22 entries categorized "FISM2006"

FISM - Wrap up

Here we are in the Arlanda Airport getting ready to fly out of Stockholm. Having spoken to a lot of different people during the week, and having read the reports on various forums and blogs, I thought I might sum up some feelings from this weekof magic. (Feel free to add your own comments if you were there simply by clicking on the word 'comments' at the end of this post).

PRE-PRODUCTION

Superb. The publicity, build up, advertising for this FISM were the best ever. The forum and the website were a great idea! (Hi Jazzman! You helped so many people with great advice!) Logos and signage everywhere when you arrived and, though it was a little tricky to get from the airport to the city by train, then from the city to the convention centre, it was all possible. (At the Dresden Convention they had a FISM information stand at the airport itself which was a huge helpto us foreigners. Maybe China might consider this idea?)

Registration at the centre was great and stress-free, the volunteers did an excellent job. We were able to register the day before FISM, but only between 1-5pm. It would have been great to extend that time to about 8pm for late arrivals as it's great to be able to read your schedule before the convention starts.

Here's a challenge for China: When I ran the last Melbourne Convention, people received their registration kits when they checked into their hotels! Maybe that could be an option people could choose on their registration form? To do this, I simply cross referenced the registration list with the accommodation list and took each kit to the hotel receptions and instructed the staff to give them to the guests when they checked in. Pretty bold I know, and probably too hard to do for 2,500 people, but it work well for 250.

As for the goody bag, it was very nice, but we are used to being spoiled from past FISMs and I think people were expecting a little more... maybe even a few discount coupons for local restaurants or shops, a little snack or gift or treat or something in addition the the standard cards and the promotional wallet (which was so well wrapped in the magic kit advert I think most people still haven't discovered it!) Maybe dealers could be encouraged to take advantage of the goody bag and give away a few samples.

Another qualm was the program. I know that Anders Moden designed it as a compact (and well produced) booklet that people could carry with them, but it was still too big for a pocket (though it did fit nicely in the shoulder bag... which was a more practical size than some we've received at past FISMs). But people pointed out they wanted a small, pocket size programme they could carry in their name badge. We've had those before and I think people are used to them.

The FISM Daily news was excellent. Each day we couldn't wait to read about the previous days activities, changes to schedules, news etc. Well done!

VENUE

Very nice venue as far as a convention centre goes, but the Victoria Hall lacked atmosphere and was a terrible venue in which to view magic. A theatre with balconies is much more appropriate if you want everyone to get a good view and not have to watch the screens. (I wonder how China will go with their HUGE theatre?)

The lighting was terrible as well, it was universally too dark and, as a consequence, sometimes the images on the screen were almost impossible to see. (On the other hand, the lighting on the final awards shows was too animated. Not only was it distracting and made it very hard to see what the artists were doing, but the position of the lights on stage meant that entire sections of the audience were blinded by lights shining directly into their eyes).

The video operators looked like they had no idea what they were doing. Shots were chosen that were too tight so they revealed some effects, or too wide and we missed them. Sometimes the screens cut out completely and we just watched the FISM logo. We used Orsino Images here in Melbourne for our convention and, with only two cameras, they showed everything that happen on stage and close up in glorious clarity. It's the difference in spending the extra dollars and getting professionals. (But then, even on the final awards gala with the TLA camera crew, the camera work was still pretty shocking.

The Close Up Room was good in theory, but simply did not work. I have some suggestions for a revamp of competition conditions I'll be forwarding on to FISM but with regards to what we saw we, as judges, had to watch the screen as sometimes we couldn't see the surface of the table. And the screen images had a two second delay which meant we were watching action out of sync with what was happening live. The smaller audience of 280 or so really had to watch the screens as well, so it could have been staged in a larger room if need be.

My theory is that the close up should be restricted to one table with volunteers chosen by the organisers to sit around the table (for choosing cards etc). You can bring a box of props or a small case to sit behind the table with you, or you can just stand behind the table and not use it at all. But you cannot bring your own tables, stands, or karaoke machines... if you can't perform your act under those conditions, enter Parlour (which should be staged in a second room which is more like the close up room was in Stockholm). Anyway, directly behind the row of volunteers, on slightly higher seats, sit the judges, behind them on a higher row are more registrants and using this style of seating (as they do at La Double Fond in Paris) you can seat about 40-60 in "true" close-up conditions. You can then get away with one camera that, if framed correctly, does not need to cut away, and then have several smaller rooms with video feeds in them (or ideally, in order to create the best possible atmosphere) have this close up set up in a large room with screens in each corner with seating facing each screen. That way the performer can hear the reaction of everyone else in the room too.

This same set up can be used for the Close Up gala too. However, the seats need to be ticketed. Maybe each registrant gets a good ticket in the room for one session (the earlier you register the better the seats). They can swap (or sell!) their tickets during the convention.

If nothing else, it reduces the time that is absolutely WASTED by lining up for tickets to the close up comp (some lined up for 2 hours each day when they COULD have been watching lectures, the stage comp, or even just socialising!)

Second - what is it with pushing in???? Are magicians really that ill-mannered, selfish and disrespectful? This happened each morning at the stage comp (people lined up for an hour in advance then, when the doors opened, others who had milled around the door not in the line at all just barged in and it became a free for all stampede. I heard that some registrants abused, gave the finger to, and even spat on ticket collectors at the door when they were told they had the wrong tickets! I can only imagine how these people treat their audiences when performing!

Then, despite being told NOT to sit on the stairs or in the aisles people continued to do so. Does FISM need to hire ushers to physically move people who are so self-centred that all they care about is that they can see? Several times performers making "surprise appearances" in the audience almost tripped over people who weren't supposed to be on the stairs as they ran on to the stage.

The close up comp at least became a little more civilised during the week when barriers were put up to corral the crowd. (Some didn't like it and "mooed" as a protest, but the behaviour of a minority made this necessary. Then at the banquet we saw more terrible behaviour... two big looooong lines, then as other people arrived instead of going to the end of the lines they went in the centre and filled in the gaps then barged in making those who had been waiting wait even longer.

The only successful seating situation were the allocated seats in the gala shows. People walked into the theatre like human beings, found their seats and sat down. Unfortunately, one incident in the close up gala we saw sprang from a FISM volunteer telling people it was "free seating" when it wasn't. When ticketed people came to get into their seat they found others sitting in them who refused to move. The way this was handled by the FISM hosts was not professional either. It needs to be dealt with honestly, and in a fun way, to cause minimum embarrassment to people and to resolve the situation effectively. Instead it looked like a quarrel on stage with different organisers having different opinions as to what to do. Not only that, but because of camera equipment on the stage for the close up gala, many people not only couldn't see the performer, they couldn't see the screen either. They left... as you would.

The various venues had good names like Dante and Vernon, and they seemed to be at a pleasant temperature, and the seats were comfortable.

