2007 North West Dealers’ Day Report – 10th November 2007

A ‘Bird’s Eye View’
Reported by Vivien



Icy gusts of rain-laden winds, sombre skies, an obliviously rapt huddle of apprentices within, intent on a sinister lesson in the creation of evil-looking mouse-eating snakes and I was inexorably drawn into the vile laboratory. The sorcerer, to whom all eyes were turned and ears tuned, was planning a horrible brew of spells in the massive black cauldron, hungrily waiting, with gaping mouth, just outside the creaking laboratory door.


Nick Barnes
Magi President Nick Barnes tries his hand at plate spinning
Keep practicing Nick!

Where else could this have been, other than the fifth North West Dealer’s Day (“NWDD”) run by the Order of the Magi (Manchester) and held, for the third year, at the Irish World Heritage Centre (“IWHC”) ? It’s obvious !

Back to the beginning, the day, 10th November, started with the Magi’s NWDD Team, resplendent in their identity tee-shirts, and a number of magic dealers, all converging on the IWHC, at some unearthly hour in the morning, fuelled by plentiful brews of hot tea.

Shortly before the opening, would-be buyers were arriving early, perhaps hoping to get first choice from the eye -catching arrays of goods displayed for sale, and they might have spotted Phil Byrne, the Manager of the Fort Shopping Centre, next door to the IWHC, who had been asked to judge who had the most attractive stall. Phil, with his wealth of experience in the retail trade, was the ideal person to perform this task. I suspect that he may have found the concentrated displays of magicians’ props a refreshing, but somewhat bewildering, change from electrical goods and clothing The winner (for the second year running) was David Baxter. Congratulations, David and many thanks to Phil.

David Baxter
David Baxter receives the prize for the most attractive stall
from Phil Byrne, Manager of the Fort Shopping Centre.

The whole place buzzed with activity from the outset, with an exceptionally high level of attendance, which, from my vantage point near the entry door, I can personally confirm. I noticed large numbers of plastic bags, etc. being taken out by visitors, indicating that sales must have been brisk. I can also personally confirm that the IWHC produced huge quantities of food and drink, hot and cold, both from the kitchen and from the bar throughout most of the event, with a minor blip at one stage when, as far as I could make out, the kitchen staff needed to clear up – and start again.

The midday workshop, featuring Alan “Snaggers” Russell, balloon-modeling wizard, proved a huge attraction. He patiently took us step by step through various creative intricacies, beginning with the fundamental – how to blow up a l…o…n…g balloon, working from the diaphragm, Alan explained, although he seemed to have spot of bother in locating the site of his own ! Pumps can be used, but you have less control; balloons then have to be “burped” and correctly tied. A myriad vividly coloured inflated balloons were produced and distributed, whilst Alan showed us how to keep a party of children happy, at speed; make swords for all the boys. At this point, most of the modelers had succumbed early to their second childhood, wielding and clashing balloon swords to certain victory! I ducked to safety.

Snaggers demonstrates balloon hats for beginners.

Girls, advised Alan, prefer hats or flowers or, better still, hats with floral decorations. A child on the front row was deftly clad in a balloon hat and an exquisite six-petalled flower head was formed. The class members, furrows of deep concentration on their faces, struggled to copy each stage. A number of beautiful flowers emerged, plus a few five-petalled versions, and several interesting, but indeterminate shapes, with numerous popping sounds as rubber scraped against rubber. “A six-petalled flower is one of the hardest things to make” reassured Alan. A look of triumphant achievement lit some faces !

Snaggers demonstrates the 6 petalled flower.

A delightful teddy bear, with personality, was next on the agenda, emerging from a morass of rubber bubbles and, following the demonstration of how to coil a snake, Alan produced the final sinister finale of a snake, grasping a half-consumed mouse.

Alan’s workshop was a fascinating experience for all the participants. He proved himself to be both highly entertaining and instructive. Many thanks, Alan.

Late afternoon, and the close-up competition was announced, with a line up of five competitors, each representing a society other than the Order of the Magi. Mike Sharples did the “warm up”, sporting a lurid palm-tree-and-ship decorated shirt and, assisted by Ian Ball operating the c.d. player, he executed the comedy Bandanna Trick.

Mike Sharples with John Thomson
John Thomson draws the raffle with the help of Mike Sharples.

The competition opened with Ken Ashburn (Cavendish Knights) who placed a coin and a handkerchief over each eye, followed by blindfolding. Using cards, and with the help of two assistants, Ken correctly revealed, several times, cards selected from a shuffled pack. It was a skillful performance, well received by the audience. Ken had previously won the Magi’s close-up competition last July.

He was followed by Michael Jordan (Huddersfield Magic Society), who added a delightful musical accompaniment (guitar and song) to his magical prediction skills, which involved the use of cards depicting shapes (stars/circles/crosses, etc.), regular cards and coins.

Michael Jordan
Michael Jordan shows his juggling skills.

The third competitor was David Charles (Midland Magic Circle), who deftly performed a series of exceptionally fast-moving routines, involving cards (blank cards into printed backs, then fronts, then totally blank again), moving on to tricks involving the revealing of cards and the use of coins.

Next was Alan “Snaggers” Russell (Mercian Mystics) who opened by blowing up two balloons simultaneously and subsequently splitting them in 2. Logically, this cannot physically be done ! He then fast-talked his way through a variety of tricks involving a ring & chain and a pack of cards.

Last, but certainly not least, came Chris Stevenson (Eye Peek Magical Society). I had previously been privileged to see Chris in action at The Olde Cheshire Cheese in Longnor, near Buxton in October. At the NWDD, Chris gave an amazing performance, involving the revelation of chosen cards from various parts of a pack and the cutting/restoring of a rope, using “invisible” scissors. It was fast, slick – and the winning act. Many congratulations, Chris.

Competition Winner Chris Stevenson
Chris Stevenson receives his competition prize winners cheque
from Magi President Nick Barnes, while compere Mike Sharples
wonders how quickly it will disappear.

The judges were Walt Lees, Editor of “Abracadabra”, John Pye, Secretary of the IBM (British Ring) and the television actor, John Thomson. Our special thanks to the three judges.

I must add that, as in previous years, we were treated to a running power point presentation on a vast screen, expertly complied by Dan and Rebecca Sharples. It was a truly amazing production an must have taken hours of work. Thank you both so much.

Helen Moran, Nicky Sharples and I jointly (and sometimes separately) sat near the entrance door, providing entry tickets and acting as custodians of the raffle prize, a hamper full of props which had been donated to the Magi by the dealers themselves. Judging from the number of raffle tickets sold, it was a popular prize.

As the visitors, clutching their many packages, drifted off into the damp evening, I picked up some obscure remarks about Helen, Nicky and me, vaguely connected with the giant black cauldron just outside the hall door. Shakespeare’s name was mentioned in the same breath.

See you all next year

(Thanks for the report Vivien, and thanks again to Nikki and Helen for looking after the door for us. Webmaster.)