I hope you all enjoyed last weeks blog post and perhaps took something from it. Since I’m on a roll with transcribing my Ted talks here’s another. This Ted Talk I gave at Tom Stone’s Conjuring Course in August 2020 to twelve magicians.
As this course was a ‘further conjuring’ course Tom chose to give us all the opportunity to feel what it is like to lecture. Teaching alongside practicing and furthering our knowledge in misdirection and theatrical techniques. At first I was petrified to do this because;
1. I had no clue what I could talk about and
2. I had no clue what I could possibly talk about that would be interesting enough for people to listen to!
Across the week I heard many wonderful talks on pickpocketing, pyrotechnics and acting on stage. Clowning in performance and building 3D prop moulds with a yoga mat. Sleight of hand and finding materials in charity shops. Putting together an act from scratch and drilling through glass with a Dremel. Finally, we viewed the insides of a gimmicked magicians jacket. (You will not believe how many gimmicks one can one fit inside!)
Finding my way
Like these weekly blogs, I eventually found a topic I felt would be worth discussing with the group. It was a topic that was extremely raw yet I felt it was time to reflect upon. After all the worry, putting together this lecture was a very beneficial exercise. It became the first time I truly revelled speaking in front of my peers. And has helped me to go on and perform lectures confidently since.
What was the topic I hear you ask? I called it my…
Pandemic to Freedom!
I made this video at the beginning of Lockdown. I had just come back from Legoland with me nephew and sister (we barely got home with all the pandemonium). My flights to see Tom had been cancelled as all European boarders had closed.
Within one week all the events I had planned across 2020 were cancelled. I found myself literally stuck in my tiny bedroom in Belfast feeling lost and helpless.
Where there is a will, there is a way!
I posted this video on Facebook as I felt alone, scared and I really wasn’t coping at all. In response to this video the people whom reached out were the most unlikeliest group I could have thought would. And I am so grateful and beyond happy that they did.
Cynthia Ferkol sent me a private message to make sure I was ok. And she invited me to attend a virtual magic show online. Cyndi along with her husband Joey Cranford are partners in ownership of The Chicago Magic Lounge – a thriving magic theatre in the city – which I visited and performed at in the summer of 2019.
After attending two of these virtual shows I realised that in magic we are all part of one big family. Who are bonkers about magic! I learnt to smile and laugh again with them. They decided to extend a hand and welcome me into their circle in my time of need. And a week later they asked me would I like to perform? I told them a big happy yes!
This is an Art Attack!
I had one full week to practice and get an act together. Upon looking at my bedroom I realised I couldn’t just put a dress on and perform. Without some sort of backdrop.
But what should a bedroom theatre space look like? The answer is is anything you want it too!
I chose to model it on the place I dreamt of performing in and did last year, The Magic Castle Closeup gallery!
A place I was confident and happy in and a place I was made to feel magical. The hope was that if I could make my room feel like the closeup gallery these good feelings might reappear. And they did!
I performed three full weeks back to back with the guys at The Chicago Magic lounge and I’d never been happier!
Each week I created a completely new closeup set to push myself and develop as a performer. To my surprise, all the effects I chose worked and played extremely well on the Zoom platform. Bar one that once flopped miserably but my Chicago family were so supportive and made my laugh after it so hard that it didn’t matter that it messed up. We are all human!
I believe what I was doing was living the dream. Working from home, doing what I love, with people I love, for people who love magic, BOOM!
Opportunity knocks once!
Like others in the industry – my live bookings plummeted and earnings dwindled. Honestly I believed I was at the point I would have to go onto benefits.
Not that I wouldn’t but I am quite proud that I have been a self sufficient performer and business since I left university at twenty one. I love what I do but restrictions and lockdowns were preventing me from doing what I loved most.
I got a phone call from the BASE @ Tobin community group looking FizzWizzPop to perform a virtual magic show. It was to support families whom had children with additional needs. To give them respite, joy and laughter in lockdown. However, this became a call that I will never forget.
I was so desperate to be able to pay my bills I had to apologise to the lady immediately. I was ashamed that I wasn’t in a position to offer them a free show. Even though they were a charity and needed help too.
In the end it was the lady from that group that supported me. And I was booked1 She agreed a fee for me that was much more than I had asked for. And now thanks to this amazing woman I have now a working relationship within this community.
