Is Magic an Art? And other questions…

A wee Q and A blog about MagicFest (the Magic Festival I begun a few years ago) and the state of Magic right now.

1.      What made you want start MagicFest?

There was a gap in the market, I was a magician in need of a challenge and I had just met Svetlana, a graduate from the Napier Festivals and Events Course. We were both fiercely ambitious and we saw that no one else was doing big magic events in Scotland, or even the UK. So we went for it.

2.      Would you say that magic is an artform, and if so (I’m guessing so!) why?

Magic can of course be an art form. It can also be a craft, or a puzzle, depending on where you’re viewing it from. However our festival promotes the art of magic. Magic is a branch of theatre, we programme artists and companies that use their form of self-expression to create wonder and other emotions in our audience.

3.      I realise that some people think that magic is not an artform, what would you say to those people?

See above. It’s likely they’ve only experience magic in very narrow terms, and that’s fine. But there is so much more when you take the opportunity to explore. You can’t listen to a Miley Cyrus track and then judge all of music. The same with magic. If someone once showed you a terrible card trick in a pub a couple years ago, that’s not representative of what we do. So take a chance. Try the MagicFest Gala 18th and 19th May at the Lyceum theatre in Edinburgh, if you’d like tasters of different acts. It’s like a magic mix tape, we hope you’ll find something you love there!

4.      Why do you think that some people are reluctant to view magic in the same way that they might view theatre and music?

Pure magic is branch of theatre, often viewed as niche. But the genre is growing. So many of the top West End productions or UK touring productions employ magic consultants in their companies because the value the skills of a magician. So if you’ve seen Wicked, or The Cursed Child or Mary Poppins and many other works, the moment when your jaw drops when you see something amazing – that moment was probably created by a magician.

There is a lot of interesting fusions now between magic and other art forms, circus, storytelling, dance. Some of the biggest touring live music productions also work with magicians to create visual spectacles on stage. So whether you realise it or not, you’re probably appreciating the work of a magician in various forms in many art forms. But if you would like to experience the ‘single malt’ version then you should come to one of our shows. They’re really good! Magic with poetry (Renz Novani), magic with theatre (Vincent Gambini), with storytelling (Billy Reid) and much more.

5.      You are a “Magician Scientist Hybrid” can you explain in detail what this means?

Sure, a lot of it happens behind the scenes, but it’s so interesting my first impulse is always to show an audience how it works – however that’s not great for the lasting memory… Here’s a para from my promo material:

“Kevin, in addition to being a magician is also a scientist. To create the best illusion of the impossible he uses every tool in his arsenal from bespoke electronics to an understanding of human eye physiology allowing novel technical setups. Drawing on the skillsets of his peers: mathematicians, electrical engineers, lighting designers, laser physicists – Kevin uses a peculiar mix of the possible to create the impossible.”

So I make magic using the feasible. I take something tangible, and then wrap it up in mystery. The conflict has a different impact depending on who you are. Some like to see it as a puzzle that needs deconstructed, others let the mystery wash over them. You decide.

6.       Did you find your scientific background helped or hindered your magic act in any way?

Helped. Massively. Making a rainbow without water for instance (the finale to ILLUMINATIONS show) wouldn’t have been possible without the Physics knowledge.

7.      Your introduction into the world of magic is extraordinary, what made you decide to quit your job and train as a magician?

My heart. I’d make most of my life decisions with my head up to that point.

8.      Do you think magic can change the world and make it a better place?

Of course. In the same way any art can. If you feel something then that will change you. If you can change then the world can.

9.      I really like your title of the festival’s “founder and creative spine” could you explain what your job involves?

I guess it’s the spine bit you like? 🙂 I think Svetlana wrote this particular description. I guess I try to find a direction or theme for the festival, but it’s really all a team effort.

10.   In what ways has the festival changed over the years?

Some bits have. We’ve experimented with so many different magic presentation formats and developed a huge body of work over the years, from the floating forest, to the Colour Changing Flower Beds to the “crystal maze meets lord of the rings” Tower of Illusion format. But events like Gala, Magic School and solo-show programme have stayed throughout.

11.   Why should people come to MagicFest?

It’s fun, it’s quality, it’s novel, it’s intriguing.

It’s the best in magic from around the world coming to Scotland. You’ll get to see the state of the art. And discover something new and interesting and surprising. There’s currently no other opportunity to see these artists because we’re the only ones doing this kind of event. You’ll have

12.   What made you move the festival to May?

To put some daylight between us and the Fringe and also to develop our local audience. Many folks take summer holidays at the Start of July, and we wanted these people to have the chance to come to the festival too.