I'll tell you what would have worked a treat... have some people strolling through the venues between sessions selling drinks, ice-creams and snacks!

Finally, having the magic bar in a different venue was a TERRIBLE idea. Do not do that again. Den Haag got it right. People could mingle in the centre after the day's events or go downstairs to the vast (and cool) magic bar and party on to the wee hours. Instead you had to either leave the centre by train, go to the magic bar in the city, then catch a VERY expensive taxi back to the hotel - or if you stayed in a hotel at or near the magic bar you had to take a train trip in the the convention centre and back every single day.

The Magic Bar was, however, a highlight for many people. They raved about the performances of Tamariz and Green (though they had to line up for over an hour sweating in the heat before they got to see them! Again.. maybe we get tickets in our rego kits for these events we can swap with other registrants? Why pay so much money to attend FISM and spend most of our time in lines? It's not Disneyland!)

COMPETITIONS

First of all, big kudos goes to the backstage staff who, I'm told were incredibly helpful to the competitors.

This FISM featured some appalling acts that really brought the whole standard of the event down. The only people to blame here are the FISM Presidents who told FISM that these acts were good enough to compete. They were not! FISM may well have the right to penalise these Presidents by not allowing them to sponsor acts again (or maybe for the next two FISMs perhaps?) However, two Presidents who sponsored really bad acts were the Presidents of the SAM and IBM. Both are no longer Presidents so what can FISM do? Ban the SAM and IBM from submitting acts?

I still think the idea that sponsors must pay a very large competition entry fee which they only get back if the performer achieves FISM level in it's score (at least 60 in my personal opinion). As a judge it can be difficult to red light acts that are simply bad (especially when the audience is laughing and enjoying their awfulness) and it would be much better if we weren't put in the position of needing a red light in the first place! I heard one act, who was truly awful and got a sarcastic standing ovation, telling professional magicians how well he'd done and bragging about getting a standing O. He simply had no idea that the audience were laughing AT him and would have simply not understood at all if we red lighted him.

FISM Presidents be warned. Do NOT submit acts that are not ready for FISM. You KNOW the standard. I really hope FISM comes up with an effective answer to this problem.

Other policing matters - VIDEOS and CAMERAS. Flash photography and videos were banned in the main hall, yet people kept using them. They were warned that their camera equipment would be confiscated, but did FISM follow through with the threat? If not, no wonder! If magicians simply cannot be trusted to respect their fellow performers then I would be in full favour of bag searches at the entrance to all FISM shows and anyone with a video camera would have to leave it in a cloakroom or a locker or they would not be admitted. This is done in theatre shows, musicals and concerts. If FISM has to start doing this then don't be angry at FISM, be angry at the minority who cannot obey rules.

I even saw one guy standing with a video camera in the dealers room, pointed at the screen of a DVD player on a dealers booth which was playing a DVD he was selling. This JERK was making a bootleg of a video right in front of the guy who was selling it. The dealer could have stopped him and maybe it would have caused a scene... but can't there be some dealer room staff patrolling looking to throw people out who do this sort of thing? Also, there were two dealers who were caught selling rip-offs. Andy's Magic had a number of Menny Lindfield's items made in China, and Caesaral Magic had Angelo Carbone's 'Out Of Order'. Both were brought to the attention of the dealers. According to FISM rules they should have been told to packup and leave. Instead they were both told to stop selling the specific rip-off items in the dealers room. They broke the rules but the punishment was not dealt out. How does this look for 2009 when we go to the home of intellectual property theft China? The Chinese FISM committee have made a promise to stop rip-offs. We will be watching very closely to see if they live up to that promise.

(Ironically, how many FISM registrants who hate rip-offs in magic will go to China in 2009 and buy fake Gucci, copy Rolex watches, and pirated Hollywood DVD movies?)

LECTURES

Apparently the lectures were all very good. The lecture theatres may have been a little small however, and the scheduling could have been better. There were many times when there were too many choices in the morning, and virtually nothing to do in the afternoon! Maybe some late night lectures would have been a good idea.

Also no FISM should EVER again overlap the Stage and Close Up Competitions. This was totally uneccessary. A lot of people want to watch as many acts as they can. Let them have that opportunity!

OPENING CEREMONY

Having this AFTER the stage and close up comps and lectures had begun was silly in my opinion. It hardly felt like an opening as we were already well into the swing of FISM. It was an innovative idea asking 2800 people to stand in a dark, fog filled "aircraft hangar" for a hour and try to watch a small underlit stage on large underlit screens. The lasers and the ballerina-bubble were certainly different, but they didn´t work. And all of the balloons that were dropped that (I think) had some lotto tickets in some of them? (I'm not sure, I could hear the FISM President speaking) resulted in everyone bursting balloons in a frenzy of stamping... it seemed to create a more angry than fun atmosphere.

The opening video where Dag Lofalk stepped through the water screen was effective though!

GALA SHOWS

What can you say... the stage gala was sensational (everyone has their favourite acts and their worst acts...) but the Nordic Gala was particularly weak, both in content and presentation. The close up gala was appalling. Mainly because of the terrible AV support with bad sound, lighting, staging and camera work, but many of the acts should not have been on the bill... or if so, should have done shorter sets.

The worst thing was that, at past FISMS, we've had gala shows every night to look forward too. Not this time... I think that was a mistake China can't afford to make.

BANQUET

FISM 2006 sort of nearly got it right. 2800 people for a seated dinner is really an ambitious call. Kudos for doing it, however people felt the venue really needed a little atmosphere. The acts were fine, a dance floor would have been nice. The thing that really let the night down was the sound system, people up the back couldn't hear well at all and started talking. People up the front were being deafened at times (which lead to an old man physically attacking Frank Wilson while he was playing! How do people like like this even become magicians?)

CITY HALL RECEPTION

This was an excellent idea. Once again it's a pity it wsn't closer to the convention centre but I admired all of the volunteers along the route holding 'Follow Me' signs. I was concerned for the disabled and elderly --- was there alternative transport for them? The reception and the venue were excellent though, total class (unlike a small but noisy section of the crowd who were so rude they talked loudly throughout the presentation given by one of the city hall hosts What happened to common courtesy? I mean, how would they feel if their audience talked all throughout their shows?)

STEVIE STARR

This was a good innovation. Introducing an "allied arts" performer in their own show. I think one or two man shows are very good ideas and they introduce magicians to other forms of entertainment they may not have encountered before. So now we've had Stevie, what next for China... Puppetry of the Penis?

AWARDS SHOW AND CLOSING CEREMONY

Terrible. An unmitigated disaster. I'm sure FISM are currently brainstorming solutions to this as I type. I think the idea of filming FISM is a great idea (NHK TV have been doing it unobtrusively for years!) But there must be a better way so that we can leave FISM with good, positive memories and want to come back!

By the way, I must give extra points to FISM2006 for using a superb photographer. The images of FISM he captured here are absolutely brilliant!

OTHER THOUGHTS

What do I want at a FISM?

