All Set For a Card Trick

August 22, 2015


How many card tricks should you do in your close-up show?
A lot of people say they don’t like card tricks. I think what they mean is: They don’t like the type of trick where they take a card and you find it. They are basically all the same, because no matter how impossible it might seem, you are going to find their card. It may be in your shoe; stuck to the outside of a window; or inside a box that has been standing on the table since you arrived. The only certain thing is that you are going to find it and, as the outcome is known in advance, there is never a true sense of amazement.
But, there are other types of card tricks; ones that don’t include having a card chosen.
I like to include a lot of these in my sets.
How many tricks should there be in a set? I go for three or 4. Usually, it is three. If I’m going to use the four Aces, I like to produce them in a magical way. This you might say is trick number one, but I tend not to count it towards my three card set. So you could say my three trick set is really 4. Please yourself.
I also like to choose a sequence of tricks where I can set up another trick during the previous one. For instance: I openly remove the four Aces prior to performing Dr Daley’s Last Trick. As I am doing so, I move the two black Kings to the top of the deck as I need them there for the following effect.
After I use the Kings, I space them throughout the deck and, as I show them well separated, I reverse the Seven of Spades on the bottom in preparation for the next trick.
If you always perform the set in the same order, you’ll always have the next trick set up.
Just because you have three card sets doesn’t mean you can only do three effects. If your audience seem happy, do a second set. I have two sets where the last trick in the first set leaves the cards ready for the second set. If no-one wants any more card magic, I can put the deck away, knowing I can go to the next table ready to perform my second act.
So, choose your tricks so there is plenty of variety, and so you can set up your next trick during the previous one.


A Balloon Modeller’s Biggest Problem

August 3, 2015

I’m always complaining about people wanting a balloon after I am finished twisting. I usually start telling people I’m finishing when I still have an hour to go. I tell them my finish time every five minutes. With five minutes to go, I tell them every minute. I even tell them who I will get to and no-one after him will receive a balloon.
It makes no difference: Nobody leaves the queue. When I start to leave they’ll say, “You’re not going, are you? We’ve been here for two hours. has many stories similar to mine. One balloon modeller wrote about his problems in his blog, which he asked others to copy. So here it is.
You can read the original at the link below, but it’s all here for you to read. If you have a similar problem, let me know at
Here’s the link…
And here’s the blog…
I’ll start this Blog with an apology… I’m sorry if it sounds like a moaning rant!
It’s often said that you don’t get something for nothing, 

but every once in a while it is possible to get something for free. 

And when this happens it is usually for a limited time, or for a limited number of people.

So how do you react if you are too late? Who do you blame? Do you wait, just in case? And if you still go away empty handed, is it their fault?

You might be wondering what this has to do with Children’s Birthday Parties.
Well, one of the services I offer is Balloon Modelling.
This can be at Birthday Parties, perhaps you would like to give the invited children something for free to take away with them. It works best when there are extra activities going on. Otherwise the children just spend their time in a queue!

However it is generally at Events, such as Village Fetes, School Fairs, Store Promotions or Shopping Centres. Most of the time, I receive a fee from the organiser and I make balloon models to give away for free. Sometimes, they’ll ask for a donation from the visitors which will help with their costs, but most of the time they are free.
And that is why I asked the previous questions.
If I’m at a Shopping Centre from 10.00 to 4.00, do you expect a free balloon at 4.10? 
If I’m making balloons for the invited children at a party, do you expect a balloon for their uninvited sibling?

It sounds silly doesn’t it, but how do you react when a shop is closed. 

If you go to a shop five minutes after it has closed, do you expect to be served? 

I’m guessing probably not, you accept that you were too late, but unfortunately people are not so understanding when it comes to balloon modelling (or for that matter, face painting).

I have recently been verbally attacked, because a visitor was too late for a balloon model. I was at an event for four hours, making models non-stop. But they arrived too late. My appearance times were clearly displayed. I advertised that a child was going to receive the last balloon of the day. 
But this was not acceptable – I got the blame.

