Street Magic

The term “Street Magic” is an interesting one. Historically it refers to, well, magicians performing on the street. The sort of thing you might see in London’s Covent Garden for example. They perform for the crowd and because, in their own words, they are not paid by the council, they finish their performance by passing the hat and asking for donations. For this reason street performance is known as one of the most noble and honest professions out there – if you are no good, you don’t get paid. There are plenty of street magicians who became famous. Cellini for example was world renowned as a master of misdirection. Gazzo is an exceptionally funny and talented street magician. Charlie Caper who is now a TV star spent many years travelling the world honing his skills on the streets. Interestingly, street magicians will deliberately keep their appearance a little dishevelled. They want to look a little bit down on their luck as by doing so they are more likely to receive donations from the crowd.

When David Blaine made his first TV special he revolutionised magic on television. By turning the camera on the audience and capturing the reactions, he had created a whole new era. The name of the show? “Street Magic”. ¬†For many years magic has suffered a bit of an identity crisis. Sparkly jackets, mullets, fake tan and inappropriate facial hair – quite frankly not cool. Glitz and glamour works well in Las Vegas but when the average working magician tries it he looks a little silly. However, that doesn’t stop them and as such magic got a reputation for all the wrong reason. Blaine, however, was achingly cool. Young, hip, sexy, brooding… everything that magic needed to give it a kick into the 21st century. Incidentally, if all you know of Blaine is his endurance stunts then you might find this hard to believe. But, before he was standing on a pole for a month he was changing the face of magic.

Younger magicians trying to shake off the bad image of magic from the past adopted the “street magician” title from Blaine. Now, close up magic became renamed street magic. With the new name came a new ideal: pure, stripped down, free of cheese or glitz, just amazement. This was a long time ago – at the time of writing the Blaine Street Magic show was 16 years ago. People under 20 have now probably never even heard of Blaine outside of his endurance stunts. However, his influence remains. From Derren Brown to the UK television sensation Dynamo the ethos remains… you don’t need a Liberace jacket and dance classes to call yourself a magician. Now you can be a street magician and hold your head up high.

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