Conventions and Unconventions……

bc5d2290_stdI had a wonderful visit last week to Cumberland Falls in Kentucky where I was the featured entertainer at the “Uncon Convention.” If you didn’t know about it then let me explain that Uncon stands for unconventional. An unconventional convention—they had me hooked the moment I heard the title. My kind of event!

This was a beautifully executed little convention that was filled with a delightfully friendly group of magicians. It was a pleasure to perform/lecture at a convention that was small enough that I got to talk and mix with every single person attending. That doesn’t happen nearly often enough in this day and age.

Part of the “Unconventional” element to the convention was that a huge degree of spontaneity was central to the event. Other than a general outline of what was going to happen there were many areas where things were just allowed to happen. It was a refreshing and highly effective way to run the convention. I wouldn’t want to try it with a large group but with this sized convention (probably 85 attendees) it was a lot of fun. We all had a total blast.

This was my most recent convention and during the course of it I spent a little time reflecting on my first magic convention. I’m sure all of us have a special place in their heart for that very first convention which we attended. It was almost always an amazing experience when you realized you had the opportunity to talk/watch/think/breathe magic 24 hours a day with a bunch of like-minded maniacs!

My very first convention was in the delightful seaside town of Southport in Northern England. I was particularly excited to see bc5d2259_stdhow my mentor Ken Brooke participated in the event since he was highly regarded as possibly the greatest pitchman of magic in the UK. I wasn’t disappointed and thoroughly enjoyed watching him spend four full days working the crowd. It was truly a sight to behold.

When Ken set up his tables in the dealer’s room at a convention there were always two people who were deeply upset—the dealers with the booths on either side of him! When Ken worked a convention, he really worked it, and did so in a loud, aggressive and 100% entertaining fashion. The moment you walked into the room it was easy to spot where Ken was located, you just looked for the biggest crowd in the room and usually it was flanked by two totally empty booths.

Ken put on a non-stop performance from the moment he took his place in his booth until he left the room at the end of the evening. He took a couple of breaks to partake of a cup of tea and sandwich, but the rest of the time he was selling magic at a rate that left many other dealers worried whether he was leaving the attendees with any cash in their pockets.

bc5d2335_std-2 Ken was not just a gifted magician but he was a born pitchman who knew how to work a crowd into a wild frenzy— often in fairly outrageous ways. He would make a one-time offer, “Four of you, give me five pounds for this package! No I won’t bloody tell you what it is, in fact I won’t even sell it to you now—not even for twenty quid!” People would begin pushing money across the stand like punters at a three-card game. They usually ended up buying enough extra items to offset any potential initial bargain. As a philanthropist Ken was a great businessman.

Often Ken would refuse to sell someone an item and just tell the potential customer that it wasn’t the right trick for him or her to buy. “You just aren’t the magician to make it work.” He would say. In this manner he would ensure that this particular magician would spend an entertaining hour buying other items and trying to persuade Ken to sell him the “forbidden” item. Meanwhile everyone else crowded around the stand buying that mysterious trick just because Ken would sell it to them.

I wish I had Ken’s savvy at manning my dealers table after a lecture. If you see me at an upcoming convention stop by and I will share dozens of other great Ken Brooke stories, then again I might just refuse to sell you something! I have never been backward at applying lessons I have learned. I am now busy setting up lectures and conventions throughout 2015, so if you want to book my lecture, workshop or master class Contact me at

The Nick Lewin Lecture copy

~ by Nick Lewin on November 14, 2014.

2 Responses to “Conventions and Unconventions……”

  1. Hello Nick,

    I’m interested in your opinion. I do a newspaper tear – not yours. I could have a spectator sign a page and after restoration show the signed page is still intact.

    Do you think it adds to the effect?


    Bob (The Magic Guy)

    PS – Saw you at Mystery Lounge and IBM 122 in Watertown.

  2. To be honest I really don’t think it adds ANYthing to the effect! The impact is the restoration and it is a strictly visual thing. It just slows down the end of the effect and doesn’t mean that much to an audience. If you do a strong tear then they are busy wondering how the paper was restored and not whether it was changed. Good for magician audiences perhaps! Cheers Nick

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