“But what’s the harm in just one more?” You might be thinking. This is the most common question asked to balloon modellers and face painters, at the time of their finishing.

Firstly, it never is ‘Just one more’. Because if you do just one more, it wouldn’t be fair to not do another one more, and another and another. In my early days, I was at a school fete and at the finish time, I did ‘just one more’. I then found myself in a situation where I couldn’t say ‘No’. The whole fete had packed up, all the stalls were gone, only the caretaker was left and me making ‘just one more’! Also, when it has been announced that a certain person is the last in the queue, some people will take note and walk away. It isn’t fair on those people to make ‘just one more’ for a latecomer.
The idea of this Blog is not to have a rant and a moan, but to give advice.
So here it is…

If you hire a Balloon Modeller or Face Painter for your Child’s Birthday Party, be sure to book them for enough time for every child attending. Balloon modellers and Face painters would like five minutes per child, to allow for a quality balloon or face. And decide beforehand if you would like the children to receive one balloon each or as many as they can carry!
If you are organising an event and are booking a Balloon Modeller or Face painter, be sure to advertise their appearance times clearly, so there is no misunderstanding. And provide assistance if their finish time is earlier than then event’s closing.
If you are attending an event and see that there is 
Free Balloon Modelling or Face Painting – Don’t hang about and think ‘I’ll go to that later’… 

Get in the queue there and then. Because like the title says…


Never Give Balloons to Kids Under Three

July 24, 2015

I don’t know about you, but I never give balloons to kids under the age of three.

I’ve seen lots of discussions on balloon forums about this, and many people say they have never seen a report of a kid choking on balloons. The most recent death that I’m aware of, was last year, in Texas, when a seven year old swallowed a balloon she had been trying to mouth inflate.

Although you may not hear about individual cases, balloons cause more deaths by choking in kids than anything else, including sweets (candy), nuts and small toys, yet parents don’t believe there is a danger.
I remember at one of my shows, a mother asked for a balloon for her 2-year old and, when I refused and explained about not giving balloons to kids of that age, she said, “I was at a party where a baby choked on a balloon,” and I wondered why she had asked for one.
At another party, after explaining to a grandfather why his granddaughter whom he had just told me was two, couldn’t have a balloon, he said, “I’ve just remembered: She had a birthday last week. She’s three!” He still didn’t get a balloon. I’ve heard that one several times before. One of the mothers, at that show, said she hated balloons because she had witnessed a child choking on one.
I am amazed at how many parents don’t believe me about the dangers. They tell me I’m a genius at balloon modelling, then they ask for a balloon for their baby. When I refuse, I go from genius to idiot in a second. I often wonder why I am the only person at a party who seems to care about the safety of the kids.

On one occasion, I was explaining the dangers to a group who obviously didn’t believe a word I was saying, when an older child, thinking he’d show the balloonman what a fool he was, raised his balloon to his mouth. Just before it reached his lips, it burst, leaving him red-faced and the mothers grabbing their kids and taking their balloons away from them.
I’ve often wondered, if a kid chokes on one of my balloons, who will be held responsible?
I have noticed, once I’ve said I don’t give balloons to kids under three, none of the other kids are ever two. They’re all three and a half or have just turned three. Or so their parents tell me.

