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Children's Entertainer | Magician | Andy's Magic

"The Magician, The Magic Shows and The Entertainment"

8 October 2010

A Magical Opening at the Children’s Centre

New children's centre's seem to be springing up everywhere, at least in my area they are. And this can only be seen as good news: it provides work for all those employed at each centre, great facilities for those families with young children (aged 1 to 5) who live locally and for us entertainers it provides new venues and new audiences.

On Thursday, this week, I was entertaining at one such place. Half Crown Wood Children's Centre, which is based within the grounds of the St. Bartholomew's School in Stourport, was celebrating its official and grand opening, and it was easy to see that a lot of hard work had gone it to organizing the event. And those efforts certainly paid off with everyone, children and adults alike, enjoying all the activities that ran over the course of the day. There really was something for everyone: face painting was supplied by Funky Faces of Worcester — the children were delighted with there amazing transformations. Animal Mania gave the children chance to interact with real live animals and reptiles, and the children seemed undaunted and reveled at the chance to touch and stroke a variety of creatures including snakes, lizards, tortoises and chincillers.

As for me, I was booked to perform two magic shows (10:30 and 1:00pm) and before, in-between and after each show I walked around mixing and mingling with the crowd making balloon animals for anyone who cared to have one—members of staff were particularly keen. And, I must say that the children were very well behaved. They all sat, attentively watching, as I performed my funny little miracles. When Max—my magic dog—made his appearance, the kids went wild, shouting and screaming as he caused mayhem trying to do his magic. And then they were ecstatic, when in the end, he finally managed to get his trick to work.

Apart the extra entertainment that was brought in to help celebrate this special day, there were all the usual things that you find at children's centre's these days: sand and water pits, a craft session, a very splended sensory room, and, of course, the obligatory toys and books. Food was also provided in the form of a fantastic buffet.

So, all in all, I think it's fair to say that a good day, was definitely, had by all. I must take this opportunity to thank all the staff whom were very welcoming and helpful and I look forward to my next booking in a children's centre like Half Crown Wood.

29 July 2010

Crackerjack, Don Maclean and Me

If you’re of a certain age you will definately remember the long running children’s television programme Crackerjack; go on lets all say it: "It's Friday, it's five to five... it's Crackerjack".

Don & Pete in one of thier hilerious sketches.
It ran from 1955 to 1984 and was, and still remains, in my humble opinion, one of the best children’s television programmes ever made. Over the years the show was hosted by such big names as Emmon Andrews, Michael Aspel, Ed Stewart and Leslie Crowther. The show included 'Double or Drop', the game where kid's arms were piled high with prizes if they answered questions correctly or with cabbages if they got them wrong. There was music with songs from the popular pop stars of the day and the finale was a short play that often saw the cast singing there own reworking of the current chart hits. And, of course, there were the celebrated Crackerjack pencils. But the highlight of the show, for me, were the comedy spots that were, over the years ,provided by some of the best acts in the business including: Carry on’s Jack Douglas, Ronnie Corbett, The Crankies, Bernie Clifton, The Great Soprendo (Geoffrey Durham) and my personal favourites Don Maclean and Peter Glaze.

I have fond memories of watching Crackerjack as a youngster but I never imagined that years later I would meet, be on the same bill as, and have dinner with one of the stars of that show. So how did I end up meeting and working with Don Maclean?

I was recommended - I never did find out who recommended me, but whoever it was… thank you - to perform close-up magic around the tables at a very prestigious charity fundraiser. Don Maclean had already been booked as the star turn; the big attraction that would put bums on seats and guarantee that all the tickets were sold and loads of cash was raised for the charity. I knew that this event would have an audience of wealthy, famous and influential guests, and this knowledge made me nervous. I’d been performing full-time for a few years but I was still a bit green and I had plenty to learn.

A week before the event, I received a phone call from one of the organisers asking me if I’d like to join himself, Don Maclean, the local Mayor and other notable figures on the top table. I would be treated, as their guest, to a fantastic five-course meal and would be seated next to Don. I’d like to think I was asked to be on the top table because of my incredible ability as a magician or because of my amazing popularity, but I think it was more to do with the fact that there was one seat that needed filling on the top table and as all the other guests were there with their partners and families and I was the only one on his own… I got the seat. Whatever the reason, I was very lucky and I gladly accepted the offer.

That last week flew by and suddenly the moment had arrived. The butterflies were working overtime and before I knew it I was being escorted to the top table. With the introductions over, it wasn’t long before the whole table was deep in conversation. I found Don, very easy to talk to and I felt very relaxed in his company. He was a genuinely nice and a very funny man; he had the whole table in fits of laughter and then enthralled with his anecdotes about his illustrious career.

