Conjuring up magic in memory of tricks ace

Magician Russ Brown teaches some card tricks to Elona Hughes-Dennis (six).
Magician Russ Brown teaches some card tricks to Elona Hughes-Dennis (six).
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Anyone who walks into the office of the Winter Gardens general manager at the age of just 16 and demands a job must have something about them.

And so it is with Russ Brown, a man so determined to be a magician that he wasn’t shy about following his dreams.

Brown, who grew up above his parents town centre chippy in George Street (still going strong, still run by his mum and dad), decided he wanted to do magic for a living when he was 10. A few years later he took direct action.

“I walked into the Winter Gardens, up to the office of the manager, and delved into this big bag of tricks I had and started performing,” he recalls.

“I suppose, looking back, it was a bit cheeky really but I wasn’t thinking about that at the time. All I wanted to do was impress him and work as a magician in Peabody’s Playplace (an indoor adventure playground in the Winter Gardens) – and it worked because I got the gig.”

It has led to a career in magic with Russ, now aged 38, spending the last two decades and more entertaining the punters, mainly in Blackpool at the Tower and the Pleasure Beach.

On top of that he is president of the Blackpool Magicians Club and the youngest life member. “I joined when I was nine and after 25 years you become a life member,” he said. “

I’m too young to be a life member of anything really but because of the rules they had to make me one!”

So Russ, who does magic shows twice a day during the summer – in Southport in the afternoon before hot-footing it back to Blackpool for an evening performance – is doing pretty well for himself.

He credits his success all to one man, a man who passed away last year and is to be honoured at a special one-off show in Blackpool on Saturday, at which Russ is performing.

Bills Magical Mystery tour – which also stars street magic star Paul Zenon, comedians Dave Spikey and Steve Royle, and Britain’s Got Talent semi-finalist magician James More – is dedicated to the memory of Bill Thompson, who died last year at the age of 77.

Bill ran Blackpool’s House of Secrets magic shop on the Promenade and although not a chap well-known by the general public, was one of the most well-respected figures in the world of magic.

“I’m really looking forward to it because a lot of us wouldn’t be doing magic for a living if it wasn’t for him,” said Russ.

“He was a performer in his day but then he ran this tiny little shop which was hidden away – in fact unless you knew it was there, you wouldn’t notice it.

“But once you stepped inside it was incredible, like something out of Harry Potter.

He was the only bloke I’ve ever met who you could talk to magic about, tell him a trick you were thinking of, and he would come up with a genius idea that would make it work.

“He was the person who encouraged me to walk into the Winter Gardens and try and get that job, my first step into the magic world.

“There are so many people working in the business who started because of Bill and so Saturday night will be a lovely way of saying thank you and remembering one of the greats of the magic scene.”

Proceeds from the show will go to The Wonderbus, a charity set up by Paul Zenon (host on Saturday) which takes elderly people on day-trips to see events and shows.

Tickets are £15 (£7.50 concessions) and available from www.blackpoollive.co.uk