A long history of magical performing exists here in Edinburgh.
Professor John Henry Anderson, The Wizard of the North, one of Scotland's greatest ever magicians, performed here in the late nineteenth century. The original 'Wizard of the North' was the writer Sir Walter Scott. The title was later, and more fittingly, applied to a magician. Early in the twentieth century, a brash American performer named Houdini packed the theatres for an extended run. A few years later, in 1911, another famous magician, The Great Lafeyette, died in a theatre fire in Edinburgh on the site of the current Festival Theatre.
Several amateur magicians began associating, and in 1912 formed the Society of Scottish Magicians. Soon, however, the lights were going out all over Europe, and not only in theatres. The members of the Society of Scottish Magicians were not to see them lit again in their lifetime. By the end of the Great War the Society of Scottish Magicians had ceased to exist. However, there were many professional and amateur magicians in Edinburgh during the next two decades - as in most cities.
Several boys who had recently left school began associating to practise magic, and in the summer of 1939 resolved to form the Edinburgh Magic Circle after the end of the summer holidays. But the stormclouds were gathering again in Europe. They agreed that whoever returned first from the war would found the new Circle.
Showbiz stars worked at home and abroad to entertain the forces during the war. In between times, ENSA, "Every Night Something Awful", (also known as Entertainment National Service Association) nurtured many amateur performers to professional standards. After the war, many of these went on to form the next generation of showbiz stars. Many others stayed amateur or semi-professional.
The Edinburgh Magic Circle was eventually formed in 1946. In its early years it performed a full evening show in a theatre every autumn, and took a coach load of members to the magic convention at Newcastle.
With the rise of television, live performing declined, and fewer places existed for magicians to perform. There were still children's magicians, but few adult stage shows. Instead, adult performing began to turn to close-up magic, at dinners and other functions. Magic also began to be popular for corporate entertaining and promotion.
Magic continues to be popular with both children and adults; but for adults, performing is often more intimate, in cabaret, or close-up at the table while guests dine. Many other performers never perform 'in public', working for corporate promotions, at trade fairs and conventions, and private parties.
For many years the Circle has held the Scottish Young Magician of the Year Competition, and also had a junior section. It now meets in licensed premises, and has no juniors at present. Edinburgh Magic Circle continues to be a lively club with an Open Night in the spring and a high proportion of active performers.
Richard Phillips - Member of Edinburgh Magic Circle
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Edinburgh Magic Circle meet at The Watsonian Club, Pavilion, 79 Myreside Road, Edinburgh. Please email for information on next meeting.
Monday 3rd April 2017
EXCLUSIVE SCOTTISH LECTURE
doors open 7.30pm lecture 8pm
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