After this other charities whom I usually supported began reaching out to support me in keeping magic alive!
Although I was coping with the new ‘virtual magic’ medium I was not making enough money to live on. (This was Prior to the government SEISS grants which up until now I have been truly grateful for).
A charity called Mae Murray Foundation got in touch quite soon after BASE @ Tobin. I had worked previously for them. They are a wonderful charity that support kids and families living with cerebral palsy and affiliated effects. To put it simply they had a minuscule budget. But what they could offer me was regular slots for a full month.
I didn’t know if I should accept these at the fee they gave me or just leave it. Torn between knowing the quality and time it would take me to put together these shows and being helpful made me quite emotional for some days.
It challenged my thinking on worth – what am I worth? After much crying and acceptance I took the gig, reluctantly! Believing that somewhere down the line accepting a much lower fee would damage my business.
However, in the current climate what else could I do? I needed money and I needed a goal to perform regularly again.
Sometimes something good comes from doing the right thing!
In the interim I applied for an Emergency Artist grant from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. I had hoped to get some funding for equipment for my bedroom studio which I named my Isolation Creation Station!
Having never applied for funding before I was gobsmacked that a week later they deemed my project successful! I was to receive 80% of the funds I requested.
I kitted out my bedroom with backdrops, lights, a webcam, microphone and upgraded my Vimeo account. Then I began performing online with gusto.
As the platform of creating a new show every time proved successful with Chicago, that’s exactly what I decided to do with the Mae Murray shows. For five weeks, twice a week I would create a brand new 20 minute magic show for the kids to watch.
Broadcasting from my room became so much fun. I began to hone skills that could only be compared to presenting a television show for children without the production company. I learnt to direct my performance to the camera and alter my tricks so that they still appeared random even though I was essentially making all the decisions in the effects. One show I was even brave enough to let the group decide and wait (for what felt like and eternity) for someone to respond – but they did! Making this effect even more magical than I could have ever thought it would be.
After finishing the project with ten brand new shows I believed that this project was at its end. I was delighted at how happy and creative I had become but simultaneously I was sad that it was finished.
It is quite strange to begin and end a project in tears, but I suppose this year has been an emotional one for us all. Thankfully, the families didn’t want to say goodbye either. This September I have continued the project with Mae Murray. Once a week FizzWizzPop continues to explode onto their page for Magic, Music and storytelling. It’s quite hard to believe but my show now gets up to 500 views on their page. That is incredible for me to go from no audience to that size in a matter of weeks!
Now that I’ve found my groove I am still making a brand new show every week. And yes you guessed right, I now have no room in my bedroom with all the costumes, props and studio equipment!
Leave a trail of breadcrumbs or even better, a Wondertrail!
Basically I found a platform during lockdown that worked. One that would keep magic alive for everyone this year. Regardless of how much I was paid and the hours I put in, I did this project because I love magic and how it makes me and others feel.
I have a genuine goal to create Wonder and no pandemic will stop me from doing that EVER! I’ve been through so much the last four years. I have changed so much and I’ve learnt that I deserve the best in this world. Creating has helped me to find myself again, it has helped me to love myself again.
When I begun this mad journey to better myself I remember a good friend telling me that he always thought I was like a beautiful bird trapped in a golden gilded cage and all he wanted to do was set me free. Little did I know that even though someone had put me in there I had let them and the only way I was getting out was by kicking the door open myself.
Choose to become your own hero! You are worth fighting for!
If you are ever asked to speak in front of people and you don’t know what to say? Speak of what you know.
A recent event or something in the distant past that you have experienced. Think about how you felt then and how you feel now about the situation. Did you overcome something? What have you learnt and what knowledge can you pass onto others?
Believe in yourself my friends. Life’s greatest gift is you! Here is something to watch that you might find inspiring. All of these videos were made in my tiny bedroom in Belfast. If I can do this you can too!
I am very pleased to be making these two announcements…
I will be be a guest on The Magic Castle in Hollywood’s forthcoming show next Saturday 3rd October 2020 7pm (PT USA or 3am UK). You can purchase tickets here Check out Harrison and Siegfried too! Tickets are just $20 per household!
I can’t quite get excited too much about this yet however I will have a little Yippee to celebrate. I have been booked to perform at the Masters of Magic convention in Turin Italy this October! Fingers crossed I’ll see you there!