Magic in Cambridge | Childhood Memories

Cambridge magician looks down on the city

When I was a child, I experienced magic in Cambridge all the time. 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 significant events, like births and deaths, have punctuated my life.

I have been fortunate over the last decade, leaving a job I didn’t much care for to work in the entertainment industry I have always loved. Since then I have worked in many different countries. I won the odd competition. The Magic Circle made me a member of its inner circle. I never dreamt it was possible for anyone to join the profession so late.

Shaped from an early age, our lives are a product of 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.

Cambridge Magician on stage
Cambridge Magician TJ Shoesmith

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 and friendly and became a welcome rest bite for a boy who didn’t make friends easily.

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, and Bands all seemed dwarfed by the imposing arena.

The Pentacle Club

Then the Pentacle Club arrived! Dedicated to performing magic in Cambridge. Using a giant crane and a straitjacket John Davenport a member of the famous family and a Cambridge Magician, swung high above the crowd. A Neanderthal battle between man, straps and canvas. 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 cabaret magician hanging in the air captured the crowd’s imagination.

I ran through the gangways looking for their stand. I approached the stall. Friendly faces greeted me, all willing to offer help and advice. For the next few years, I attended meetings at Fitzwilliam College. I performed in shows and bought far too much rubbish at conventions and sales. Although I wasn’t very good, it didn’t matter. I was enthusiastic, I enjoyed it, and the 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, I would return? After a degree, an 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. 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.

There is a little less Magic in Cambridge now

Claude Perry’s death was very sad! He was a great Cambridge magician, one of the best and funniest; I loved him dearly. Claude performed the Troublewit routine throughout his career. It was remembered at his funeral. I had met him a year or so before when I lectured at the club. Claude was, by then, transformed by age.

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 Cambridgeshire 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.