A few of the photographs I took during the Sheffield Street Magic Festival on 1-2 November 2014.

I’m pleased to say that we’ve now had payment for this and are able to pay participants. Shop regulars should have received their pittance fee; if you’ve not had yours, call in or give me a ring. This should be a complete list. If your name isn’t on, contact me immediately.

Peter Antoniou, Russ Appleby, John Archer, Ian Baker, Adam Bell, Steve Brownley, Ashton Carter, Chris Clarke, Nathan Clarke, Connor, Roger Curzon, Darren Dudley, David, Steve Faulkner, Craig Frith, Julie Gascoyne, Ian Hallworth, Peter Hammond, Ian Henshaw, Toby Hudson, Tom Hudson, Ryan Jackson, Ben Jones, Dominic Lawrenson, Nathan Lindley, Looch, Tom Magick, Jared Manley, John Martin, Jordan Maycock, Callum Morris, Gareth Neale, Vincent O’Brien, Gordon Pemberton, June Savory, Ben Smithies, Jake Smithies, Tim Smithies, Wiz Spencer, Andy Taylor, Peter Wall, Tony Wilkinson.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to say a big thank you to everyone who performed or helped in any way. I hope you enjoyed your involvement and feel that the Festival helped raise the profile of magic in Sheffield.

The 2014 event was much bigger than 2013, spread over two days and with two evening shows and two ‘junior magician workshops’ (despite the organisation  fee being the same!). I’d love to get your feedback and hear your ideas for improvement if we go for a 2016 Festival. Don’t hesitate to comment below, or email me. Thanks.

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‘Pre-show’ video for my performance for SmartDanceWorks at the Dance Connections weekender in a couple of weeks time. With thanks to Ashton and Howard Carter and Mr D Baines…

Our strange tale begins, not in the deserts of Egypt as you might expect, but over 2000 miles away in Morecambe. A major attraction in the popular holiday resort was the Pleasure Park, later Frontierland. The site was purchased in 1909 by the Thompson family, who also owned Blackpool’ Pleasure Beach, home from 1930 of the first ever ‘ghost train’. Capitalising on the human fascination with fear and the mind’s darker fantasies, the ghost train proved highly popular, and it wasn’t long before Thompson introduced a similar ride at Morecambe. It several refurbishments over the years and was finally demolished in 1999.

During one of the refurbishments, as the various plaster skeletons, witches and demons were removed, a bizarre discovery was made… at one point in the ride the head and shoulders of a beautiful woman appear to metamorphose into a decomposing corpse. It was the corpse that grabbed a worker’s attention. He noticed that the strangely mounted head was not a crude plaster prop, but in fact real human remains.

The question is, whose were they? How did they get there, and why were they hidden in a holiday theme park attraction? And where are they now?

Ymedeca_3Loungers may recall my asking for volunteers a couple of months ago to get involved with the Ymedaca 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.

Ken AppleyardIt is with sadness that I have to record that Ken Appleyard died last week after a long illness. He had been a member of the Sheffield Circle of Magicians for almost 30 years and was Circle President from 2009 until 2013.

Ken once said that he “lived in a magical time in history: The war had ended, standards of living were good, the pace of technological change was exciting…” And he certainly made the most of those opportunites:

AA man, biker, model plane enthusiast, talented wood carver, Hoover rep, car salesman, caravanner, boating fanatic (he became Commodore of Sheffield Boat Club), and active Mason, fashion adviser and make-up artist (!), model train buff, and all-round handyman, as well as a comedian and magician.

Loving husband to June and doting father to Susan, Sara and Joanne, brother to Barbara, grandfather to Richard, Alyx and multiple ‘grand-dogs’, and good friend to many, Ken will be missed, but has left us with many good memories…

From John Martin:
A very funny man! Sad he has gone, thankful he left so many memories!I worked alongside Ken a few times, and he arrived at a gig once with his wife (still) looking furious with him! Well, just before they left, time was getting on. Ken’s wife came downstairs looking immaculate; Hair, dress, make-up all done to perfection… Ken said, “Come on, you can finish getting ready in the car!”

I hope this short video clip will bring back good memories of Ken’s inimitable performances. It is taken from Ken’s show during the Christmas meeting of the SCM at The Magick Lounge in December 2011. Thanks to Andy Cooper for the original video.

From Andy Cooper:
Ken’s style of comedy and magic was always a joy to watch and I shall always remember his dog puppet and balloon routine. When I joined the society Ken was always there to offer support and advice. He will be much remembered and missed.

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A few frame-grabs from the video of Ashton Carter’s Mysteriosa presentation at The Magick Lounge.

It’s been a busy few weeks here at the Lounge with the IBM British Ring Convention and magical vistors from Germany and Canada, but more of that later. For now, a quick reminder that we are hosting an appropriately seasonal performance and lecture by Andy Cooper under his stage persona of Ashton Carter on Thursday 6 October.

Ashton will be presenting his Mysteriosa show and then talking through some of the effects and presentations. The show has been well received by audiences around the country including several nights in a London theatre and is Andy’s own take on Bizarre and Storytelling Magic.

Ashton Carter takes you on a strange journey into the paranormal and the bizarre. Blending storytelling, magic, theatre and illusion, Ashton will raise goose bumps and send shivers down your spine. Could you be the most psychic member of the audience? How do you gain entry to the most secret of secret societies? Can a bell really foretell disasters? Where did Ashton’s Great Great Aunt meet her final moments? All will be revealed by this spooky entertainer. Warning: Contains dark humour and may make you question reality!

Start time is 7.30 pm at The Magick Lounge, 82 Broad Street, Sheffield, S2 5TG.  Admission £10, but free to Sheffield Circle members.