finding The Funny In A Serious World” almost constantly (The Cardman’s quick review: VERY FUNNY! BUY IT!!!) and I’ve started reading Geoffrey Durham’s book “Professional Secrets: A Life In Magic”. Of what I’ve read so far, this is an excellent book and whilst I won’t necessarily use any of the performance material within the book, I will certainly be taking note of what he says in his informative essays.

Right, I’d better go and try and get my head back into the real world once again.

Speak soon.

The Cardman 🙂

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