Last weekend saw the staging of the IBM Ring 85 Magic Convention in Belfast and with a strong line up it promised to be a fantastic weekend. Friday night saw the official opening by The Lord Mayor of Belfast who, it had turned out, had an interest in magic and years previous had actually shared the stage with Pat Fallon.
You editor along with travelling companion Nevin Cody arrived bright and early on Saturday morning. As is always the way it was great to meet up with old friends and make new ones. One was struck by the number of younger, newer faces that were attending USM members in the main. Surely this augers well for future conventions.
Andi Gladwin was first up to lecture. I had not seen Andi lecture before and was expecting it to be mainly cose-up card work. I was very pleasantly surprised to be proven wrong. Highlight for me and many was his Psychometry stage routine.
In between lectures there was time to visit the dealers. If there was one gripe ( and really there is only one) about the weekend it must be the dealers. Save Emerald Magic (Pat Fallon), Banshee Magic (Tony Thursby) and a brief appearance from CasinoShop.ie there weren't any. The individual lecturers did sell merch at the end of each lecture mind you. Also the dealers were in two separate small rooms, not unlike bedrooms. This, possibly had an effect on business as many people may have been apprehensive about entering a small space. At least in a big space one could choose to leave more easy if not purchasing. The fact that the main hall for the lectures could have easily accommodated everything was not lost on some attendees.
The close-up competition was next. Judged by Joshua Jay, Andi Gladwin and Joe O'Donnell it proved to be one of the highest standard comps in recent years. Rodd Hogg from the USM held off challenges from David Lillie, Steven Morgan, Kevin Gartland (who may have one had he not gone under time), Michael Thurston and Fred Corvenio. Congrats to Rodd Hogg.
Aldo & Rachel Colombini followed with a terrific joint lecture that touched on Rachel's recent health scare. Funny, moving, and to end romantic. A great hour spent.
The day finished off with a great close-up show. Gala dinner, a tight three act show featuring the hilarious George Firehorse and drinkies were the perfect end to a super day.
Sunday gave us an illusion lecture from Guy Barrett, the master teacher and presenter that is Joshua Jay and the precise, superb magic of Axel Hecklau. Registrants were also treated to a performance of MathaMagic, a really well thought out, engaging and energetic show touring schools in NI right now. Produced by CahootsNI and starring Caolan McBride, Nicola Cunningham (put a ring on it Caolan) and Victoria Vitesse.
The Gala on Sunday night took place in a nearby theatre which was just perfect. Andi Galdwin as a first time emcee was impressive, the opening act Steffy, a UV hula hoop act was beautiful, Aldo played a stormer, Axel was immaculate and Guy Barrett and his two dancers were high paced and brought that illusion oomph needed to close a show. Gazzo, of cups and balls fame, closed the first half. Terribly disappointing to my eye. Others were raving about him.
All in all this was a cracking weekend. Although somewhat pricey for younger magicians from outside the area (the hotel was £90 per night to stay) if you planned right local B&B's were half the price. The welcome as always was top notch, the line up superb, the magic world class and the friendships made should last a life time.
Thank you, genuinely, to the USM, Ring 85, and organsiers Caolan McBride, Nicola Cunningham, Paul McIneeny, George Bleeks and of course Trevor Price. See you all at Shenanigans 2014!