  • Free Internet access in the centre.
  • Inexpensive food in the centre (several times the kiosk ran out of sandwiches before lunchtime was over... our dinner on the last day was a coke and a candybar!)
  • The photo and poster displays were great. More please!
  • Some workshops about lighting, staging, make up, pyros, balloonology (maybe even good manners) would be a good idea for FISM.
  • Maybe a specific show for "alternative" magic acts like Tatu.
  • A crazy, ever-changing late night stage show as an alternative to bar magic featuring us, The Flicking Fingers, Die Zauderer, MagicSports and special guests that has fun with the days events.
  • Should there be a new category in the competition for Children's Entertainers?
  • Should the gala shows be repeated with the first session for the Public and the second for the magicians (and TV) so as to iron out the technical hitches? Or maybe each session has a mix of public and magicians? Or do we keep it "in house" so we can do all our "in jokes"?

What do you want?


FISM - Saturday

Final day of FISM and what an incredibly empty schedule!

10.00am - Gaetan Bloom lecture. Noon - Banachek lecture. 1.00pm - Pavel lecture. All lectures in a rooms that seat from 250 to 500 people... so what do the other 2000+ people do? Hang out in the dealers room from 9.00am to 3.00pm when the finale of the Close Up Contest begins.

I know a lot of people on the Swedish FISM organising team, and they have spent a lot of time and put in a lot of effort into the planning of this FISM, but there have been some basic mistakes and the registrants are calling this the worst organised FISM ever. (I'm sure there have been worse, but I hope Beijing learns a lot from this experience).

If you attended FISM 2006 and have your own thoughts and suggestions, they have a direct line of feedback where you can post your comments directly to the organisers here.

Anyway, we caught up with quite a few people during our free morning in the dealers room. Cimg3189_1

Ali Bongo and his niece Alison.

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Our good friend and fellow MUGS member Nelson.

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Topas and his wife and fellow magician Roxanne.

Actually, most of our "free time" at FISM was spent catching up with our magic friends and colleagues from all over the world. That's the absolute best aspect of FISM, but it's also it's downside. There are so many people to catch up with you don't have time to spend more than a brief conversation or maybe share a meal with them before you have to say hi to someone else or move in to a lecture or a show.

Speaking of lectures... David Jones and Nelson both told us that the Armando Lucero lecture was sensational! In fact we heard that most of the lectures were very good. The only problem is that you can't see lectures and the competition, you need to make a choice. (And as was pointed out on another forum, there were plenty of lectures for the 500 people who were free when 2000 people were watching the Stage Competition, but comparatively nothing for the 1800 people who couldn't get in to the 700 seats in the Close Up Competition rooms.

There were also some problems here at the Rica Talk Hotel. (Totally out of the control of FISM, of course). You heard about our overheating room... apparently onre group of people got trapped in a hotel lift for 45 minutes the other day. A day later one of that same group was again trapped in the same lift! Someone also told us that the soap dispenser on the wall of their shower fell off and they were told just to "put it back up". Well, it's a brand new hotel so I guess we should expect teething troubles.

Regardless... we all headed in to the Victoria Hall for the Close Up Competition Finale. As I was a jury member I sat in the front row (as opposed to on the stage, which was the original plan, because it would have looked bad for the TV crew who were filming the event) and we watched the contest on 10inch TV monitors under the stage! Luckily we were close enough to watch the acts live because the camera work was shocking! They kept cutting to wide shots when you needed close ups and audience reactions when the magic was happening... they hadn't seen the acts before so what can you expect I guess. (And despite what compere Max Maven said, the reaction of the audience did not play a part in our voting!)

Max Maven came out as the host for the afternoon's show and introduced the proceedings as well as David Stone as the first competitor. He performed his act better than he had in the close up room but the camera work meant the audience missed quite a lot of his effects (and how do you misdirect a camera when you are stealing a bottle from a table in full view???) David received a partial standing ovation).

Helder Guimaraes was next with his card act and, though it has a very slow start, it builds up to a climax that is so impossible it leaves people gasping that it must have been a stooge! (No, it wasn't, she was just as amazed as we were). Helder received a partial standing ovation.

Martin Eisele followed with his hilarious matrix act, but he didn't seem to be as in as good form as he was in the close up room. The fact that someone's mic was on and we could hear muttering all throughout the first half of his act only made things worse for him. Martin recived a standing ovation.

Rick Merrill followed - just like he did it the Close Up Comp. These two have very similar on stage characters so why they couldn't separate them by one other performer I have no idea. (I'm sure they chose the running order out of a hot to be fair, but by not separating them they put Rick Merrill at a a slight disadvantage. However, Rick Merrill delivered a killer set far better than in the close up room. (BIG standing ovation!)

Shawn Farquhar was last on the list and, though many found his patter way too fast to follow, he appeared to be very confident until he had a mishap with his featured card effect.

After that we had to leave for the jury room and deliver our verdict based only on what we saw in those performances.

While we were out Kevin James did his amazing Sawing In Half routine (people said it was great until the restoration of the body which became very obvious) and SOS and Victoria who did a quick change act.

When we returned it was time to present the awards. Because of the fact they were taping the event for TV they had to announce the Grand Prix Winner before they announced the winners of the Close Up and Cards categories. Why? They figured that if the announced the winners of the other awards first, it would be obvious who had won the Grand Prix and the tension and reaction to the announcement wouldn't be as strong.

This was a bad idea.

The five finalists came on stage, then it was stop - start - stop - start for the filming as a TV host took over from Max Maven and called Eric Eswin on to announce the Grand Prix winner.

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The audience went along with it all at first, and went crazy when Rick Merrill was announced as the winner. But then they started to go crazy in a bad way when someone took Rick's trophy from him and the host explained they were going to retake the presentation scene. After more faffing around people started booing, hissing and many walked out. Patience and tolerance, I think, are virtues that seemed to have run out with a lot of people by the end of the week.

Eric Eswin returned to announce the winners of the various categories and, as you may have heard or read on other reports, this was a shambles. Names were read out too quickly or while the audience was applauding so you couldn't hear who got what. Shawn Farquhar went up to accept his award and Dag Lofalk said "Who are you?" Shawn explained he was the 2nd place winner and Dag said "Are you sure?" There was only one trophy for one invention winner and nothing for the other, Eric explained they could collect it tomorrow. Rocco wasn't even in the building to collect his award when it was announced.

This was not the professional standard that magicians have come to expect from FISM Award Ceremonies. Many said it looked more like a local magic club prize night than the world championships of magic. They even had an Olympic style "I, 2, 3" podium for the winners to stand on. A nice touch as they got up, but then they had to get back off immediately as Eric started to announce the next winners. Maybe they could get up on it, have an official photo taken, dim the stage lights to a spot on Eric as the winners are led off the podium in the darkness and repositioned on the stage before the lights come up again.

