Cambridge Magician | Childhood Memories

arial view of kings colledge

As a young Cambridge Magician it seemed so simple

When I was a Cambridge magician, in my childhood, it all seemed so simple. However, life has changed considerably for me in the last few years. I recently got married and we have a daughter due in April. The older I get the easier it is to see how the significant events, like births and deaths, have punctuated my life.

I have been very lucky over the last decade, leaving a job that I didn’t much care for, to work in the entertainment industry which I have always loved. Travelling to many different countries to perform, winning the odd competition and being made a Member of the Inner Magic Circle are successes I never dreamt were possible for anyone joining the profession so late.

Our lives are shaped from an early age, by those around us. Family and friends go a long way to creating the people we are. I can’t help wondering who will influence my daughter on that precarious walk through life.

At the age of fifteen, I went to what Cambridge used to call the Leisure Opportunities Fair. An annual gathering where clubs of every description set up stalls to encourage new members to join. It was vibrant, sociable and for a boy who didn’t make friends easily it became a welcome rest bite.

Tents were erected in a local park, leaving an area of grass for larger presentations. Throughout the day clubs demonstrated their skills while the people of Cambridge looked on dutifully. Martial Artists, Dancers, Bands all seemed dwarfed by the imposing arena.

tj shoesmith magician in stripy suite
TJ Shoesmith Cambridge

Then the Pentacle Club arrived! Using a giant crane and a straitjacket John Davenport, a Cambridge Magician, swung high above the crowd, a Neanderthal battle between man, straps and canvas. This was a spectacle that could not be beaten, appealing to the basic instincts, it had the cold damp crowd clapping and cheering. It was the highlight of the day, it was so simple, a Cambridge magician hanging in the air captured the crowd’s imagination.

I ran through the gangways looking for their stand and was met by a number of friendly faces all willing to offer help and advice. For the next few year’s I attended meetings, performed in shows and bought far too much rubbish at conventions and sales. I really wasn’t very good but it didn’t matter I was enthusiastic, I enjoyed it and members seemed to warm to me. I too wanted to become a Cambridge magician just like John

When I finally left for University it seemed that a short and enjoyable time in my life was over. Who would have known that twenty years on, after a degree, acting career, and seven years in the Ambulance Service, I would return to what could be described as my roots.

Forest Gump said, “Life is like a box of Chocolates!” A now clichéd observation made through a character that sees life in simple terms. But the analogy gives the impression that life is all good, which it never can be. But there are chocolates and for me, that little Club introduced to me by the work of one Cambridge magician was one. A sanctuary for a troubled child and one of those building blocks which turned a teenager into a man.

Claude Perry’s death was very sad! Claude was a great Cambridge magician, one of the best and also one of the funniest, I loved him dearly. I sat at his funeral being reminded of his Troublewit routine and clever patter. I had met him a year or so before when I lectured at the club. By then Claude was transformed by age, and although recognisable, he was not the man I remembered.

On one occasion, many years ago Claude kindly drove me home after a club meeting. “Tim,” he said, “One word of advice…Stop buying stuff and start practising.” He must have felt his words fell on deaf ears but they didn’t. It may have taken me twenty-five years to realise he was right, but realise I did. I now make a living as a close up magician performing fifteen tricks well instead of one hundred tricks badly.

Thank you to every Cambridge magician at the club who started me off on this road, I haven’t forgotten you. I hope my daughter finds similar chocolates on her path through life. Even though I have worked all over the world I will still always be, at heart, a Cambridge magician.

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