Spent a great day on Saturday at a workshop on ‘Ideomotor Responses, Uncommon Coding, Wobbly Interfaces, and Mind Reading Birds’, run by Stuart Nolan. The aim was to build on the history and science of the ideomotor response to explore new approaches to performance, physical interaction, game design, and the development of new technologies for interaction.

The event was organised by Nik Taylor and David Wainwright of The Magic Research Group, part of the Department of Drama at The University of Huddersfield. It was attended by a small but interestingly mixed group: from magic there was Ashton Carter, Mark Elsdon and myself, and two students from the University Drama Department’s magic group, a theatre director, and a research engineer. I must say I was surprised that there weren’t more magicians there! I don’t know if Stuart intends to do more of these, but if the workshop comes your way, be there.

Ideomotor response has, of course, played an important role in ritual and performance, from early Roman divination, Victorian spirit theatre and dowsing to mindreading, Ouija boards and the sexing of chickens. Cognitive science is now revealing the fundamental role such responses play in learning, communication and physical development.

For those of you who don’t know, Stuart Nolan is a Magician in Residence at Pervasive Media Studio and The University of Bristol Computer Science Department where he has developed the friendly mindreading robots, IdeoBird and OuijaBird.

As a former NESTA Fellow in Applied Magic he is credited with bringing the study of deception out of the lab and into the everyday world. He combines his skills in traditional disciplines of deception with original research into how we are deceived by language and physical gesture. He recently deceived over 700 organisations just to prove a point. (Essentially updating the well-known Bertram Forer personality test and applying it to organisations rather than people.)

Stuart is co-editor of The Magic Research Group’s Journal of Performance Magic.

The workshop was very much hands on and offered much useful background information and food for thought for performers (not just ‘mind magicians’) as well as artists, designers, psychologists, educators and scientists.

It’s impossible here to give more than a brief flavour of what was covered. During the day we touched on story-telling, Dada and Surrealism, Bob Burns’ The Swan, Raymond Tallis’ The Hand, Saccadic vision versus ‘soft looking’, hypnosis, deceit in sport, tau perception (guidance of body movements through perception by the organism acting as a whole in a dynamic relationship with its environment), affordancy (the property of an object which facilitates action), Alva Noë, common coding (perception and action being directly linked, as opposed to perception, cognition and then action), the Phenomenological Bump (as a reaction to a magical moment), and mirror neuron response (a mirror neuron fires both when we perform an action and when we see someone else perform an action).

I hope I’ve got all that right; it’s taken from my scribbled notes taken on the day. It might all sound a bit daunting listed like that, but believe me, it wasn’t. Stuart has way of talking, explaining and demonstrating which made the workshop both entertaining and easy to follow. I certainly learnt a lot… things which I can apply to mind magic performance, and understanding what works and why, and even to other areas of interest such as dance!

If you’d like to know more go here.


Not magic, perhaps, but certainly magical, Fuma-Kai is an incredible performance by Japanese multimedia dance and martial arts troupe, Enra. Directed by Nobuyuki Hanabusa, it was shown as part of Japan’s Olympics bid last year. If you’re into juggling don’t miss the amazing diablo work about two-thirds of the way through.

The performers are Maki Yokoyama, Saya Watatani, Tachun, Yusaku Mochizuki and Tsuyoshi Kaseda. The music is by Yuko Sonoda (Hanabusa remix version).

It must have done its job as Tokyo was chosen to host the 2020 Olympics.


In case the Loungers were wondering where I was last Saturday, I can assure you that no Argentine Tango was involved on this occasion. Andy/Ashton and I spent a fascinating — indeed magical — day at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park discussing plans and preparations for the Ymedeca event the Magick Lounge is involved in. We had conflagration conversations with the artist, Hester Reeve, and a talk and guided walk with the YSP’s Senor Curator, Helen Pheby.

I you’d like more information, check out my post of 24 February or speak to Andy or myself.

Steve Gore 2s_sm (1 of 1)Steve Gore finds Pete’s card at the climax of an entertaining gambling routine at last night’s lecture.

I’m sure that Sheffield Circle members and Loungers alike all came away with something they can use. Sales of his commercial products at lecture night discounts were brisk.

Steve had lecture notes for sale, but I thought it was a nice touch that everyone was able to receive a free copy by email if they wished. (And a pretty good marketing ploy too; other lecturers please note!)