If I’ve asked the parent for the kid’s age, and they have lied and said three, would I be responsible if the kid chokes? Could they say I didn’t explain what might happen properly? After all, who would give their child a balloon if they really believed that he could die from it?
If I’m nice, and smiling when I tell them, could they say I was laughing and joking about it, and they thought I was only kidding. People often say, ” Oh, Health and Safety. Don’t worry I won’t give her the balloon,” then they wink as if we’re conspiring together to beat the regulations.
And it’s not just the parents. When the European Union decided all packaging should contain a warning about giving balloons to unsupervised kids under eight, the British Press reported it as a ban on kids inflating balloons, never mentioning the EU’s stated concern over the number of accidents and deaths caused by balloons.
Does your insurance cover you if you do something as foolish as giving a balloon to a child under the age of three? I would doubt it. As a professional you should know the danger. Most balloon web sites carry warning notices, as do some toy manufacturers’ sites.
But, despite all the warnings, there remains the fact that almost nobody believes that balloons are a danger to kids. And this could give you, the balloon modeller, problems. You need to cover yourself. You can give out cards carrying a warning with each balloon and, what I do, is put in my emails to my client a warning that I never give balloons to kids under three because of the danger of choking. This also makes it a little easier for me to refuse to give a balloon as I was hired after the client was informed of my policy.
Is this enough? I don’t know. Parents will do anything to get a balloon for their baby, even sending an older kid over for a balloon, then taking it from them and giving it to the child. Not content with this, they then bring the baby over to me and say, “We got one,” and I say, “Yes, and it’s in his mouth. If it bursts he could choke,” and off they go, laughing.
Some parents ask for a balloon for their baby but promise they’ll not give it to him. When I first started twisting, I believed them. As I handed over the balloon I repeated the warning not to give it to the baby. “I won’t,” they promised. Then, the first thing they’d do was give it to the kid, grin at me, and off they’d go, triumphant.
You can’t win. They obviously don’t believe any danger exists. But if you give them a balloon, you know they’re going to give it to their kid, so are you liable if he chokes on it? I hope the answer is No, but I wouldn’t bet on a court agreeing. You’re the expert. You know the parent will give the balloon to the kid, and you know what could happen.
The only answer I can think of is: Never give balloons to kids under three.

Things to do in Easington During the Summer Holiday

July 23, 2015

Things to do in Easington During the Summer Holiday
Easington Welfare Centre, Summer Holiday,Easington
If you’re looking for something for your kids to do in the Easington area of County Durham, there is lots available at The Easington Welfare Centre.
Please note: Some events require you to get tickets in advance.
If you see me twisting balloons there, come over and tell me you saw my blog.

On being ambidextrous

March 27, 2012


A lot of top magicians are ambidextrous, like Paul Daniels and Juliana Chen.

I wasn’t born ambidextrous but, when I became a magician, I realised its advantages. Quite by accident, as it happens.
I perform two tricks using small, rubber balls. One ends with four balls, two red, one orange and one green, in my right jacket pocket. The other begins with 5 green balls in the same pocket. And they have to be palmed out one at a time, without anyone noticing.
When I practised the tricks individually there was no problem, but when I rehearsed them together, it became apparent that I couldn’t find the five green balls amongst the other four.
I should add that the trick using four balls is my opener. I have one in the pocket, two in the sleeves, and the other palmed in my right hand. So I couldn’t perform the tricks in reverse order.
The answer to my problem was simple; perform the second trick left-handed, then the five green balls would begin in my left pocket.
As it turned out, it was no problem. I began to think, what is the point of going through life with two hands if you ever only use one? So I started using my left hand more, making it much easier to perform left-handed. I would have left-handed days where I would use only my left hand; including getting shaved, and applying band aids left-handed.
The most difficult thing to do left-handed is brush my teeth; my right hand moves up and down as well!
The more you use your left hand, the stronger it gets and it quickly becomes more adept at actions. You’ll soon find you can do most tricks left or right-handed. Often you find it difficult to justify passing a coin, for instance, from one hand to the other in order to perform a false transfer but, if you are constantly changing hands during your act, there is no suspicion when you are ambidextrous.
Give it a try; it might come in handy.