The winners in the Close Up category were:

Grand Prix Close-Up ... Rick Merrill, USA

Micro Magic

1 - Martin Eisele, Germany
2 - Shawn Farquhar, Canada
3 - David Stone, France

Close-up Card

1 - Helder Guimaraes, Portugal
2 - Lodewijk de Widt, Netherlands
3 - Kiko, Spain

Inventions

Mathieu Bich, France
Pierric, Switzerland

Comedy

Rick Merrill, USA
Stonkel, Germany

Most Original Act

Rocco, USA

SWEDISH MAGIC CIRCLE AWARD
Rick Merrill

The crowd was very pleased with the results, but not with the way the show was run and the mood in the foyer as we waited the 90 minutes between the Close-Up and Stage Awards show was palpable.

During the break, Sue-Anne did an interview with John Fisher for the TV production (I did one earlier in the week). This will be a one hour special which will air in September all over the world. We also got a chance to chat with Derren Brown during the break and go backstage to celebrate with David Stone (below).

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Next came the Stage Awards show. It opened with Eric Eswin who was first cheered, then booed and hissed. He handled this appalling display with dignity simply by saying "Thankyou", which resulted in a big cheer and applause. He apologised for the earlier fiasco and promised there would be no retakes.

Rich Bloch was MC and he was superb. He kept the audience under control and had some very funny bits (I loved the fly on his nose that revealed a thought of card).

Sittah was first with her illusions, which looked great with the flash TV lighting, followed by Pilou who suffered badly as the flashy lights made it very hard to see his manipulation work. Same situation with David Sousa and Dai Binchun. Even Gaston had technical difficulties to overcome. His mic was playing up when he came on and he had to restart his act, then a baby started crying... he handled it like a true professional and got a huge standing ovation. Lee Eun-Gyeol was the only act other than Sittah that shone under the staging conditions (and no, the live bird that was sitting awkwardly in one of the cages he produced was not dead as some people were saying).

The judges retired to deliberate, we had a long intermission, then returned not for the announcements... but for a show starring Norbert Ferre and Rafael. Very good performances by both of them but the night was getting on... During Norbert's act, there was a very nasty incident where a groupfrom he other room, who were watching on the big screen, actually tried to breakin to the main hall and created a mini riot (which was apparently quelled by Derren Brown). Vice President of the Swedish Magic Circle describes it:

The incident during Norbert Ferré’s act was that he (Ferré) never uses a microphone on stage and turned down a lapel mike and naturally nobody could hear him in the other room.
But to try to barge in screaming like that only disturbed Norbert’s great act
.

Finally the results were announced. The finalists from the close up were also gathered on stage but... David Stone was missing! (He was in the other room as he didn't get a seat in the hall!!!! He saw the others on the stage via the screen and raced in and jumped onto the stage during the filming... in his street clothes! I'd love to see how they're going to edit that it for continuity.)

As before, the TV host came out and did what he had to do then literally ran off the stage handing it over to Eric and the team to announce the other finalists. Yes, this time it was just as amateurish as before. Sadly it looked unrehearsed and badly improvised.

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Grand Prix Stage ... Pilou, France

Manipulation

1 - Dai Binchun, China
2 - David Sousa, Portugal
3 - Arthur Trace, USA

General Magic

1 - Eun Gyeol Lee, Republic of Korea
2 - Die Zauderer, Germany
3 - Dion, Netherlands

Parlour Magic

1 - Gaston, Germany
2 - Shawn Farquhar, Canada
3 - Julia Guilhem, France

Stage Illusions

1 Sittah, Netherlands
2 Hugo Valenzuela, Argentina
3 Marc & Alex, Germany

Mentalism

2 - Timothy Trust & Julie Germany tie with
Juan Ordeix, Argentina

3 - Robert & Emiel Netherlands tie with
Jean Thomas Loewe, Germany

SPECIAL AWARDS

LAS VEGAS CONTRACT
Eun Gyeol Lee

FRANCE/MONACO CONTRACT
Sittah

LONDON CONTRACT
Mikael Szanyiel

SWEDISH MAGIC CIRCLE AWARD
Pilou

MOST ORIGINAL ACT

Hugo Valenzuela, Argentina

COMEDY PRESENTATION

Die Zauderer, Germany
Mikael Szanyiel, France

INVENTIONS

Ross Mickael et Bethy, France
Cesaral Magic, Spain

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The results of the judges were not universally accepted with most feeling that Lee Eun-Gyeol (above) should have received the Grand Prix and puzzled as to why Dai DinChun won Manipulation. But what is FISM without controversy?

After the show ended (11.00pm) we all headed off to the magic party at Scanic Sergel Plaza (which is still going as I type! Bob Sheets, Lennart Green and Juan Tamariz are performing and Nick Nickolas is even running an official FISM Poker Game and Danny Archer and Gazzo are winning!

It's after 4am so I'm signing off... we're off to Finland tomorrow and Sue-Anne's contestant report should be online within the week (fingers crossed!)

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Gaston and his trophy.

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  • You can read the official list of FISM 2006 winners here.
  • You can take a look at tons of great FISM photos here and here.
  • You can read other reports on FISM in the Genii Forum here.
  • You can read the Magician UK Blog with FISM reports here.

FISM - Friday

Second last day of FISM! Everyone gathered in the Victoria Hall bright and early (some people line up, and it's a VERY long line, while others just gather around the doors and as soon as they are open it's a race to see who can get to the best seats. Often people who line up early end up sitting at the back while people who walk up to the doors just as they are opening end up in the front row... it's an issue that future FISMs need to think carefully about).

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The Stage Jury took their seats and watched another batch of contestants. The trends in stage magic this year seem to be voice-over introductions at the start of acts, instant costume changes (some more instant than others), LCD screens and video projectors, and we've had a few singing acts too. One talked about act was Aaron Crow who fired an arrow through an apple on the head of a volunteer, another was illusionist duo Marc & Alex who used so many pyros that the smell of their act lingered in the theatre all morning....

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(Above - Tim and Anthony DeMasi enjoying the stage comp)

Those who didn't watch the competition enjoyed lectures by Armand Lucero, John Gallo, Cellini, Tim Star, Jeff McBride, the one man show from Juan Tamariz (an additional session is scheduled for tomorrow) and the hit event seems to have been the Cheating and Gambling session.

After the competition came an event on Corporate Sessions where Paul Daniels, Bill Malone, John Houdi, Magic Christian and Banachek spoke about various aspects of magic in the corporate arena.

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In the foyer there were three very elaborate stands from each of the countries bidding for FISM 2009. Yesterday the Chinese stand was very popular with delegates being given free T-Shirts if they'd sign up in support of China. Today Granada was offering free wine (poured by a very stylish Spaniard) and some tasty snacks to go with it.

Unfortunately I didn't get to attend this as I head to go to the FISM General Assembly meeting where we voted on where FISM 2009 would be held. After watching presentations from Beijing, Granada and Vienna the Presidents voted with Beijing winning with almost twice as many votes as Granada. So start preparing now to go to China in 2009!

