The Session, Cheltenham, January 2013

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Richard Stokes
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Joined: September 11th, 2008, 8:18 pm

The Session, Cheltenham, January 2013

Postby Richard Stokes » January 15th, 2013, 8:34 am

Just returned from the U.K. Session which is now held in Cheltenham. (From my hotel window I could see the doughnut shaped spy headquarters of GCHQ, the British equivalent to NSA.)
The annual Session gathering is organized by Andi Gladwin and Joshua Jay from Vanishing Inc.
I remember seeing Josh , the wunderkind, giving a magic lecture many years ago in the basement of Bill Walshs pub in Wentworthville, which was a rather dodgy inner suburb of Sydney, Australia. (So dodgy that one day Bill, himself, was knifed by a crazed assailant , but fortunately survived the attack. Bill, by the way, did the stage version of the Jumbo Sidekick where you shoot the flower, the table and finally the pip off the jumbo card. In Bills hand this expensive item always seemed to go wrong the mechanism stuffed up - which made the trick even funnier.)
At the time, I thought what the hell was this yankee kid messing around with the Jennings revelation?
Well, Josh has come a long way since then. He and Andi always put on a great convention and attract a strong line-up.

This weekend, I was impressed by Bill Abbott, a Canadian magician. He gave a very professional 'Pack Smart , Play Anywhere lecture, tightly organized, but very entertaining. In terms of comic performance, audience management and spectator inclusion, he was right on the ball.
His 5 Card Opener, cleverly gimmicked, gave new life to the 5 Card repeat routine.
He mystified me with his cure for the common cold. Where did those tic-tacs really go? His smart-ass deck proved useful in sticky situations, enabling him to successfully predict a randomly selected card.
In the cabaret show, Bill demonstrated his mind reading derriere.

I liked Joshs routine with a matchbox that holds a paper-clipped, folded & partly burned card. This card turns out to be the spectators mental selection.
It reminded me of the David Regal equivoque routine for the disposable deck. Except the elimination procedure , similar to Elsdons method in On the Mark, moved faster.
To my surprise, Josh did not rely on dual index cards.

A young Englishman Chris Rawlins demonstrated Reveal, a drawing duplication technique using an innocent looking clipboard.
No electronics; no concealed impression device.
Luca Volpe has a similar but less sophisticated approach on his In My Mind dvd.
For Volpes version I bought the necessary gimmicks in Staples for a coupla quid. Rawlins method is more angle proof ; the clipboard is safer to handle and may well throw spectators off the scent, but costs 40.
Volpes dvd is worth downloading in its own right and you can certainly fool people with this drawing duplication. However, the method is so outrageous that you really have to control and ,somehow, inhibit your guilt feelings.
Then again, if you can play the part of a sociopathic mentalist who has no qualms about conning people, then the Volpe method may suffice.

The Session is a great venue for move monkeys.
The French magician Yoann Fontyn showed us his delicate card moves and the reasoning behind them.
Alex Pandrea from Blue Crown also dazzled us with his card handling skills.
I enjoyed the Buck twins presentation. (We were able to tell them apart because one has short hair and a moustache and the other has longer hair and a beard. I assume they do this to avoid potential lawsuits from ex-girlfriends.)
The Bucks showed us two versions of the Le Paul Spread; an upside down in-the-hands riffle shuffle; a revolving packet overhand shuffle; an extended dribble flourish; Michael Viles Under Pressure; another strange fan spread using the close-up pad rather than the thumb; the uzumacki move; and various stunts such as throwing a card precisely into a sprung deck.
I wonder if they will ever have time to raise children?
It was curious to be in a room full of slurping, dribbling, and cascading card freaks.

Simon Aronson and his wife Ginny performed their legendary mind reading duet.
I liked the part when two cards are freely selected from a shuffled deck, only to discover that these cards have been mysteriously predicted well in advance on a painting. The climax was ,of course, deciphering objects presented by the audience. It was great to experience the classic interaction between the blindfolded medium and the mediums assistant.

The next day, Aronson showed us two strong card tricks : Side Swiped. And an impossible transposition effect which incorporated the Osborn/Marlo Unlimited Move.
I was chuffed that Aronson, influenced by the Chicago school, made use of a control developed by Steve Bedwell, an English chap.