The Himber Wallet – Christmas Crackers

March 13, 2012

The Himber Wallet- Christmas Crackers
The Himber Wallet was invented by the band leader, Richard Himber. He asked Harry Lorayne to invent some routines using the wallet, and Lorayne came up with Best of Bill-fooled.
Many years later, in 1998, Lorayne wrote a book, The Himber Wallet Book, published by L&L Publishing, which contained lots of routines featuring the properties of the Himber Wallet. If you don’t have a wallet, get one. And get Harry’s book, too. The wallet has many uses including switching, producing, vanishing, predicting, and mindreading.
I’ve used it in several effects, but today’s is Christmas Crackers – a Bank Nite effect.
You need a Himber Wallet, six pay envelopes, five Christmas cracker jokes, and a ten pound note. Optional is a wand or pen. The five jokes are printed on pieces of paper the size of a £10 note, folded, and put in an envelope. The last envelope contains the £10. This goes in the other side of the wallet.
I start by explaining how, when I was young, my family were very poor. We couldn’t even afford Christmas. In fact, we couldn’t afford to buy crackers. So my dad made some. He saved up his empty pay packets, and he wrote a joke for each one. There was one for my mam, my brother, sister, and me. And the last one was my dad’s.
But, in one cracker he put a ten shilling note. Ten shillings is the same as fifty pence, today, but you could buy a lot with it.
On Christmas Day, we’d each choose a cracker. We could swap them around as much as we wanted, but when we opened them, my dad always had the ten shilling note. I don’t know how he did it, but I’m going to give it a try.
I get up four volunteers, and bring out the wallet. There are five envelopes representing the pay packets my dad converted into Christmas crackers. I explain that, instead of a ten shilling note, one of the envelopes contains a ten pound note. I play the part of my dad. One boy represents me, another my brother. The two girls become my mother and sister.
I use the open wallet as a tray with the envelopes laying on it. Each kid chooses an envelope. The first one can swap with any, or all, of the other players, or with me. When he is satisfied, he opens the envelope, and reads out the joke. (He lost; Didn’t you guess?) He returns to his seat in the audience. This is repeated until there is only one kid left.
The final child can swap or not. He opens his choice, and finds a joke, which he reads out. To show there is no cheating, he is allowed to open my cracker/envelope, and he finds the £10 note.
I use a wand to force the kid to open the wallet to the right side. The wand has brass ends. I bring it out to threaten the kids with should they win my money! When the final choice is made, and the wand waved under his nose, it is placed into the wallet, on the side with the envelope containing the £10. The other envelope is placed in the same place on the first side of the wallet. With the wand inside, the final child can only open the wallet in one way, discovering the £10 note.
If you don’t want to use a wand, use a pen instead. Of course, you need a reason to use a pen. Have the final kid initial his envelope to prove you don’t switch it (?). You then initial your envelope. You have, of course, prior to the show, initialled the envelope containing the money in the same place as you will, later, initial the envelope with the joke inside.
You could give each of the participants a small consolation prize.
The trick can be used throughout the year. It doesn’t have to be kept for Christmas. I use it in my When I Was Young Show, in which each trick relates to some event from my childhood.

Charlie’s Angels – A Card Trick

March 7, 2012

The idea behind this card trick is to substitute the four Queens for the more usual four Aces.

Charlie’s Angels used to catch criminals, so we are going to use the Queens to capture two selected cards. There were three Angels but, as there are four Queens, we are going to have four Angels, so let’s call them Ian’s Angels. If you aren’t lucky enough to be called Ian, substitute your own name.

Two cards are selected and moved to the top. Look through the cards and remove the four Queens. Sort them into pairs of the same colour; redheads and brunettes. As you do this get a little finger break beneath the top card, ie. one of the selections.

Pick up Samantha Spade (QS) and place her face-up on the face-down pack. You now have a break under two cards. Put  Cheryl Club on top of Sam Spade. take off the top three cards as two,  and thumb Cheryl back onto the deck. Place Sam on top. Squeeze the deck, then spread the top cards to show the brunettes have captured one card between them. Remove these cards, turning them over to reveal one selection between them.

As you place these cards down on the table, get a break under the second selection, which is the top card. Place Hilda Heart (QH) on top of the deck, then place Diane Diamond on her, both face up. Lift off the top three cards as two. Place the other cards on the table.

Thumb off Diane into your left hand, then square Hilda on top of her. You are holding face-up QH, face-down selection, face-up QD. Slide the bottom card out far enough for it to be seen, then square the cards. Turn them face-down and take them into your right hand. Slide the bottom card out about half an inch.

Riffle down the edge of the main pack, and push the two red Queens (really three cards) in to the centre. As you do so, spread the three cards, by pushing forward and right with your thumb. Pull the three cards out revealing that you have captured the second selection between the two Queens.