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One man who will have no trouble adapting is Aussie Andy Sellenger who is based in Hong Kong. (See above). He's here dealing at FISM with the only difficulty being that his stock STILL hasn't arrived... so sales haven't exactly been booming for him at his stand.

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On the other hand Pablo and Henry Evans (see above) are doing a great trade, as are the other dealers who have stock. There are a record number of dealers this year and the dealers area is extremely well set up.

From there we joined the massive line to get into the banquet. 2,800 people got a free drink and headed inside to grab a table. (One person described the set up as the biggest garage they'd ever been in). Frank Wilson was there playing and entertaining us all in his usual superb style. During his opening rendition of 'Let Me Entertain You' he was more energetic than usual as he used one hand to fight off an older magician who was crawling all over him trying to turn his volume down until an official came up and pulled the guy off Frank. (Frank desrves an award for bravery for that one!)

Three special awards were presented this year. Gaetan Bloom received the FISM Award for 'Creativity and Vision', Eddie Dawes was presented with the 'History and Research Award', and the late Tommy Wonder was given the 'Theory and Philosophy Award'. Tommy received a long and emotional standing ovation and Max Maven, who came up with these awards, pointed out that most of the votes came in before Tommy passed away and he was well in the lead at that stage. Not only that, but Tommy voted for Juan Tamariz.

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Then the show commenced. MC John Houdi did a good job introducing Kenji Minemura who performed some extremely eye-popping sleight of hand with cutlery, glasses, and bottles.

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Gaetan Bloom followed with some fairly standard magic but presented with his usual French charm. He finished off doing a very funny display of card productions while wearing boxing gloves.

Ardan James absolutely stole the show with his exceptional mime and charming personality, finishing his set with Tina Lenert as two old people dancing to Madonna's 'Vogue' (Boris Wild said he'd never listen to that song in the same way again!)

One thing that should be mentioned is Eric Eswin announcing that China had won FISM 2009. This was received by a huge cheer and applause... followed by an even longer session of boos and hisses. Hmmm... I guess there are a lot of people who won't be going to China.

Eric also announced the 6 highest scoring acts in the Stage Competition who will compete for the Grand Prix tomorrow. (He announced the close up acts earlier in the day). For the record, the top acts who are in the running for both Grand Prix's are:

CLOSE UP GRAND PRIX

Rick Merrill, Martin Eisele, David Stone, Shawn Farquhar (all in Micro) and Helder Guimaraes (Cards).

STAGE GRAND PRIX

Pillou, David Sousa, Dai BinChin (Manipulation), Gaston (Parlour), Lee Eun-Gyeol (General Magic), and Sittah (Illusions)

Who will be the winners?????

And who will get a Comedy Award or be voted Most Original Act? Mr Underpants? We'll find out tomorrow!


FISM - Thursday

What a full day it was today! 9.00am sharp for another batch of stage competitors while Kevin James, Gazzo, Banachek, and Jeff McBride lectured, Juan Tamariz did a one-man show and the Cheating and Gambling workshop was presented.

Sue-Anne took copious notes as act after act appeared and the audience, though overly enthusiastic on Monday, had become much more fickle. Acts that were otherwise quite good seemed to have become "not good enough" for the FISM crowd and many dextrous displays of skill were greeted with courtesy applause. The second last day is not a day you want to be in the stage comp... on the other hand it was the last day of the close-up comp and the crowd there was really in the mood for magic. We saw every possible extreme from outstanding performances to disqualifications.

Stevie Starr followed the close up comp and word must have spread as his show was packed out. After his success what will they have at the next FISM? Mr Methane? Puppetry of the Penis?

Our group got to see the Stage Gala Show while others headed off for a serve of the Close Up Gala. We were really hoping the show would be a winner because FISM needs a real boost right now... and that's exactly what we got!

Frank Wilson provided music, energy and fun before the show (and during it too!) and Helge Thun as compere was superb. He opened the show assisted by Flicking Fingers and Friends by giving an hilarious pre-show safety demonstration before kicking it off with Jeff McBride (starting the show with Jeff? A bold move but it worked).

Jeff presented a selection of his favourites including his mask routine, lights and fans, the bowls of water and his astounding card manipulations.

Following Jeff Helge performed the sliding die box. Not only did he perform it, he sang the die box song too! I'd love to tell you about it, but it's one of those acts you really have to see for yourself.

Marc Metral was next and almost stole the show with his ventriloquism. His act was supremely polished with a crazy lion puppet, two dodos, a talking dog, and four volunteers from the audience who became dummies and sang 'Singing In The Rain' with him. I say he almost stole the show because the audience was on the verge of giving him a standing ovation when he asked if they'd like to see one more. He created a rabbit puppet with a napkin which was very sentimental and cute, but changed the mood and resulted in a long and strong round of applause rather than a standing o.

Vik and Fabrini did their now legendary robot act. It was their first time at a FISM since winning first place in General Magic in 1988 (and they've been working non-stop ever since) and it was great to see the act live.

Mark Karvo closed the show with an absolutely classical bird act, very reminiscent of Channing Pollock, refined, dignified, powerful... just like you'd imagine a "real magician" would be. His final effect, producing a huge parrot that flew twice around the auditorium, got a big standing ovation.

After interval Helge performed a sketch with Topas which began as two duelling card magicians, then got very poignant as the two magicians began to teach each other, then became a pretty blatant statement of what magicians really do when they get together... again, you should have been there but it was a superb example of theatre and magic woven together with real thought, intelligence, and intent.

Jerome Murat was next with a beautifully artistic piece where he was a living statue with a floating head... that really doesn't come anywhere close to describing the act. Why didn't you come to FISM?

The Evansons performed their two person telepathy and it truly appeared to be real mindreading. Tessa told people phone numbers from their mobile phones, their middle names, the serial numbers on bills, and even the names of people in other people's photographs.

Anthony Gatto stole the show (the juggler always does!) with his Las Vegas act which included juggling nine clubs. He truly brought the house down and, as Helge described him, he truly is a juggling machine.

Helge, assisted by Topas, presented his homage to an illusion performed by The Napoleon's at FISM 1991 (I remember it too!). Topas managed to magical vanish from one cardboard box and reappear in another. However, Helge has taken the gag further and proceeded to do a backstage version of it which ended with the surprise appearance of Anthony Gatto in one of the boxes.

The final act was Peter Marvey with his unique illusions. The last time I saw Peter performing illusions was FISM 1997 and he was sensational. Now he seems to have become more 'Vegas' with flashy dancing girls and special effects. Personally, I preferred his old style. He did a boxless 'Interlude' and followed it up by emerging out of his own body... not as amazing as it sounds. Next he did his flying illusion which results in him visibly shrinking then growing again in full view. Again, I preferred the way he used to do it, this version seemed way too much of a production. He also did a weird igloo levitation that was hard to see because of way too much fog, and he did a flaming spiker of death which concluded with the production of three girls.

