As my regular reader is doubtless aware, 2020 marks the hundredth anniversary of the Sheffield Circle of Magicians. As part of the celebrations we’re running a special series of Centenary Lectures, and I’m proud and delighted to confirm that the first in this series is a rare lecture by our good friend Looch.

Mind Reader and Psychological Magician Looch has become one of the most sought-after acts in the UK. His unique skills combined, with his humour and professionalism have seen him booked for a vast array of events, including weddings, parties and corporate events. He has also made a name for himself as an originator of exciting new ideas in mentalism.

Admired too for his unrivalled creativity, Looch has lectured to thousands of performers throughout the world and has written several best-selling books on Mind Reading and Mentalism. He is considered by his peers to be one of the most talented performers of this kind in the world today.

His books and DVDs include Iris (Visual Themed Mentalism); Retina (Look deep into someone’s eyes, and KNOW what they’re thinking); Looch LIVE (DVD) (A mind-expanding 2-hour live seminar); Close Call (The Blueprint for a Successful Performance!); Looch LIVE 2 (More innovative, clever and practical mentalism); 4.8 min (A Lecture in Minimalism); Here’s To You Mr Robinson (A Theatrical Performance Based on the Psychology of the Criminal); Simple And Direct Mentalism (An important book of practical, simple and direct mentalism); A S.A.D Night in Hamburg (Walk Around Mentalism); Your Thoughts Are Mine (2 DVD Set).

His Read My Mind is a mentalism company set up with a singular goal in mind: to provide performers the world over with the very best mentalism products. There you’ll find such sought-after items as his Master Peek Envelope; L.P.I (Looch Pocket Index); Blink: the Revolutionary new Peek Case; Area 2.0 Book Test; The Score (Bank Nite reinvented) and more.

We are pleased to say that Looch will be lecturing here at the Lounge on Thursday 5 March. Admission is £10, but free to all paid-up members of the Sheffield Circle of Magicians. Doors open at 7.00 p.m., and the event starts at 7.30 at The Magick Lounge, 82 Broad Street, Sheffield S2 5TG. This really is an event not to be missed!

I’ve been around in magic a while, and seen many changes. Let’s look at the instructions provided with a trick, for example. My first magic trick purchases were some time in the early 1950s. I was probably eight or nine at the time. Instructions then consisted mostly of a paragraph (or two, if you were lucky) badly duplicated on a tiny scrap of paper. They outlined the mechanics of the trick; told you how it worked, but not how to perform it. The skills of performance and presentation came largely from (sometimes painful) experience.

I’d long been an avid reader so pestered my local library for as many books on magic as they had or could obtain for me. They were a little more forthcoming on questions of magical performance rather than the demonstration of tricks. The emphasis still tended to be on fooling an audience rather than entertaining and involving them. But perhaps that’s a discussion for another time. (Early on I’d discovered in the playground that people didn’t necessarily want to be ‘fooled’ first and foremost…)

In my teens I began to buy copies of The Gen from my local theatrical shop (The Sign of Four in Nottingham) and discovered the writings of Lewis Ganson and the products of Harry Stanley’s Unique Magic. I was delighted to discover too that the occasional trick I was able to buy actually came with detailed instructions.

Times moved on and soon ‘proper’ instructions became the norm, probably reaching their height with the comprehensive written tutorials provided by the inimitable Ken Brooke.

For me, however, things have taken several backward steps since then, starting with the introduction of the DVD. Don’t get me wrong, videos and DVDs were, and still are, great for teaching magic; we’ve put out a few ourselves, often as book/DVD sets which I feel offers the best of both media.

Many dealers quickly discovered that DVD instructions were a lot easier (and often cheaper) to produce than good printed instructions. All you had to do was to sit someone in front of a camera (or two) and have them perform and explain the trick. No need to spend hours wrestling with the right words to produce something easy to read and understand. And then get a proper proofreader to check the ms before going to print. (Actually, ignore the last sentence; most dealers never bothered with that.)

Of course, for beginners in magic — and perhaps many magic hobbyists in general — the DVD was ideal. You didn’t need to think too much, or even worry about presentation. You just had to copy the guy on the screen. I mean, it’s fine to perform The Amazing So-and-So’s Cups and Balls or Four Ace routine. What is definitely not fine is to turn into a clone of Mr So-and-So while you perform. We probably all start like that, but purely DVD instructions don’t seem to encourage us to move beyond… to become magicians, mystery entertainers, whatever, rather than demonstrators of tricks. (You can see more than enough of that both sides of the stands at conventions.)

