At the end of April, I was in Limerick for the Annual Convention of Irish Ring 85 of the International Brotherhood of Magicians. Each year, the Convention moves from Dublin (organised by the Society of Irish Magicians) to Limerick (Munster Society of Magicians) to Belfast (Ulster Society of Magicians). I had been to last year’s convention in Dublin and, due to seeing the initial line-up on the website (especially after seeing David and Dania‘s name down for performing), I had booked my flights when I was asked if I would travel over and lecture at the Convention. I had lectured before to Magic Societies, but never to a Convention. Mind you, with one hour at a Convention against a couple of hours at a Magic Society things would be fairly easy (well, I thought! See later).

My flight on the Friday morning was fine – typical Ryanair affair – and I was met at the airport by my good friend John Bowden who took me to my hotel (what a room!) where the whole Convention was taking place. After a wee while to get a shower and get changed, I made my way down to the car park where a bus was waiting to take us to Bunrattay Folk Village for their “Traditional Irish Night” and what a load of fun it all was. From the jokes (fairly clean) on the way there, to the entertainment during dinner (which included Irish Songs, Dances and jokes as well as a guest spot from magician Michael Finney who was performing and lecturing at the Convention) to the songs and jokes on the way back (“near the knuckle” – well, it was late and many folk had been drinking!) it was a great night and one that really set the weekend up nicely.

Saturday morning saw the first of the lectures (Mark Shortland) and my first chance to see where I would be “working” (I use that term loosely!) on the Sunday afternoon. It was upstairs in one of the hotel’s bars and could fit a fair number of people in. I have to admit that I found it difficult to relax during the Saturday – probably because I knew I was lecturing on the Sunday – so I didn’t really sit back and watch any one thing for any length of time for the first part of Saturday. I saw a bit of Mark’s lecture and I’m not really into watching Children’s Magic, although I did hang out back stage for a while talking with friends as the Children’s Matinee was going on. The first thing I really watched was the Michael Finney lecture. A really interesting lecture, mostly concerned about the business side of being a performer.

Saturday night saw the Convention Banquet and Stage Competition. The 5-course meal was, as always, excellent and is always a hghlight for me. The Stage Competition was entertaining, but for all the wrong reasons. There were a few bad acts on that bill, including one young man who seemed to be doing an act that consisted of all the toys that he had got over the last wee while! Not being a stage performer, I’ll leave my comments there.

Sunday arrived and it was time to do the final preparations for my lecture. As the Children’s Lecture was going on, I was locked away in my room doing a full run-through of my one-hour lecture. All seemed to go pretty well. Before I knew it, it was 12:30pm and time to start getting changed and getting ready for presenting the lecture at 2pm. I arrived at the room where the lectures were being presented to find it deserted! Not a soul there! Have I got the time wrong? Wrong room? No, all was fine as people started arriving a few minutes later. As they arrived, I was wired for sound and helped set the camera up so that people could get a closer view of what was going on. At around 2:15, there were enough people to merit me starting the lecture, which I did and before I knew it, it was nearly 3pm! Time to start doing my last effect, then try to sell my lecture notes (they’re available by clicking the link – hey, if I can’t sell them via here, where can I sell them?).

With my lecture done, I had a little time to go and get changed out of my suit before going back to be a judge in the Close Up Competition, which I had won in Dublin last year. The technical standard of the competition was OK, and for me there were 2 stand out acts. When I consulted the other judges, we had a fairly easy time realising that we had pretty much chosen the same performer. What gets me is the almost total lack of preparation that some of the performers give to what is, in essence, the Irish National Close Up Competition. Some of the entrants decided to enter an hour or 2 before the competition itself and performed in jeans and t-shirt. That would have been fine if they had an act – espeically one that suited the way they were dressed – but most of them stood at the table emm-ing and ahh-ing between tricks as they tried to think of what to do next. They were totally ill-prepared! If someone had done that at virtually any other competition I have ever seen, they would have been laughed out of the room. If you are taking part in a Competition, you need to have an act – don’t just stand there and do a bunch of tricks that you decide upon there and then! An act that flows. One that has a beginning, middle and end! OK? OK, rant over.

That brings us to the Gala Show. Hosted once again by Aonghus McAnally – UK-based conventions should get him over to MC over here, he’s fantastic! – The show was filled from end-to-end with magic and music. I was even awarded my SIM Gold Medal for winning the Close Up Competition last year in Dublin. Personal highlights of the show included Aonghus telling joke after joke (so many that I couldn’t write them down!), Michael Finney and, of course, David and Dania. The show brought the official convention stuff to a wonderful close, but it was not the end of the convention itself – there was still the hotel bar to go to for the night! The bar was packed with people sitting, talking, drinking and showing the occasional trick to one another. It is almost tradition with weekend conventions that we take hours to say “goodbye” to one another – even though we know we’ll see each other down the road fairly soon.

I had a great weekend, and it was great to see so many friends, both old and new. Also, I would really like to thank the organisers for taking a chance and asking me, a fairly unknown performer, to give the Close Up lecture at their convention this year.

The Cardman 🙂

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