He was the right act to end the show because of the scale of his props, but he was also the act that received the weakest audience response.

Regardless, it was a sensational show. (If only we had another one like it tomorrow night!)


FISM - Wednesday

There are 35 Australians attending the FISM. (More if you count Andrew Wimhurst, Nelson, Andy Sellenger and David Kaplan). Sue-Anne snapped a pic of some of them who were lucky enough to get front row seats in the Close Up Competition today.

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Left to right you can see David Jones, Peter Rodgers, Steve Walker, Dave Kaplan and Bill Walsh. (All looking a little weary after lining up so long to get in!)

Today's activities began at 9.00am with the Stage Competition (and a few more acts used taped introductions), while other registrants attended lectures by Tim Star, Gaetan Bloom, and Gazzo, or the Jeff McBride Masterclass, Cheating and Gambling, or the Paul Potassy Talk Show hosted by Wittus Witt.

After lunch it was a choice between more Close Up Competition (with more gambling themed acts) or Paul Daniels Max Malini Show.

After the competition Boris Wild and I did an interview for a FISM TV special (which may even go to air in Australia one day!) and then we got organised to see the Close Up Gala Show while another batch of registrants went into Victoria Hall to see the Gala Stage Show.

The Close Up Gala.... well, things began badly when some FISM official announced, as they were opening the doors, that it was 'free seating'. After people rushed in to get the best seats, people with tickets for the best seats started to show up and chaos ensued. FISM officials had to announce a mistake had been made and the show started fifteen minutes late (and with a bad atmosphere) as people had to reorganise their seating. Please note, this was the second night they have staged this show so there's no reason for this mistake to be made.

The compere, who's name isn't listed anywhere in the programme, kicked off the show by introducing Belinda Sinclair. She came on accompanied by singers, dancers and musicians and brought two audience volunteers up on stage with her. The following 20 minutes was not well received at all. As her singers sung, musicians played and dancers danced, she told lyrical tales and performed four ace effects, MacDonald's Aces, Three Card Monte and Matrix as allegories. One person told me it looked like a scene from a freaked out hippy party. Maybe it was not the best choice of material for the FISM crowd.

Add to that the fact that the camera work was shocking, with two cameras in use and the director constantly missing the action, and it made conditions very unpleasant for viewing close up magic. Even when they did shoot the right part of the table the lighting was so dim that you had to strain to see. Dim lighting seems to be a trademark of this FISM as the same is happening in the stage events too.

Tim Star followed and he performed a series of card effects that really didn't seem to be that strong at all. His final effect with aces was nice but he didn't seem to have the sort of personality that could carry across a room of this size (about 700 people!)

Lennart Green was next and he stole the show. Sensational and unbelievable card work and, by using the camera person as a volunteer he ensured the camera on the table was locked off and focused on the table at all times. His ability with a deck of cards is without peer. It's as if the cards are another part of his body. He received an enthusiastic standing ovation for his work. (A highlight being a matrix where he put regular size cards under normal coins and we couldn't see them underneath!)

Bob Sheets had to follow Lennart, a task any magician would hate, but he had the charm to carry it off. Bob did two tricks, a 5 card trick that ended up being a 1 card trick, and Cuba Libra which is way too big for "real" close up but a perfect choice for the Close Up Gala as everyone could see it without having to rely on the screens.

Michael Vincent was next and he was crucified by poor camera work. Every time he found the aces and dealt them on the table we had to take his word for it as the camera would inevitably be on his face at that time. The audience revolted during his act and started calling out camera instructions to the AV crew.

Finally we had Armando Lucero. A brilliant performer who got a great reaction despite a very underlit shot of his working surface. He performed his legendary matrix which looks like pure magic, and a thought of card appearing between two face up jokers. People who had seen Armando before said that he didn't perform as well as they'd seen him in the past but, given the mood of the room, I'm not surprised. People were really angry with the FISM organisers regarding the seating debacle and the camera work had only made them angrier. As we mingled in the foyer it was evident they were now turning their anger towards the standard of performances.

I did a brief poll asking people what they liked best and least about this FISM. Here are the results:

BEST - Seeing such a wide variety of competitors. Lennart Green and Juan Tamariz.

LEAST - Having to catch a train to go to the Bar Magic every night. The low standard of organisation, AV support and guest artist performances. Having to wait in line for the close up comp (and many other events as well). Having a whole night with nothing scheduled (last night).

Let's hope that our last three days see a whole lot more added to the 'BEST' list!

Oh, and booths have appeared in the foyer with countries campaigning to host FISM 2009. Vienna, Granada and China all offer professional booths with glossy brochures, videos playing, and some form of giveaways. Vienna and Granada have stickers. China has a goody bag with a key ring and a t-shirt for anyone who signs their table saying they'll support the China bid.

The majority of delegates I've spoken to so far say they will not attend FISM if it's held in China (for a variety of reasons) but the buzz is that China just may get the votes despite it. We'll find out on Friday.

PS: Here's an article from CNN on FISM.


Good morning.....

Just a quick morning update as it's 7am and time to get moving again.... last night the heating in the hotel room kept going up degree after degree until I just couldn't take it anymore, so I made several trips between floors moving all of our stuff to the new room at around 2.30am. Even though this room is only 22 degrees it's much cooler and we actually got some sleep... though Sue-Anne just mentioned the heating in this room is now 24 degrees... I'm starting to freak out!

Oh, Joshua Jay mentioned to me that he noticed two trends in the close up competition with a large proportion of acts performing to music, while a lot of others did routines with a gambling theme. Let's see if this trend continues today.

I did notice a trend in the stage competition too. A lot of the acts have opened with voice over introductions: "Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome...." There's no possible way that people are copying each other, but it's fascinating how so many magicians seem to think along the same lines.


FISM - Tuesday

This is my second attempt at posting this daily report. It's 1am and the report I just spend over an hour on was deleted when my 24 hour hotel internet allowance expired unexpectedly as I was posting. Why did it expire and why did it take me so long to write the report? Because the temperature in this hotel room is 29 degrees. The air-conditioner is still faulty (and getting even hotter) and no-one can turn it off and the windows are sealed shut. The staff have offered us a cooler room to sleep in (we don't have the time to move our stuff into it) but the maintenance staff can't look at our "cooler" until tomorrow. Hopefully the room won't have melted down completely by then!

So anyway... here's a brief version of today's activities before I pass out from heat exhaustion.

Undy9.00am - We headed off to see the Stage Competition and there were some really outstanding acts (some outstanding for different reasons... like Mr Underpants) but you can read Sue-Anne's full competition report on our website www.MagicUnlimited.com at the end of the week.

While we were watching the acts, others attended lectures by Cellini, Jeff McBride, John Gallo, Armando Lucero, a one-man show by Juan Tamariz or a session on cheating and gambling by Paul Wilson and Jason England.

