What do cheese, salami, drag queens and Game of Thrones themed wine tasting have in common? They all have Melbourne festivals dedicated to them in. The city that I call home will host a festival for anything. From coffee to underground film to jazz, we celebrate it all.
And as magician, I’m pleased to be a part of the Melbourne Magic Festival which celebrates ten years in 2017. For the past two decades, Northcote Town Hall has, for two weeks in July, played host to magic shows from around the city and around the world.
Like its cool big sister, the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, the Melbourne Magic Festival is an open access festival. Any magician who wants to mount a production is welcome to put on a show. That means, the festival has played host to weird experimental new works, the debut performances of teenage performers and sell out shows by world famous magicians who travel from across the globe to fool Melbourne audiences.
In 2016, we broke the world record for the longest magic show clocking it at over 72 hours of non-stop magic by over 20 magicians. In 2015, American magician Wayne Houchin hung from his feet from a crane thirty metres above the ground while escaping from a straight jacket.
Unlike other artists magicians rarely get a chance to work together. We’re lone wolves, plying our trades in isolation. The festival is a chance to not only see each other performer but also a chance to see how we work. We exchange everything from prop storage tips (Samsonite suitcases are easier to transport props than roadcases) to sleight of hand finesses (make sure you relax your fingers when you have a coin palmed).
Amazingly, the festival survives with barely any funding or sponsors, relying on the hard work of Tim Ellis and Lee Cohen from the Australian Institute of Magic, who run the festival and the loyalty of the audiences who buy tickets to the shows.
In 2017, you can catch me in The Confidence Artist in which I’ll be teaching audiences how to use the skills of the magician to become a professional swindler. Think of it as a college for con artists, a school for scoundrels and a TedTalk for tricksters.
Or you could check out one of the other 65 shows on offer performed by 60 performers across 300 performances. There’s also workshops, classes, exhibitions and a magic shop
However, my favourite show each year is The Best Of The Magic Fest. The last show of the festival each night is an intimate hour of close up magic performed by a handful of magicians up close and personal, the way magic was meant to be performed.
Come along, buy a ticket and experience the magic for yourself.
July 3 to 15, 2017 every day from 10am to 11pm at The Northcote Town Hall and beyond!
Nicholas J. Johnson is a liar, a cheat and a fraud.