Then recently things have taken perhaps the final step backwards. More and more tricks you buy come, as in my youth, in a box or packet with a small scrap of paper, nicely printed, of course, rather than duplicated, and maybe even in full colour on card. But this time the nicely printed card doesn’t even have the most basic of instructions, just a link to an online video. Damn! Instead of being able to sit quietly and read through the instructions with the props in hand, I’ve got to get onto my computer and watch a video, often seemingly put together by a guy more in love with Adobe After Effects than magic.

I know you can watch videos on your phone but I feel you miss much on so small a screen.

This is easy, cheap and convenient for the dealer. But much less convenient for the poor magician. And what about (as has happened to me a couple of times) when you go back to rewatch the video to find it’s no longer there: the link has been deleted or moved? These days I download the video so it’s there for reference should I need it.

Again, DVDs, even online videos, may be great as an additional resource but I strongly believe that for the performing magician nothing can replace comprehensive, well-written, printed instructions.

What do you think? Perhaps next time we buy a trick we should ask, in what form are the instructions? Or maybe we should set up a new international organisation for magicians: the MFPI (Magicians For Proper Instructions.)

Rant over. Normal service will now be resumed.

It’s taken a while but I’ve finished our latest Second Hand Books List (Number 81, for those interested in such niceties). And it’s the biggest yet: 66 pages, a positive cornucopia of conjuring chronicles. You can download it from our website as usual. Or just click here.

We have over 2000 titles in stock, from Percy Abbott’s Magic for Magicians (1934) to Allen Zingg’s The Little Box That Could: The Three Keys to Performance Excellence (2005), with titles in between from almost every major magic author of the past 100+ years. Probably the oldest book is Charades, Enigmas and Riddles by ‘A Cantab’ published by Bell & Dalby in 1865, wherein you’ll doubtless find the origins of many of the patter lines used by magicians today.

For the first time, by fairly popular request, I’ve begun to add magazine listings; mainly complete volumes except for certain rarer items. Most are loose copies, but we have some bound volumes and some in custom boxes. There’s still some way to go with this, but at the moment I reckon we have about 3000 listed.

So if you’re looking for Abra, The Altar Flame, Antinomy, Conjurors’ Magazine, The Gen, Magic Manuscript, Magical Gazette, Magical Nostalgic, Magigram, Minotaur, Pabular, Pentagram, New Pentagram, New Tops, Sphinx, Stanyon’s Magic, or Talisman, let us know. We may be able to help.

I’ll be adding to this section when time allows. (So difficult when going through boxes of magazines not to get sidetracked into reading the odd article or a tempting trick which sounds suspiciously similar to the ‘latest’ from ***********, and then discover a couple of hours have passed and you’ve yet to sort a complete volume…)

Don’t forget, if you want to get all the latest news, special offers and additions to the second-hand catalogue join Jim and Gladys and get your name down on our mailing list. We guarantee not to swamp you daily (or even weekly) with plugs for stuff everyone else is selling. And if you change your mind (although why would you?) it takes but a click to cast yourself back into outer darkness.

How did you do? The winner of the munificent Magick Enterprises voucher got nine out of ten.

1. What magic word is derived from a Latin phrase spoken during the most sacred moment of the Catholic Mass.

Answer: Hocus Pocus. From “Hoc est corpus meum”, meaning “This is my body.” Spoken during the consecration of the Host.

2. Who is the Egyptian goddess of magic?

Answer: Isis. She is also the goddess of marriage, healing, and protection. Isis is the wife and sister of Osiris and the mother and sister of Horus. (Relationships between the Egytian deities tend to be a little complicated.) When Osiris was murdered and dismembered by his evil brother Typhon (usually identified with Set) she magically resurrected him by reattaching his limbs.

3. The 1785 translation of 1001 Nights from French into English gave us a popular phrase used to unlock closed and hidden doorways. Which phrase is it?

Answer: Open Sesame. “Open sesame” comes to us from a translation of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. It was the incantation used by Ali Baba to open his hidden cave of treasure.

4. This magician was awarded longest contract ever given to a Las Vegas performer, even Elvis!

Answer: Lance Burton made a career as a magician, from 1979 to 2010. (I was there when he won the FISM Grand Prix in Lausanne in 1982.) After some TV work in California, Burton moved to Las Vegas and began appearing in various clubs. In 1994 he signed a 13-year contract to perform at the Monte Carlo Resort on the Las Vegas Strip. The resort built a special theatre for him in which he performed over 5,000 shows and earned about 110-million dollars during his tenure there. His contract was extended until 2015 but he retired in 2010.

5. In the Harry Potter series, this governing body is led by Cornelius Fudge through the fifth book.

Answer: The Ministry of Magic.