After the Stage Comp ended people rushed to see the Close Up Comp but, as the close up room only seats about 200, getting tickets to sit in the room is almost impossible! You need to line up 45 minutes before the doors open to get your ticket, then when the doors open you rush in like mad to claim your space. That's one of the benefits of being on the Close Up Jury, I get a front row seat every time! Sure I've got to work for it, but it's a great perk.

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Those who can't get a seat move into the adjoining room which is much larger and they get to watch the close up competitors on the big screen.

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Of course, if you miss out on that room you can watch the acts on any one of the many monitors throughout the FISM centre.

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This is a pic Sue-Anne took of Shawn Farqhuar and Ali Bongo in the close up room. (I think Ali had just been told he'd missed out on a seat!)

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During the Close Up Competition Paul Daniels presented his Malini Show, but once those two events finished the schedule suddenly got a little thin for most of the registrants. The Dealers Room was closed, and Gazzo kindly put on a street show in the foyer at 6.00pm

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but other than the 7.00pm Close Up Gala Show for Group C (1/3 of the registrants), there was nothing for the other 2/3 to do until Stevie Starr, regurgitator extraordinaire did his 30 minute show at 9.30pm.

It was at about this time we heard quite a bit of grumbling from registrants complaining about bad organisation and scheduling, as well as complaining about the quality of the Close Up Gala and the AV support in general. We'll have to wait until the end of the week to see how it all pans out.

As expected, Stevie Starr was the 'hit' of the convention. Magicians were intrigued and amazed as he swallowed gases, liquids and objects and regurgitated them on command. He was rewarded with a loud and very long standing ovation.

After this some people went back into the city centre by train to see the Bar Magic at the Scandic Sergel Plaza, tonight featuring Bill Malone, Michael Vincent and Gazzo from 11.00pm. Since the last train back to our hotel is about 11.42pm we decided to call it a night... that was many hours ago and I'm still typing!

Catch you tomorrow and hopefully this computer won't have melted in the heat by then! Believe it or not, even though cold air is coming out of the vent at a rate of knots, the temperature has risen by another degree and it's still getting hotter!


All things FISM

Just a quick note from our hot hotel (this air conditioning seems to make the room warmer rather than hotter... cool air is coming out but the temperature has gone up to 26 degrees... and it's cool and raining outside!) as we begin DAY 2 of FISM.

If you're interested in all things FISM http://www.magician.org.uk/ is writing daily blog reports and there are reports appearing in Genii Magazine Forum too.

Well, off we go for a full day of Stage and Close-up Competition!


FISM - Monday

7.30am and the 23rd FISM World Championships of Magic has officially begun! We finished our breakfast in the very modern Rica Talk Hotel (the rooms can only be described as state-of-the-art Ikea) and headed next door to the Stockholm International Fairs - Magic HQ for the next week.

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The first thing that struck us is how slick and professionally presented the venue looks with banners and signs everywhere. It made registration really easy and from there we headed over to the goody-bag collection centre. For those who get excited about this sort of thing (you know who you are) here's the guff:

We collected a wallet filled with tickets and our name badge from registration, and one of those tickets entitled us to collect our goody bags. The bags themselves are a very nice black, over the shoulder number with the FISM logo printed on the front. They have a secret zipper compartment at the back (empty), a zippered mobile phone section (also empty), and plastic holder where you can put your a card with your name on it that they provided (good idea to stop our bags getting mixed up) and, inside the main section of the bag:

  • What's On Stockholm
  • Stockholm Map
  • El Duco Catalogue
  • Jumbo Deck of FISM Playing Cards
  • A Hanky Panky Magic Promotional Pack containing an embossed FISM Wallet
  • The Spiral Bound FISM Programme

They were also handing out the first edition of the FISM Daily News which had the day's programme in summary, tips for the day's activities, last minute changes in the competition, and much more.

The venue has pretty much everything under the one roof. In addition to the various theatres, lecture rooms and dealers fair, they have a cafe/bar, a snack stand, a small shop, a business centre, press room, and a very central information desk.

A jazz band in the foyer kept everyone's energy high and by 8.30am there was a line of around 300 people waiting to get in to the Victoria Hall for the first day of competition. As soon as the door opened people jumped the queue and rushed from every direction to run into the theatre and get a good seat (the theatre holds 1900 people, and there are 2500 people attending the convention).

The theatre itself is not an ideal magic venue. It is very wide and has electric curtains that take forever to open and close. But, what it lacked in atmosphere was more than made up for by the energy of the the registrants as they sat in eager anticipation of the first contestant. (I'm still not 100% convinced starting with a contest instead of an opening show is such a good idea....)

Frank Wilson, a FISM favourite, entertained on the keyboard as the Hall filled up and the clock ticked on to 9.00am. As promised, the first event began right on time!

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(We'll publish a full report on the contestants at the end of the week, suffice to say the standard is not as high as usual in either stage or close-up so far).

At the same time the Dealer Room opened and what a surprise that was! It was laid out with trade show booths that really added a professional air to the whole proceeding. 101 Dealers filled the room which was also equipped with a beautiful stage and projection screen (for Dealers Shows) and a cafe.

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At 10.30am Kevin James lectured and Jeff McBride presented a Masterclass in other rooms, while many other people started lining up for the Close Up Competition. Now the close-up room only holds about 200 people, but they have a good system whereby those lining up early get a seating ticket so they don't have to wait around doing nothing, great idea! Meanwhile they have a second room seating 800 where registrants can watch a live feed of the the competition on the big screen.

There were only 8 contestants in the 11.30am close up session, and it ended early while the stage competition ran late.

From there we headed into the banquet room for the 2.30pm 'Opening Ceremony'. As guests entered the vast darkened, smoke filled room there were not only struck by the total lack of seating, but by the laser and light show and a very 'Cirque du Soleil' looking ballerina in a bubble moving through the crowd. People wandered and wonderd until, after a laser show set to 'It's A Kind of Magic', the Secretary General of FISM Eric Eswin walked onto stage and greeted us. He explained that FISM President Dag Lofalk was at the City Hall and we crossed "by satellite" to him. As the live cross was projected onto a wall of water, Dag made an impressive entrance by stepping off the video screen, through the water and onto the stage. After a brief address he welcomed all of the FISM Presidents onto stage (complete with their flags) and confetti cannons and balloons officially launched FISM 2006.

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One half of the registrants headed back into Victoria Hall to see the Nordic Hall, while others went to see Pavel lecture. Meanwhile the FISM General Assembly met and voted on a number of matters and I'm delighted to be able to announce that Australia is now officially a FISM member country! (So keep your eye out for the Aussie flag at FISM 2009!)

At 6.00pm the first group of registrants left Victoria Hall and headed off to City Hall for the Mayor's Reception. Our group moved into the hall to see the Nordic Show.

