Once per year thousands of magicians descend on the small English town of Blackpool. Inexplicably, the location for the world’s biggest magic convention.
I’ve been for the last 9 years, so I thought I’d give you a Bear Grylls style survival guide to allow you to survive in this harsh environment.
Moore’s law states that almost every year the microchip can half it’s size, or double it’s power.
The same can be said of Blackpool, which halves it’s habitable hotels and double’s it’s bargain shops at the same rate.
It’s a seaside resort, but with no sun as I think that was sold to China in a trade deal in 1998.
I’m going to teach you 10 tips to have the best time in the worst town.
I drive in from Wales, which means I have to drive through the dreaded Midlands and have all of my patience sucked out of me by over 1 million miles of average speed checks and road works.
No matter where you’re driving from, there will be a traffic jam you’ll get stuck in. I’m certain of it.
Look ahead, because there’s nothing outside of your window but grey for 100 miles and now that I’ve spoiled that surprise you’ve got nothing to see.
I sometimes play a game to see if I can guess which Birmingham concert could be the cause of my 90 minute stand-still.
Once it was Beyoncé, once it was Justin Beiber. I’ve never guessed right.
Taking the M6 toll road will be the best £5.50 you’ve ever spent. They say time is money, and for the price of one Hilton hotel orange juice, you’ll sail past 27 miles of guaranteed traffic.
Watch out for undercover speed cops though. It’s empty roads, but still 70mph.
#2 Don’t buy a convention pass
For the last few years the beauty of the Blackpool convention has been the sessioning in the Ruskin Hotel.
In my view, the price of admission isn’t worth it and I won’t be going into the Winter Gardens from now on.
It’s poorly organised, lectures overlap etc
They’d honestly make more money if they took a commission of sales from the dealers hall and made the entry free to registrants.
Lecturers have mostly done an online lecture of some sort that you’ve hopefully already supported. So it blows my mind that they don’t adapt to the changing times and find a new structure for the convention.
I stopped buying a convention pass when I realised that the people I wanted to see were sometimes at the Session Convention (which is absolutely worth paying for) just 1 month prior. Not everyone is worth seeing twice.
You’ll save yourself £100, which is worth it.
Spend that buying your favourite magicians a drink in the Ruskin and your karma meter will be off the scale.
Magician’s who lecture there make more money from selling you their notes in volume than they do from the lecture-fee, so some support is in buying their material, not just seeing it.
The Ruskin hotel is where the REAL magic happens anyway… That sounds like MTV Cribs, doesn’t it? It’s not meant to.
For the 19 hours per day you’ll be conscious, the Ruskin will be open for you. Like a proverbial samaritan made of bricks and 25 year-old decor.
#3 Don’t put your deck down.
For masters in intricate sleight of hand, Magician’s are yet to master the concept of ‘keeping liquid in a glass’.
I’m one of them too. I’m responsible for 14% of the tea stains on the sofa’s in reception.
With this in mind, don’t put your deck down.
Condensation, spilled drinks and torrents of whisky will soak your cards to the core.
Warping them beyond belief.
A deck is lost to a wet patch every 4 seconds in Blackpool. *click* …. *click* …. *click*
#4 Put your deck down.
Okay I’ve not been drinking your honour. I know I just contradicted myself, but this is worth mentioning.
Out of respect for the people you’re with, please make a habit of putting your deck away or down somewhere safe when someone is performing a trick.
There’s nothing worse than someone setting up mnemonica during your trick, so it’s ready for when you finish.
I know one artist’s trick will inspire you to share your own. But it’s customary to wait at least 8 seconds between the moment they reveal the card and the moment you say “Let me show you this”.
Put your deck down. You’ll make a lot more friends and enjoy a lot more magic by sincerely appreciating the skill and time someone has put into sharing something with you.
#5 CO-OP JD
This isn’t coordinates to a safe house. Co-op JD means go to the CO-OP for Jack Daniels, or any booze for that matter.
About 4 doors down from the Winter Gardens is a corner shop that sells alcohol for a reasonable price. I think it’s a CO-OP.
Revive your teenage years by sneaking a bottle of your favourite tipple into the Ruskin. Something you bought up the road.
Even if they only sold mixers to you, they’d be turning a substantial profit.