I wasnt so sure about the comedy magic session. Even the best comedians come unstuck when they try to analyse humour.
This comedic curse fell upon Rune who didnt have much to say. And what little he did say was skillfully rebutted by John Archer.
The blank night money swindle, the trick that fooled Pen & Teller, was immaculately performed. Even if you knew Archers method, the envelope moves were clean and withstood scrutiny.

I skipped the Luke Jermay sections only because Ive seen Luke lecture and perform on many occasions. No offence intended, as I like his work.

The Sankey keynote lecturenow what the hell was that about?
Jay was promoting a new website. He showed us a mixed bag of video clips.
His MANCING clip was embarrassingly unfunny.
Out in public, he faked dying with his funken ring and faked use of an iphone.
Maybe Bowie needs to modify his lyric to Heroes: we can be Jeremy Beadle just for one day
I wasnt sure what Sankey was getting at. Are we supposed to be impromptu jack-asses experimenting in public? Can someone who attended the lecture enlighten me?
In one breath Sankey put down message art, then contradicted himself by praising Banksy (surely one of the great message artists of our time!)
I feel Sankey should have played safe and profiled his amazing new trilogy of books , the Definitive Sankey, which have been compiled by Josh & Andi. He could have selected three or four classic or overlooked items.
And still have time to provoke and preach.
Instead, he performed a lame trick with his business card.
I think this was a squandered opportunity.

The final Sunday evening show: I dont really get Piff the magic dragon, although it seems to be a popular act. I think Piff or Put might eventually regret this strait jacket of success. Piff needs to throw away the costume and ditch the dog. And then develop his persona as a jaded grumpy magic performer. Then again, what would I know?

Archer as compere was brilliant. He almost stole the show with his put downs.
During pauses and interruptions, he roasted the organisers and poor Tom Crosbie, the memory man in the front row, with various cutting comments.

And then that genius Rune Klan came on. He may have been outwitted by Archer in the earlier session, but his stage performance was phenomenally funny.
He did a bizarre book test the Bible and the Koran profusely apologising for implying that one book was superior to the other.
He performed a crazy routine with spoons, forks and knives switching places in his hands and pockets.
He pulled off a tossed out deck joke, then messed up a mind reading trick, getting the wrong card, but it didnt matter much as failure is often more hilarious than success.
A TV producer should sign Rune up for guest appearances on English TV.
We are Dane crazy with shows like The Killing and Borgen.
Imagine Rune doing a routine with actress Sofie Grobel on the Jonathan Ross show! Prime material!
Instead, we have to put up with Derren Brown scraping the barrel with zombie apocalypse

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Re: The Session, Cheltenham, January 2013

Postby mrgoat » January 15th, 2013, 8:41 am

It was a great weekend, and good write up. I'd not seen Rune before and he had me crying with laughter. Brilliant act.

Although, one small correction, Banksy stole everything he does from a French artist who was doing it 30 years ago.

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Q. Kumber
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Re: The Session, Cheltenham, January 2013

Postby Q. Kumber » January 15th, 2013, 8:45 am

I was typing up my own review on the Session and am delighted Richard has done the same. Fortunately he covers some of the events I missed. So here are my thoughts:

The Session Convention 2013

The Session Convention, organized by Andi Gladwin and Joshua Jay was held in Cheltenham on Saturday and Sunday, 12th and 13th January. Specifically a close-up convention, this year had a strong focus on mentalism with both Simon and Ginny Aronson performing their two-person act and Luke Jermay with his one-man show.

I arrived on the Friday afternoon as had about thirty others who were scattered around the bar area. Before I know it I am sitting with a few guys I have just met and one of them is performing amazing simple and direct card magic. Turns out it is Joseph Barry, a 25-year-old from Linclonshire.

Joes story is both interesting and inspiring in this day of DVDs and downloads. Aged 13 he bought in his local bookstore the Expert At The Card Table, Expert Card Technique and Scarne on Card Tricks. For the next seven years his entire knowledge of magic came from these books. Aged 20, he bought Card College Volume One.

It was a delight for me to introduce him to different magicians over the weekend and stand back and watch their faces as Joe went to work, fooling them badly, again with simple and direct effects. Erdnase himself would be proud as there is simply nothing to suspect, let alone detect during his performance.

Peter Nardi of Alakazam Magic has commissioned a DVD set from Joe, which will be released at the Blackpool convention, where you can see Joe perform at their stand.

