02 December 2006

2006 International Magic Convention, London

Last weekend saw the 2006 edition of the International Magic Convention - aka "Ron's". The Convention, started by Ron MacMillan some 30-odd years ago (hence the nickname) and continued now by his son Martin and daughter Georgina, brings some of the best magicians from around the world to perform and lecture for us, with a heavy emphasis on Close Up. The people brought over are generally names that have been mentioned in the magic "underground" and therefore are generally seen at Ron's a year or 2 before the other big UK Conventions book them.

This year, I stayed at the Generator Hostel in Central London, not far from where the Convention was taking place. A great atmosphere in the place which seemed to be full of Australians when, in fact, it was packed with people from most countries around the world.

The Convention was excellent with my personal highlight being the one person I was wanting to see lecture and perform - David Regal. David was set to lecture, perform in the Close Up Show and the Gala Show (they were getting their monies-worth from him!) but he was also very approachable late at night in the bar where people could walk up, say hello and ask him whatever about anything he had performed over the weekend. I ended up sitting talking with David for at least 2 hours on the Saturday night with the 2 of us showing each other tricks and sleights all over the place.

My other highlight can be summed up in 3 words - MONTY PYTHON'S SPAMALOT. Lovingly ripped off from Monty Python and the Hold Grail, this was THE FUNNIEST SHOW I HAVE EVER SEEN! The songs were brilliant and getting to quote along with the French Taunter and the Knights of Ni was great fun. The only thing that would have made the night better would have been if all the remaining Pythons walked onstage to take a bow. There were nods to the likes of the Parrot Sketch and The Lumberjack Song, and there was even an appearance from one of the most popular comedy songs of all time (I won't spoil it for you!). Suffice to say I LOVED the show (bet you're surprised to read that!) and will happily go back and see it again. And again. And again once it starts touring!

The outside of the Palace Theatre in London, home of Monty Python's Spamalot

I even got to meet Tim Curry - King Arthur himself!!!

One of the main parts of this Convention is the Close Up Competition that can make reputations for performers - as well as a cool £1,000 for the winner. This year's competition featured 12 performers and in the end it was Marc Oberon who took the top honours and the prize money over James Brown who took £500 for second and Dynamo who took £100 for third.

And just to annoy my pal Kate, here's Derren Brown prior to
handing out the prizes for the 2006 International Close Up Competition

This year has been a good year for excellent Gala Shows and the show that finished off Ron's was no exception. Noel Britten was his usual funny, brilliant self as MC and with acts such as Tina Lennart, Mike Caveney and David Sousa (who won second place in Manipulation at this year's FISM World Championships) on the bill, it was sure to be great. However, it was Australian Raymond Crowe who, in my opinion, stole the show with his brilliant mime, manipulation and hand shadows act. He also had one of the best floating object routines that I have ever seen! If he is appearing near you, I urge you to go see him! Brilliant stuff.

To round off the weekend I went to stay with my friend Julie and her family overnight and, for the first time ever, I went to The Magic Circle at their headquarters in Central London. What an amazing building it is! There are amazing artifacts all over the place from props and equipment owned and used by Harry Houdini to posters of pretty much every major performer of the last 100 years. I hope to get back there once again before too long. Fascinating stuff.

The Cardman :-)

01 December 2006

SAPPA Tour Event 6 - The 8-Ball Sports Bar, Leith, Edinburgh, 12 November 2006

I turned up in Edinburgh for the latest tour event of the year having not picked up a pool cue since the Scottish Championships some 3 weeks previously! I walked in with only expecting one thing - that I would lose my first 2 matches and be knocked out of the tournament in double quick time.

The club looked excellent - built in a room made up of different little "caverns" that each held 3 tables and with the bar area off to the side in another couple of "caverns". We were only using 9 of the club's 12 tables, so the matches would be races to 6 on the Winners' side and 5 on the Losers' side.

The draw paired me against Gavin Wiseman from Glasgow. Gavin's a handy player and I enjoy playing him as he will give me a good run for my money. As it was, when we started, I managed to jump out to leads of 3-0 and 4-1 fairly quickly only to be pegged back to 4-4 before I knew it. Gavin then won the 9th rack to put him "on the hill" - needing only one rack to win the match. Luckily, things started going my way and I managed to win the last 2 racks to steal the match 6-5.

It was during this match that all play stopped to welcome back Pat Holtz from this year's World Pool Championships in Manila in The Philippines where he had managed to reach the last 16 of the tournament, earning himself an automatic spot in next year's event and Scotland a second spot in the tournament. He was also drafted in by ESPN to do some commentary with American Jerry Forsythe and they made a great duo. Well done, Pat. We're all really chuffed for you and proud of your achievement in putting Scottish Pool on the world-wide map. I, personally, hope to hear Pat back in the commentary box at the major events again before too long.

Next up was another good friend, Pete King, another handy also from Glasgow (never leave this guy even a sniff at a bank or kick shot!). Another quick start from me, another fight back from Pete and another case of me staggering over the finish line to progress to the last round of the Double Elimination phase, again by 6 racks to 5.

Now, time to face Tam "The" Talent - the SAPPA Tournament Director and ranked in the top 8 in Scotland. This time, it was Tam who had the quick start, being 4-0 and 5-1 up before I started getting my brain in gear, stopped making so many silly errors and started playing. I managed to get back to 5-4 before making one last mistake that allowed Tam in to finish off the match and send me to the Losers' Bracket with a 6-4 scoreline.

I had to wait a wee while for my next opponent but finally local player Jim Purse emerged to be the opponent to stand between me and my first-ever last 16 spot. As it was, I was on a roll and never allowed Jim a clear shot for the first 2 or 3 racks. In the end, I had a comfortable 5-0 victory, giving me my first spot in the last 16 - and my first payday in a SAPPA event, guaranteeing me at least £20.

As it was, I was only to play one more match as Davy Jack from Arbroath was having the tournament of the year, blitzing his way through the field with unnerving accuracy. Simply put, he blitzed me 7-0! I had a couple of complaints as I was making some decent shots, but just not following them up with finishes. Ach well, I made the last 16 – next target is for me to get to the last 8 of a tournament.

Maybe next time?

Before I go - a few wee pictures for you all. This is how over-excited some people can get at SAPPA events.

Dave Tait finding things a little too exciting!

Pat Holtz catches up on a little shut-eye. We can let him
away with this one, he was just off a 27-hour flight from Manilla!

Martin Hughes just prior to being his face
being attacked with chalk

Best wishes

The Cardman :-)