This show was compered by Johnny Lonn who opened the show with his classic comedy act. He began as a violinist and then, after a series of comical mishaps (and his pants falling down) he attempted to vanish a huge gramophone player. I say attempted because, although he covered it with a cloth and lifted it in the time-honoured manner, it fell to the stage with a crash and a big round of applause.

(For some reason the video screens weren't on during this show and many people said they simply couldn't see what was going on on-stage a lot of the time).

Kenny Quinn from Denmark was on next, and he recreated the award-winning act of the 1949 FISM Grand Prix Winner Viggo Jahn. It was a nice display of manipulation with canes and ferrules as thimbles. It was very nicely presented but really stood out as a reminder as just how much magic has (and in other ways hasn't) changed in the last 57 years.

The Gallos were next with an act set to nostalgic music where dollar bills were produced in a lovely miser's dream effect, a canary in egg in orange was performed, and a spirit tie involving a spectator's jacket was executed.

Johnny Lonn paused to point out that many, many magicians have passed on since last FISM and he suggested that instead of giving them a minute's silence (which performers hate!) we should give them all a standing ovation, which we did. It was a nice gesture, but I really had hoped they would give an audio visual tribute to recognise the magicians individually.

Robert Jagerhorn from Finland was next and he presented his award-winning act (3rd prize Parlour 2003) where he plays a traveller freshening up in an airplane bathroom just as it's going to land. This is a fun act with lots of little touches but, without the video screens, it really suffered as many people simply couldn't see the small items he used.

Johnny Lonn returned with a dead mic that really looked like it was going to be a great set-up for a gag, but it was just a dead mic and the stage crew sorted him out quickly. Johnny introduced Kenny Quinn who returned as himself this time (but with a dead mic too) and after taking quite a long time to find three volunteers he performed a pick-pocketing act which was well received.

Finally Finn Jon was introduced to close the show. Finn performed a selection of his classic effects including smoke bubbles, smoking the thumb, and bringing a borrowed neck tie to life. His effects were great (his music was a weird kind of jazz...) but he suffered from an extremely underlit stage. As he took his final bows the side doors of the theatre were opened and we were rushed out and down the path to the Alvsjo station where a chartered train took us to Stockholm Central.

From there we took a brief walk to City Hall for the Mayor's Reception. The building itself was absolutely stunning. We were addressed by various city representatives including one lady who did her best to give us a brief history of the building despite some people at the back of the room who simply couldn't stop talking to each other. She concluded by saying it was clear that some of us were very eager to get into the buffet so she declared it open and we all had our fill of herrings, salmon, meatballs, and dozens of other dishes plus as much wine, beer of soft drink as we liked! No repeats of Yokohama or Lisbon here! The atmosphere was great and the Swedish hospitality superb. We even got to go upstairs to the "gold room" (which was even more amazing) where the Nobel Prizes are presented.

From there, many people headed back to their hotels, others went straight to the late night sessions in the magic bar at the Scandic Sergel Hotel. As for what magic tomorrow brings... stay tuned!


Day 3 in London

Yesterday was our catching-day. After a morning stroll down Portobello Rd, we took the Tube (getting trapped in an elevator on the way) to Bond St where we met Craig, Saul, David and Marion from South Africa’s College of Magic. It was Craig’s birthday but he had a present for us – a WWE Intercontinental Championship Belt, (which is now the official Presidential Regalia for our MUGS group).

Belt

From there we strolled down Bond St, through London’s entertainment districts and met up with Gillian at Jumbo’s Eats (the home of the wrap sandwich). She showed us the Lyric Theatre where she works from time to time and it just happened to be right next door to the famous Windmill Theatre (the one made famous in the film ‘Mrs Henderson Presents’). It certainly has changed a lot since the way it was depicted in the movie. (Do a google search to see just how much). I kept imagining lots of Judi Dench fans trekking to London after seeing the film eager to see the old Windmill and ending up being offered lapdances.

We also saw something quite bizarre. Now we’ve seen a lot of outdoor toilets before, but this one takes the urinal-cake!

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One more Tube ride and we visited Christine and Alan in “the suburbs” before heading back to our hotel.

Today was spent traveling. We took the Heathrow Express to Terminal 4 and searched for our Qantas flight to Stockholm… eventually being told it was departing from Terminal 1 (well, at least it wasn’t leaving from Gatwick. All Qantas had on our flight booking was that it was departing from London!) Then we spent a few hours in one of British Airways state-of-the-art lounges. Qantas really needs to take a look at the way BA does lounges and pick up a tip or two – an ever-changing array of delicious food, plenty of working internet terminals, lots of space, a variety of comfy chairs and a great relaxing atmosphere.

From here FISM really started. We bumped into Steve Walker and Kevin Gallagher and had a chance to catch up, then discovered even more mnagicians on the plane including David and Marion and a whole team from South Africa, Noel Britten, The Great Nardinis from Scotland, and Ali Bongo.

At Stockholm’s Arlanda Airport I noticed another bizarre thing… you know how many airports have quarantine bins where you can dispose of fruit before you step through Customs… they have a bin marked ‘Teargas’ expressly for the disposal of any you happen to be carrying with you….

Now we all headed to the train and everyone got out our ‘How to get to FISM’ instruction sheets. Should we share cabs or take the train…? Most of us opted for the train because the FISM information we had said that if you show your rego form you can buy a ticket for 100 SEK instead of the usual 200 SEK. However the guy at the ticket booth wouldn’t sell us any at that price, insisting instead that we needed to buy it on the train. Several magicians decided to buy tickets from the machine at the special ‘summer price’ of 2 for 220 SEK while a few of us held out for the 100 SEK offer… but then we saw signs everywhere saying that if you bought your tickets on the train you have to pay 50 SEK extra as a surcharge… would we have to pay that in addition to our 100 SEK price? There was lots of discussion on the platform between those who had bought from the machine and those who were holding out… and eventually only one brave South African was the only one left prepared to trust the FISM special offer and board the train without a ticket. Sure enough, when the ticket collector came by he showed his FISM rego form and paid only 100 SEK – no surcharge. He was, to the rest of us, a hero!

Our next piece of information on the FISM ‘Amazing Race’ was to get off the train at Stockholm Central Station and take another train to Alvsjo. We knew we only had to buy a 20 SEK ticket… but where and how? We saw lots of ticket machines but none had Alvsjo written on them… and what platform did we need to find? Eventually, sweating and struggling with too much luggage, our little group made it onto platform 13 and headed in to Stockholm International Fairs and the Rica Talk Hotel.

I had to head back to Central for a Jury meeting at the Scandic Sergel Plaza Hotel where there where already more magicians than you could wave a wand at! (And a few had their wands out already too).

It’s going to be interesting to see how 2500 magicians handle the daily train travel tomorrow morning. Initially it’s not as easy as it appears on the FISM information, especially if you can’t read Swedish, but after you’ve done it once it’s not that hard.

FISM is ready to begin. Day one tomorrow!