After the dinner, which was, it has to be said—superb, it was time for me to start my tour of the tables and perform my little finger-flinging miracles. The butterflies, which had subsided over the course of the meal, had now well and truly returned; would my mixture of comedy magic, card tricks and mind-reading hit the spot? Would the audience laugh at my jokes? Would they be amazed by my magic? Or would the nerves get the better of me and ruin my performance? I needn’t have worried, everything went well. I couldn’t have wished for a better audience and I received a lot of nice complements, and I even secured several bookings off the back of that gig, too.

With my spot done, it was time for the man himself. I’d seen him on television in shows like Crackerjack, The Black and White Minstrels Show and The Good Old Days, and I’d seen him in pantomime too. Don was, and still is, one of the best pantomime Dames around. I’d also listened to his BBC Radio 2 Show, Good Morning Sunday, which he presented for an amazing fifteen years. So, I had seen many sides of this entertainer but tonight I was going to see Don Maclean, the stand-up comedian and I wasn’t going to be disappointed.

Don Maclean - Comidian & Broadcaster.
Don breezed onto to the stage with that big trade-mark smile and a confident twinkle in his eyes; I just knew we were in for a treat. His dynamic personality and his great energy along with his fast paced delivery, all insured that by the end of his spot there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. He had a wealth of topical gags and one liners and he came up with some wonderfully funny observational stuff on life, death and marriage. And he was very clever too; he knew exactly what sort of audience he had in front of him and how far he could go with-in those boundaries. He left the stage to a standing ovation and thunderous applause.

The evening, in my opinion, was a great success and was rounded off with some music and dancing. As the night drew to a close I said my goodbyes and made my way home. I don’t suppose Don Maclean will remember me from that night way back in, I think it was, 1995, but it’s a night I will always remember. I had the time of my life, I ate food that was fit for a king and saw one of the countries best and most respected stand–up comedians in sparkling form; and best bit about the whole thing is that I was paid for the privilege—now that’s magic!

24 July 2010

Tips to Make your Party Awesome

Most people dread the thought of organising and hosting their children's party. They just want to get it over and done with. But that's not how it should be, you should be able to relax and enjoy your child's special day, so here are a few tips to, hopefully, make your party a success.
  • The first step in planning a birthday party is to sit down with your child and find out exactly what type of birthday party he or she wants. Then determine if your budget, your creativity, and your energy can deliver that type of birthday party. If not, scale down and do only was is feasibly possible.
  • It's natural enough to feel like you invite all your friends, family and everyone who's invited you to a party recently. However, the bigger the gathering, the more hectic and expensive it will be. Instead, limit yourself to a set number of guests, and stop yourself from inviting more at the last minute, and invite only those people you know will enjoy a few hours in a house full of children.
  • If you happen to be on a tight budget, why not get together with one or two other friends, whose children's birthdays are near your child's, and host a  joint-party. This works especially well for children under the age of four because they won't really care that the party isn't just for them. You'll save a lot of money by splitting the expenses between a few families. Sing "Happy Birthday" to each of them, and, to save even more money, have one big cake between them.
  • Food is often the centre piece of a good party, but that doesn't mean you have to serve a full meal. Cake, juice, some snack foods and ice-cream and jelly will keep the children happy.
  • Competitive games are enjoyable only for the people who win. A party should be fun... avoid tears by selecting games where everyone takes part and no one is out. Pass the Parcel, dancing competitions and getting the kids to join in with those action songs, like Y.M.C.A, Fast Food Song, Cha Cha Slide and The Music Man is a garanteed crowd pleaser.
  • Forget blowing up loads of balloons for kids; it'll be a waste of time and energy. I've been to hundreds of parties where the parents have stood for ages inflating balloons - and then the children arrive; with-in five minutes every balloon has been burst and all that's left is a mess for you, the party organisers, to clean up.
  • One of the biggest party-money-wasters is the over-priced plastic toys for party bags that get lost or thrown away in no time, so try something different. Buy large packs of art supplies such as glitter pens, stickers and stamps. Then break up the sets and give each child one of each.
  • And Finally, If you are booking a children's entertainer, try and get a recommendation from a friend or relative, search the web for reviews and make sure you get all their details (Phone numbers, address, email; a reputable and reliable entertainer will want all of these detail from you so that he can confirm the booking in writing). And make sure the entertainer you choose is CRB checked, fully insured and all his equipment is PAT tested.