6. In the tarot each card of the Major Arcana has its own number. The Wheel of Fortune, for example, is generally associated with the number ten. Which card is is traditionally linked to the number one?

Answer: The Magician.

7. Where would you wear a Swami Gimmick?

Answer: This device is normally worn on the thumb.

8. In a famous illusion the magician’s assistant is shackled, put in a bag and locked inside a box or trunk. The magician stands on top of the box and raises a curtain. Then instantly the magician and assistant change places. What is the original name of this illusion?

Answer: Metamorphosis.

9. Which famous magician performed at The Egyptian Hall and was the first Honorary President of the Sheffield Circle of Magicians?

Answer: David Devant.

10. As I’m sure you all know, next year is the Sheffield Circle of Magicians’ centenary year. The first meeting was held in 1920. But in which month?

Answer: May.

Tiebreaker: The inaugural meeting of the Sheffield Circle of Magicians took place in May 1920. But on what date? (If no exact date is given, the nearest takes the prize.)

Answer: 18 May.

The ever-popular Christmas Magic Quiz featured at last week’s Sheffield Circle Christmas Social. Here are the questions for those who missed it (no Googling please!):

1. What magic word is derived from a Latin phrase spoken during the most sacred moment of the Catholic Mass.

2. Who is the Egyptian goddess of magic?

3. The 1785 translation of 1001 Nights from French into English gave us a popular phrase used to unlock closed and hidden doorways. What’s the phrase?

4. This magician was awarded longest contract ever given to a Las Vegas performer, even longer than Elvis!

5. In the Harry Potter series, this governing body is led by Cornelius Fudge through the fifth book.

6. In the tarot each card of the Major Arcana has its own number. The Wheel of Fortune, for example, is generally associated with the number ten. Which card is is traditionally linked to the number one?

7. Where would you wear a Swami Gimmick?

8. In a famous illusion the magician’s assistant is shackled, put in a bag and locked inside a box or trunk. The magician stands on top of the box and raises a curtain. Then instantly the magician and assistant change places. What was the original name of this illusion?

9. Which famous magician performed at The Egyptian Hall and was the first Honorary President of the Sheffield Circle of Magicians?

10. As I’m sure you all know, next year is the Sheffield Circle of Magicians’ centenary year. The first meeting was held in 1920. But in which month?

Tiebreaker: The inaugural meeting of the Sheffield Circle of Magicians took place in [*******] 1920. But on what date? (If no exact date is given, the nearest takes the prize.)

In a closely-run contest first prize of a £10 Magick token went to Julie Hall with nine correct answers! (And no, she hadn’t seen the questions before.) Luke Robson was runner-up with eight. How well did you do?

Answers next week.

I’ve had a couple of calls asking if we’re open on Saturday and/or is The Lounge accessible without a boat or scuba gear. Check your local conditions, of course, but we’re fine here (open as usual today, incidentally) no puddles and traffic seems to be moving OK on Parkway. But soothing tea will be available as usual.

June did suggest we offer a 1p discount on all purchases to encourage attendance, but I felt that such an extreme reaction could set a dangerous precedent.

Nevertheless, to err on the safe side, Paul Voodini’s Recollections of a Society Clairvoyant event on Saturday evening has been cancelled. We’ll reschedule when the stars align.

whysteve_header2

Coming to the Magick Lounge near you on Thursday 7 November is a lecture by the inimitable Steve Rowe. (Sorry this notification is a bit late but I’ve had to replace my main edit pc, and I’m still in the middle of a long and painful installation process.)

Steve exploded onto the magic scene a few years ago. Not only is his magic practical, it has also been worked and refined to perfection.

“Steve Rowe is a genius – simple as. He is one of the most creative people I know. His standard of work is second to none. Just one of his tricks has revolutionised my wedding set and I’m fairly sure that I use more of his material than anyone else. The magic world is in a much better state with Steve Rowe in it. Long may he continue to share his creations with us. Thank you Steve (and my spectators thank you as well!)” Craig Petty

His unique approach to organic magic is sure to make an impact on your own working set. Every move, every beat, and every word has been thoroughly thought out. Here you will get a real insight into creating props, and structuring your own routines to get the maximum impact possible.

“I use at least one of Steve Rowe’s clever effects at every gig!” Gary Jones

Clear your diary and join us on a fun-packed session delving into the mind of one of the most creative thinkers around.

The venue for this outstanding event is The Magick Lounge 82 Broad Street, Sheffield, S2 5TG. Doors at 7 o’clock as usual and the lecture will start at 7:30. Admission is free to Sheffield Circle members, £10 for visiting magicians and £5 for juniors.