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I.B.M. Ring No 85

2007 Convention Report

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A report of the International Brotherhood of Magicians Irish Magician's Convention, in Belfast Northern Ireland.

4th - 6th May 2007

By Joe O’Donnell

So How About Yeh, Billy?

The hand of history lay on the shoulders of Belfast this weekend. Northern Ireland was on the brink of a new era with the restoration of devolved government to the Provence.

For the magicians gathered at the Belfast Hilton for the 57th Magical Conference of Ring 85 of the IBM most of this was of academic interest. For more than half a century cross border solidarity has been in operation between magicians in Northern Ireland and those in the Republic, the only differences of opinion being squabbles over the relative merits of passes, jogs, blinds, breaks and cuts.

It was a weekend of sunshine and showers, laughter and tears as the Convention dedicated to the memory of Billy McComb did their favourite son proud. Throughout a tightly run, tightly organised three days of lectures, competitions and shows the spirit of the legendary McComb threaded its anarchic way: a joyful outpouring of salacious stories, spicy gossip and wise words on the theory and practice of our craft. It was exactly the sort of thing the man himself would have revelled in and the Ulster Society of Magicians who organized the entire bash can take a well deserved bow. In the salty vernacular of the North, so how about yeh, Billy?

So where to start, what to pick, where to end: the all too familiar problems facing any reporter of any Convention. We had lectures – boy, did we have lectures! How about this for a line-up? Manuel Muerte, Raphael, Quentin Reynolds, David Acer, Noel Brittain, Dave Jones, and the irrepressible Terry Seabrooke. We had close-up both in competition as aspiration and in jaw-dropping exhibition from the professionals of what constituted excellence. We had guest appearances from a barn-storming Graham P. Jolley, and two stage shows on successive nights which threw up their own show stoppers, their own surprises. And, sweetest of all, there were the unscheduled sessions, the snatches of sorcery and sleight of hand in bar and café, in lobby and in selected bedrooms in the wee small hours. And in the heel of the hunt isn’t that what’s it’s all about: we few, we happy few, we band of brothers to paraphrase the Bard.

Rather than catalogue a dreary list of who did what, I can do little more than dip into a tattered and stained sheaf of barely legible notes on the backs of menus, programmes, city maps and hotel stationery and seek out those highlights which for one reason or another leaped from the pack and grabbed me by the throat.

RAPHAEL’S lecture which was as hilarious as it was full of practical solutions reminiscent of the late great U.F. Grant. Really get to see his Balloon Woman Sword Box.

Watching QUENTIN REYNOLDS perform his five minutes with a pocket handkerchief (again and again) and marveling at the classic construction and sure fire impact of this fine routine. Impossible to believe he gives it away on a DVD.

NOEL BRITTAIN reconstructing (deconstructing?) part of his infamous ‘Walk’ and how he maximizes the opportunities presented by the outdoor situations in which he performs.

New kids on the block CAOLAN MCBRIDE and NICOLA in a cool laid back illusion act which brought them not only the Thursby Award but also the Eric Pollack trophy in the stage competition, and deservedly so. Watch this act!

SIM member STEPHEN THOMSON , unbilled and unheralded ‘til now, quietly sitting in a corner of the bar absolutely frying people with impeccable card work. The words light, under and bushel come to mind.

Learning lots from DAVID ACER including a new word - copacetic . In case you’re interested it means excellent, and is of Canadian origin. Wouldn’t you know?


A three-in-the morning trek through Belfast’s dockland in search of a pizza. Don’t ask.

MANUEL MUERTE with a coin and watch penetration through a stumpf. A wha’, Joe? A stumpf. Well, look it up!

Mystic’s President FRED CORVENIO playing a blinder to take the trophy in the Close -Up Competition.

PAT FALLON’S under-the-counter bargain boxes – For Your Eyes Only – at ABC’s Magic stall in the dealers’ room. Talk about Lucky Bags.

And finally PHILLIPE BEAU’ S consummate showdowgraphy on the Gala Show: inventive, and eloquently expressive and verily the icing on a delicious weekend.

And as the sun made a last final effort to gild the lily on the Lagan we remembered the words of Billy McComb:

"Maybe the best we can hope for when we leave the world is that somebody somewhere remembers us with great affection. Even more so if somehow we’ve affected their life"

The Irish Ring of the IBM remembered Billy not only with great affection but with a tremendous week end of magic.

Go in peace, Billy.

2007 Convention details

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