The Busiest Time of the Year

As a magician, the busiest time of my year is December, the season of good-will and great profit.
As the month approaches, I know I must get ready for the tsunami of phone calls, that will as in previous years, come from customers who are all eager to book my services. And the calls won't stop until the Christmas week its self arrives.

Speaking for myself I can honestly say that I turn away more work than I end up taking. Why? I hear you ask. Well, the answer is simple: on average I can squeeze three or maybe four bookings into any given day; the amount of enquiries I receive is at least five-times that figure. I might be a magician but I can only be in one place at a time.

So with the festive season fast approaching, I need to make sure I am ready and prepared for what will be - the busiest time of the year. It is always import to have a good show in order to capture rebooking and Christmas is no different. I am already in the throws of putting together the magic show I intend to use this year. I always try and add in new items, and, of course, it has to have a Christmas theme. Santa Claus and Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer all make an appearance during the show, and the music has to be festive too. If I'm providing the disco then that also needs to have a Christmassy feel to it.

The adult and the corporate market is a much easier one. I can use the same tricks as the rest of the year, but adjust the patter slightly and add a few seasonal jokes; but in the main the close-up magic that I will perform at these events will remain the same.

I have just checked my diary and find that December is already half-full and so I know that all these schools, playgroups, social clubs, and pubs all of whom will require entertainment for their parties, will as in previous years be disappointed.

 I have, in fact, got two customers who have tried for several years to book my services, but always found that I was full on the dates they required, and so now they have both taken the unusual steps of booking me for their Christmas Parties… in December 2011.


6 May 2010

Children Say The Funniest Things

I’ve been a full time children’s entertainer for over eighteen-years and, in that time, I’ve learnt that children really do say the most hilarious things. In this blog I thought I would share with you some of the funniest things I’ve heard children say.

“So, Phoebe, do you have any brothers or sisters,” I asked the six-year-old girl.
“No,” She replied, “I’m a lonely child.”

“What is the capital of England,” I asked little four-year-old Adam. The little boy immediately answered, “It’s the letter E, that’s the capital of England.”

Four-year-old Chloe, who was helping me perform some magic, suddenly and unexpectedly announced that she’d had a — pig and cow sandwich for breakfast. I was just as confused as the rest of the audience until her mother explained what she’d actually had for sausage sandwich, the sausages being made of — pork and beef.

On asking Emma how old she was she confidently replied, “I am seven, going on eighteen.” She was obviously repeating what she’d heard her mum say when she was asked about her daughter’s age.

After being asked where he’d been on holiday Michael stood and thought for a moment before replying, “I went to India, and while I was there I saw the Eiffel Tower.” — Now there’s a novelty.

At a Christmas party, a few years ago, I asked a bunch of seven-year-olds if they knew why we celebrated Christmas. A blonde-haired boy whose name was David, instantaneously shot his hand in the air. “Go on,” I said, “Tell us the answer, David.”
“We celebrate Christmas, so Santa can bring us lots of presents.”

Gemma and Stephen were helping me on stage and at the end of the trick I asked Stephen to shake Gemma’s hand. Stephen shook his head defiantly and refused.
“If you don’t shake Gemma’s hand, I’ll get her to give you a kiss,” I responded Jokingly.
Gemma immediately shouted, “No! I won’t kiss Stephen. I only kiss boys whose dad’s are rich.”

And finally… it’s not only children who inadvertently say things that are funny. Here’s the innocent remark I made, that had every adult in room laughing, and left all the children wandering what was so funny…

Whilst entertaining a group of youngsters at a nursery and making a balloon animal, for a little girl who had just helped me make the magic work, I asked if anyone could guess what animal I was creating. There were lots of answers, a dog, a cat, a rabbit, a parrot and a snake — all of which were wrong. But one little lad shouted out, “It’s a Crab!”
“No, no,” I said it’s not a crab, I’ll tell you what it is - it’s a teddy Bear.” I turned to the little girl and said. “I bet you’d much rather have teddy bears than crabs.” — Oops!

5 May 2010

No Sunny Spells, Just Magic Ones.

Working at an out door event can see an entertainer having to deal with allsorts of problems, including bad weather conditions. And at my latest gig, The Cropthorne Walkabout, the weather really did put the dampers on the day.
Over the last thirty-years, the Cropthorne Walkabout has firmly established itself as a favourite attraction for all those interested in a great day out soaking up the peaceful charm and history of rural England, and it’s also a great family day out too. Take a leisurely stroll through this picturesque Worcestershire village and you will not only see some of the most spectacular and striking gardens in the area but you will also encounter some wonderful attractions including: a Jazz Band, Morris Dancing, Boat Trips, a Hawk and Owl display, a Classic Car and Motorcycle Exhibition, a Fully Licence Bar, a Pig Roast, various stalls — and a Magician.