While there was plenty of time for socializing over the weekend, I didnt get to see everything but will try and give a flavour of the weekend as well as my personal highlights.

The main room where the shows and lectures took place was well laid out, if a little cramped as this year they had a record attendance. However a specially built set with raised platform and two large screens ensured that everyone could see. Bob and Sue Hamilton had a three camera set-up, which made for a very professional presentation of intricate close-up moves.

Besides having regular one-hour lectures, The Session has sessions, which consist of three or four separate presentations, similar to TED-style talks. The first of these showcased Morgan and West, the time-travelling magicians with a segment of their show. They wear Victorian dress and present in the style of the 1870s. Chris Rawlins showed his new drawing duplication, Reveal, and explained it along with presentational tips. It has just reached the market and is for sale at Vanishing Inc.

Josh Jay did a very nice routine where a card decided by the audience is found in a matchbox that someone has been holding all along. Nothing is added or loaded at any point by the performer and the matchbox can be opened by the helper and the folded card removed by them. Very clever.

Quentin Reynolds spoke on the importance of context in making you and your magic memorable.

Bill Abbott is currently touring the UK with his pack small, play big lecture, so many will get to see it at their local club. It is a forty minute show that can play at a house party or a large venue with up to 800 people. The whole act fits in a small bag that will fit in the glove compartment of your car. I caught the lecture again last night in Manchester.

Yoann Fontyn opened the Saturday afternoon session. He is highly skilled specialising in coin magic. He and his friends have just launched a magazine The Bull Frog, illustrated by graphic artist Father Alex. Every registrant received a complimentary copy. A few years ago registrants received a complimentary of Ben Earls Gambit magazine, copies of which are now selling at 50. You can read about The Bull Frog at

Mark Elsdon spoke on the Meridian Technique, a clever way for close-up magicians to keep patrons at a venue and thereby increase revenue for the bar you are working at. ... que-ebook/

Josh then gave a demo of Stephen Thompsons new magazine test Glance, which is exceptionally good and way to cheap for what it is. Details at ... sm/glance/

Saturday evening Simon and Ginny Aronson gave two performances of their highly acclaimed and superbly constructed two-person mind-reading act. Both shows received standing ovations. Yours truly was proud to be their warm-up act.

Luke Jermay finished off the evening with an hour of his one-man show. It is the best I have seen him. A well constructed show with strong mentalism. A new layer of deceptiveness to the tossed out deck fooled many before launching into a Q&A act with many original twists and turns. Luke has grown a beard which really suits his character and adds to the conviction of his performance. An excellent end to the scheduled events.

Sessioning and socialising went on well into the following morning.

Sunday morning got under way with Luke Jermay speaking with passion and clarity on how to write a show and what he felt was important to put in it. He emphasised the importance of magicians having at least a few audible gasps of amazement.

In the first Sunday session, Morgan and West spoke of the importance of character, how they developed theirs and gave a list of points to consider. It is great to see a convention, such as The Session, addressing these important subjects which are too often overlooked in magic.

Unfortunately I missed the afternoon session on comedy magic featuring John Archer, Rune Klan and John Van der Put and also the Dan and Dave Buck lecture. I also missed the gala show, MCd by John Archer as I arrived late and the room was full but by all accounts Rune Klan stole the show.

Jay Sankey was the guest of honour and gave an excellent and thought provoking presentation on what is wrong with magic today. While he didn't draw conclusions, he certainly raised questions. It was interspersed with video clips including a wickedly funny send-up of a magician with believable connections to an Egyptian city.

Jay is launching a new training system for magicians on March 1st which involves online video training and discussion, including creativity, performance and marketing. I predict it will prove controversial and innovative.

More sessioning into the wee hours. Meeting with old friends, making new ones, sharing stories with mrgoat, experiencing some great magic, all contributed to making the Session a great start to 2013.

There is a huge amount of work involved in putting together any convention, never mind a particularly good one. But that is just chicken feed for Josh and Andi who have decided to put on two conventions this month, one in the UK and another in the US. Josh and Andi the magical masochists

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Richard Kaufman
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Re: The Session, Cheltenham, January 2013

Postby Richard Kaufman » January 15th, 2013, 10:52 am

Great reports. I have a feeling we're going to see some of what they've done with The Session seep into their new iteration of the Columbus Magi-Fest here in the US.
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