For the Sheffield Circle March meeting Steve Gore will be presenting his lecture which has received excellent reviews at the IBM British Ring Convention, the British Magical Society, and even the Blackpool Magicians Club. It will include lots of his original effects, including ‘Trick Photography’, which MagicWeek called “Close-up Trick of the Year” and ‘Visions from Vegas’, which is an ingenious mental effect using a new method in magic. Watch it below:

It won’t be all close-up though, there are effects for stage, stand-up and kids too, so there’s something for everyone. The majority of his effects are also easy to master, allowing you to focus on the presentation or to run through your ready repertoire of one-liners. Here’s what others have said:

“The moment I walked in the room there was a sense of “This is a man who takes what he does seriously, and wants to give of his best” — Keith Wells, Leicester Magic Circle.

“One of the best lectures I have seen at the Guild and I joined in 1989! — John Scott, Nottingham Guild of Magicians.

“A good crowd was assembled for what turned out to be an afternoon full of original ideas, lateral magical thinking and, on occasions, the clever blending of known effects to create a whole new impact. — Brian Lead, Modern Mystic League

“It was professional in every respect from dress to the presentation of the effects whether they be close-up, stage or children’s magic.” — Liz Warlock, British Magical Society

“Your presentation for the York Society last night was excellent with a capital ‘E’. It was one of the most professional presentations I have seen in recent times. I thought your explanations were clear and concise, as was demonstrated by the very few questions asked with each illusion.” — Austin Siviter, YSM

A nice touch is that everyone who attends Steve’s lecture will receive a free PDF copy of his lecture notes.

I’m sure that this will be another not-to-be-missed lecture. The date is Thursday 6 March. Doors open at 7:02 p.m. and we start at 7:30. The venue is, of course, The Magick Lounge, 82 Broad Street, Sheffield, S2 5TG. Cost is free to members in good standing of the Sheffield Circle of Magicians, £10 for visitors. See you there.

Ymedeca_3Loungers may recall my asking for volunteers a couple of months ago to get involved with the Ymedeca project at the magnificent Yorkshire Sculpture Park later this year. We’ll be working alongside other groups from the area, including the Cantabile choral group, Hand Tools Users United, The Royal British Legion, Wakefield Pagan Moot, West Yorkshire Astronomical Society and the Yorkshire Sun Society.

Plans are progressing nicely within the core Magick Lounge group (which is basically me and Andy Cooper, so far). Others are now beginning to show an interest, having presumably managed to overcome their aversion to their world of magic becoming embroiled (tainted?) with that of art… I’m particularly pleased that our favourite special effects friend Jared Manley has agreed to help out with certain aspects of fiery ritual sacrifice.

For those at Blackpool who were wondering why Andy and I weren’t ensconced in the Ruskin on Saturday evening displaying our esoteric card handing techniques to the usual eager beer-soaked throng, we’d driven over to the YSP for a photoshoot for Ymedeca. Thanks to Roger and the (press?)gang for standing in for us on our exhibition stand, to Tony for the involuntary clothing loan, and particularly to Andy for doing all the driving while I kept him awake by regaling him with really fascinating tales of my arty adventures in the ’60s and ’70s. (Those I can remember.)

Being in the YSP at night was a great experience on its own — out in the park among looming sculptures lit only by a pale moon and the photographic lights — if a little chilly. (At least the eternal Blackpool February wind had lost most of its power by the time it reached Wakefield.)

The photograph above is montage of three pics I took during the shoot. Not great quality but I think they give an idea of the atmosphere. The lower and top right pics show a couple of the locations. The top left pic is of the entrance to the cafe area where we repaired from time to time for hot drinks and sandwiches while the shots were being set up. This was quite a complex job with seven ‘guardians’, a Platonic solid (some of which turned out to be a little less than solid…), and the reclining artist having to be arranged and lit appropriately. Each took up to an hour to set (we were there from 5:30 until nearly 11:00 p.m.), but we did have stand-ins (Sheffield Hallam students) for the main characters so we could skive off for the aforementioned warming drinks if we wished.

It was a fascinating, educational and most enjoyable evening working with the photographer (sorry, can’t recall his name at the moment), the Sheffield Hallam crew, and of course the artist, Hester Reeve. Perhaps I can persuade Andy ‘primary-bed-wrangler’ Cooper to add his comments?

For more information about the event click here. It runs from 28 June to 7 September, with the ‘Magick Lounge liberalation manoeuvres’ (involving fire, the Ring of Gyges and ritual sacrifice; sandwiches, tea and hot snacks available, Roger) taking place from dawn to dusk on 30 August. Keep that date free. (Although I may not be around for the dawn bit, fascinating as this section sounds, being more of a dusk person myself.)

And do talk to me or Andy if you’d like to take part.

Props boxed and ready to go. Titanic, a great new routine from Jim Critchlow and Tony McMylor. Limited supply available at the 2014 Blackpool Convention at a bargain price. Not to be missed!


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