How to Fest

Roger Curzon and I are scheduled to repeat our slightly acclaimed excursion into the rarely-trod byeways of magical history and performance for the experimental theatre company Slung Low in Leeds this Sunday from 3:30 p.m. I’m opening with an illustrated exploration of the curious history of magical invention, followed by Roger who will weave strange, magickal tales around the bizarre curios and artefacts discovered in his late, unlamented Uncle Albert’s suitcase.

This is a medium-sized but pertly formed part of Slung Low’s How-To… Festival 2: Magic & Showmanship. Sounds like it’ll be a great day out for some of the family. To quote their publicity: “Sunday 31 May is a day of performance, film, lecture and food from Myra Dubois, Professor Vanessa Toulmin, Russell Hall & Roger Curzon, Freddie Brook and Manjit’s Kitchen. And because it’s the How To… Festival  you can learn new skills in £paywhatyoudecide creative workshops though out the day; learn how to make the entertainment and the food. No experience necessary!”

The day starts tastily at 11:00 a.m. with Manjit’s Kitchen where she will demonstrate how to cook delicious vegetarian Indian dishes and curries, and you can then have a go at creating them yourselves – all ingredients and equipment are provided.

At 2:15 p.m. Freddie Brook plans to teach us how to Simply Amaze Our Friends in a workshop that will focus on “the performativity of magic and how to incorporate your own style into the tricks that you do.”

As I said, Roger and I will be strutting our various stuffs from 3:30 p.m., including a dab or two of performativity as the occasion demands.

Then at 5:00 p.m. Professor Vanessa Toulmin will take you on a filmic tour of Edwardian Leeds with live piano accompaniment presenting pioneering films of showmen Mitchell & Kenyon in Leeds. If you’ve not seen this presentation before, I highly recommend you catch it. Click here for more details.

There’s a break for dinner at 6:00 when you can enjoy delicious food from Manjit’s Kitchen and refreshments from the HUB’s £1 bar with free tea and coffee. Plus live music from Bianca Gerald before rounding off the day with a hilarious performance for grown ups from Myra DuboisAuntie Myra’s Fun Show is at 7:30pm.

I understand that there is a very limited capacity for all Festival workshops and performances so to reserve places please email with the number of places you wish to book for each event and a contact telephone number.


11:00 Cooking with Manjit (recommended 14+)
2:15  How To… Simply Amaze Your Friends (recommended 11+)
3:30 Magical Inventions and Magickal Tales (recommended 11+)
5:00 Mitchell & Kenyon in Leeds (suitable for all)
6:00 Dinner and Live Music from Bianca Gerald
7:30 Auntie Myra’s Fun Show (Adult content 16+)

See you there!

All events take place at The HUB, 67-71 Bath Road, Holbeck, Leeds, LS11 9UA. There’s free on-street parking on Bath Road on Sundays.

Sheffield EntertainedThe Magic Worlds exhibition at the Weston Museum closed on 6 January. But fear not, another magic-flavoured exhibition opens a few hundred yards away at the University of  Sheffield’s Western Bank Library from 7 February to 6 May. Again, Magick has been involved behind the scenes with information and the loan of various rare artefacts.

To quote from the official flyer…

The National Fairground Archive invites you to discover the entertainment heritage of the City of Sheffield.

Drawing on the NFA’s extensive collections and with material kindly loaned from Museums Sheffield and the Local Studies Collection, this exhibition covers the world of illegitimate entertainment; the growth of the music hall and variety in the 20th century; the world of magic; early cinematograph shows and the travelling funfairs that are part of the history of the City.

“Illegitimate entertainment”? Hmm… although I do know a couple of magicians whose parentage has been called to doubt on occasions.

During the nineteenth century, as leisure time increased, entertainment in Sheffield rapidly developed to cope with the demand. Shows, fairs and circuses opened in the city centre. In the early 1800s, one popular venue, The Angel Inn, welcomed the original French Giant, and a second French Giant appeared at The Haymarket in 1865. Travelling theatre companies such as Sheffield locals the Hodgson Family provided portable entertainment for melodramas, recitals and popular sensational stories such as The Life of Charles Peace.

Throughout the nineteenth century larger sites were needed for the purveying of entertainment and a range of new venues were utilised alongside the more traditional theatres such as the Theatre Royal. The Sheffield Institute, a three-storey building constructed in 1847 at a cost of £7,000 was the settPalace Attercliffeing for the visit of General Tom Thumb, aka Charles Stratton who, in November 1857 gave three shows daily for one shilling.

Later years, of course, saw the opening of a number of theatres and music halls, such as The Lyceum (built in 1897), The Sheffield Empire (1895-1963), and The Attercliffe Palace (originally The Alhambra, 1896-1961). The poster shown here is from a 1950 show at The Palace. Note the appearance of Hamilton Kaye ‘The Amazing Deceptionist’, who many readers will remember as a popular local magician, dealer and purveyor of flash paper.

Sheffield Entertained is curated by Professor Vanessa Toulmin and Amanda Bernstein. The audio-visual curator is Andrew Moore. Opening times are Monday-Thursday 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., Fridays 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. (Exceptions: Thursday 28 March and Monday 6 May 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; closed from Friday 29 March to Monday 1 April.)

For further information see .