We’ve all snuck … wait, is ‘snuck’ a word? Snuck. Snuck. It doesn’t sound right. I’m going for it anyway.
We’ve all snuck M&M’s into the cinema, and this is no different.
Across 4 days of debauchery, you’ll be glad you’re not spending a collective 5 hours at the bar, waiting to get served.
#6 SAY “NO” TO THE STRIP CLUB
You’re single, it’s 3am. Jo Barry has just showed you 5 card tricks in a row and now your mind needs to recover. Outside 4 magicians are beckoning you into a taxi. “We’re going to the strip club” they say.
“Sounds like a great idea” You say. Wrong.
A Blackpool strip club is more depressing that a Doctor’s waiting room. You can smell the depravity from the doorway.
Much like a Doctor’s waiting room, you’re going to come out more ill than when you went in.
Each 3 minute dance is one less trick you can buy in the dealer’s hall tomorrow… and for what?
A toothless smile and some non-physical contact? Followed by a depressing walk back to your soggy B&B that still smells of Sunday Dinner on a Friday.
Real women exist in Revolution Vodka Bar on the Seafront, but for god’s sake don’t show them a trick to get their affection.
#7 ORDER A PIZZA TO THE CONVENTION
Amongst all of the excitement, you’ll probably realise that you’ve forgotten to eat all day.
There are 3 major food groups in Blackpool and 2 of those are pizza.
The 3rd is disappointment, but that’s hard to swallow. Bu-dum-tshhh … I’ll see myself out 🙁
I actually order Domino’s pizza to the Ruskin Hotel or Winter Gardens and wait by the door for the driver.
Blackpool has it’s own climate, where the windchill can blow frozen rain-droplets at you. I may be exaggerating, but it’s super cold and super wet.
This little hack is not only warmer & dryer, it fills the hunger after most restaurants have closed for the night.
Calling the local Domino’s instead of ordering online and asking for a discount will usually get you 50% off. NO QUESTIONS ASKED.
#8 APPROACHING YOUR HEROS
Admiring someone is natural. I have many people in magic that I admire, and I often want to thank them for getting me to where I am today.
This can be done without interrupting their current conversation or performance to ensure everyone stays equally un-offended.
Simply walk up to your favourite magicians. Don’t look at them from afar.
My friend Lloyd told me that I was intimidating to a guy before, he looked at me and expected me to say “Hi”. I thought he was mistaking me for Matt Damon and carried on talking.
The aforementioned Gent assumed I was too arrogant to acknowledge him and walked off disappointed.
I’ve felt the same in previous years with people I look up to.
The only way to approach is to walk up to them and wait for natural gap in conversation/performance.
Then say “Sorry to interrupt, I just wanted to say that you’re an inspiration to me. I bought your trick <insert name> and loved it. I just wanted to tell you it was great.”
Using this sincere opener, I’ve managed to meet idols of mine growing up over the years. The Bucks, Danny Garcia and more.
Standing behind someone, or near them in silence is the fastest way to get ignored.
Be polite, but be confident enough to speak up.
If you don’t take your opportunity, someone else will.
#9 Navigating The Ruskin Maze
It took me 3 years to realise, but there’s a basement level to the Ruskin that opens up after about 5pm. If you go through the main Reception entrance, it’s the staircase directly left of the check-in desk.
Downstairs you’ll find an Indiana Jones-esque treasure trove of Celebrity magicians and friend’s looking to avoid the hustle & bustle of the crowd upstairs.
As an almost identical room to the back-room upstairs in the hotel, it’s like a time-warp. So don’t be surprised if after 8 hours you’re kicked out for closing time and forgot you were downstairs.
#10 The ‘curfew’ key
Some local hotels are privately owned B&B’s with Landlords who want to sleep, even if you don’t.
I know many magicians, young and old, drunk and sober, that have been locked out of their hotels due to the curfew.
Some hotels close at 11pm, so be sure to ask what time the curfew is, or if you can have a key to their main front door to get in after hours.
I once used a pile of shoes as a pillow to sleep on after being locked out, so feel free to learn from my mistakes.
AND that’s it.
Now you’re fully equipped for your wild adventure into England’s underbelly for the world’s largest magic convention.
I’ll see you there,