Yours truly was booked (for the umpteenth year) to provide the magical entertainment, predominately, for the children. My performances were to take place in a marquee that had been erected within the grounds of the Cropthorne Churchyard. As I arrived I became immediately aware of how few people were around compared to previous years. It was obvious that the bad Bank Holiday weather had already taken its toll on the event.

I started my first show at 2:30pm. In previous years the marquee would have been full to bursting, but this year there were only fifteen little ones, with, of course, their parents. I started the show and everything was going well, but with rain now falling heavily, the marquee was starting to leak and on several occasions I was forced to move across to avoid the water that was now constantly dripping down.

By the end of my show, the marquee was completely full with people (mainly adults) — who weren’t really there to watch the show — but who needed shelter from the torrential rain. Once the show was finished the rain slowed to a fine drizzle and the crowd slowly dwindled, finally leaving me to re-set everything for my second performance, which was due at around 4:00pm. But it wasn’t long before the heavy rain returned and soon the Churchyard and was almost deserted, and with rain falling and skies becoming dark and overcast, it really was quite eerie.

Occasionally I would see the odd passer-by, with their umbrella’s up, heads down, braving the elements — but, I think the fact there were now actually more stallholders than visitors says it all. The bad weather really did put the dampers on the rest of the day, and needless to say, that my last show never had a chance of starting. No audience, no show. One family did walk by with a little boy whose name was Noah — a very appropriate name considering the weather we were getting. I made the little lad a balloon animal and showed him some magic as well. That family turned out to be my last customers of the day.

It’s shame after all the hard work that goes into organising an event such as the Cropthorne Walkabout that it should be spoiled by the weather; but you can’t really blame those who had intended to pay a visit and then decided against it once they’d seen the weather forecast or those who left early for the same reason.

Don't think there is an answer and there's certainly no one to blame. All you can say is grit your teeth, smile and say - that’s life - and hope that next year the sun will be shinning.

4 May 2010

How did I become a magician?

I thought I’d try and answer two of the questions mentioned in my last blog. So here it goes.

Most of us will, at some point, have received a “box of tricks” for Christmas. I did, and, from that moment on my life was changed forever. I sat their everyday practicing the tricks until I had mastered everyone. I remember nervously performing a card trick that had took me days to learn. My whole family sat and watched and I remember the shocked look on their faces as they released they didn’t know how I'd done it. This ten-year-old boy, who had probably never done anything amazing in his life before, had fooled the pants off them; they really hadn’t got a clue!

It was such an incredible feeling, the adrenalin rush. And for little old me to have entertained, amazed and fooled my whole family was amazing. I wanted more of that feeling. I couldn’t wait to go back to school to show my friends the magic I’d learnt. My school friends were very receptive to the magic I showed them. Some of them had the same box of tricks but just could work out how to perform them properly, and that was the difference! When my friends were giving up after a few tries, pushing the magic under the bed and playing with their Subbuteo football game instead, (Subbuteo – now there’s a memory), I didn’t give up! I wanted to perfect the tricks and then I wanted to learn more. But in thoses days, unlike now, magic tricks were not so readily available. Now, you don’t even have to leave the house to find out about or buy magic. You can surf the net and find allsorts of magical effects, online magic stores, books and dvd’s. Ebay is full of tricks at giveaway prices and there are dozens of different magic sets available. But in thoses days, all those years ago, there was nothing like that. The only way I found out about more magic was while on a visit to my local library. There I discovered a fair selection of books about magic and the allied arts. I think I borrowed everyone of those books and it became obvious that I was obsessed with becoming a magician.

The obsession never left me; once magic gets you hooked there is no way to stop the addiction; you can’t go to the doctor and ask for a patch to stick on your arm – nope! That’s it, once the magic bug has got a hold of you, it will never let go.
I am now a full-time professional working for myself, doing a job that I love and not many people can say that. I perform at many different events and venues performing not only as a children's entertainer, but also as a close-up magician too. Close-up is as the name suggests magic that is performed at close quarters to the audience. I will walk around, mix and mingle with the guests, performing amazing feats of magic and mind reading at their finger tips - miricles no-less. So every time I go to work, its always different; different audiences, different reactions, different venues and different hecklers too. It's great doing what I do, I just love it - even on the bad days - and there are some. I wouldn't change my job, (If you can call it a job) for the world.

Do I always look forward to going to work? The answer is most definitely yes!

Don't forget any questions - please ask.