Add your own words. The selections are criminals; the Angels are detectives; the deck is a building – bank, hotel, whatever fits your story.

Three of Clubs

February 27, 2012

This is my take on Harry Lorayne’s trick Three For the Money, from his book Close-up Card Magic printed by Robbins E-Z Magic in 1976.
Note the bottom card; let’s say it’s the Ace of Spades (AS).
Have a card selected and remembered. Swing cut just less than half the cards into your left hand, then thumb over cards singly until you have half the deck in your left hand. The chosen card is returned to the top of the left hand cards, and you drop the right hand half on top of these. This puts the chosen card next to the AS.
Zarrow Shuffle and false cut to leave the cards as they were.
Explain this trick is called the Three of Clubs Trick. Did you select the 3C? If he answers Yes, that’s it! You have a miracle! But usually the answer is No. To which you say That’s okay. That’s not why it’s called the Three of Clubs Trick.
Spread the cards face-up on the table. You can spot the selection because it’s in the middle, one to the right of the AS. We’ll pretend it is the King of Hearts (KH). Look for the 3C and remove it.
Perform the Zarrow Shuffle and false cut again. Take the 3C and put it face-up into the face-down pack, as close to halfway as you can, saying as you do so, I’ll place the 3C somewhere near the centre.
Spread several of the cards to each side of the 3C with their backs towards the spectator to show him the 3C is in the centre. Of course, you can see the faces of these cards and you note the selection’s (KH) position in relation to the 3C.
Spread the cards face-down again and reveal the selection as follows:-
If it is next to the 3C, the 3C has found it.
If it is two away, point out you used the three because the selection is three away. Start counting on the 3C, ending on the selection. 1 (3C), 2 (X), 3 (KH)
Three away; begin your three count on the card next to the 3C. 1 (X), 2 (X), 3 (KH)
Four away; as for three away, but the selection is the next card. Count 1,2,3, and the next card is your selection.
Five away; spell Clubs, starting on the card next to the 3C,  saying I could have used any three, but I chose Clubs because, if I spell it, C,L,U,B,S, (turn over the card at S) we find your card.
Six away; as above but, after S, say and the next card is your selection.
Seven away; start on the 3C and count 1,2,3 then say The three is a Club, and spell C,L,U,B turning the card at B over.
Eight away; as above but spell CLUBS
Nine away; as above but say And the next card is your card.
Ten or more away; practise!
I find, most times, I put the 3C right next to the selection. It’s in the middle, so a bit of practise and you should be within one or two cards every time. You could be above or below the selection, so be sure you count from the 3C in the correct direction.
Make sure you don’t repeat the trick for the same audience, as you might have to reveal the selection in different ways each time.

Starting Out in Magic

May 7, 2009

Starting Out in Magic

The first thing the budding magician needs to decide is; where does the magic come from? A child, on seeing your show, should be able to say how the magic happened. “He just waved his wand, and the ball disappeared.” Or, “We just said Abracadabra, and all of a sudden, it was there!”

You don’t want her to say, “Well, sometimes he waved his wand, and other times we said Abracadabra. But there were times when there was none of that, and the magic still worked. So, I don’t know how it happened.”

There has to be a reason why the magic took place, and everyone must understand that was why it happened. He waved his wand. He said the magic word. Or, he was magic. But you must always be consistent.

If the magic comes from your wand then you need to use the wand every time the magic takes place. Why would you need a wand on one occasion and not on another? Unless there is a reason, and a good one that is obvious to your audience and doesn’t have to be stated, then use the wand.

This has its good points and its bad. If you are a children’s magician it will give you many excuses to use any of a wide range of wands – the Breakaway Wand, which falls to pieces in the kid’s hand; or a wand whose ends fall off; Multiplying Wands, and many more. All of which gets laughs, even when the kids have seen them all many times before. Don’t ask me why it’s always funny to kids; just be thankful that it is.

On the other hand, no not that one; the clean one, having to use the wand every time can be a nuisance, especially if you use sleight of hand, when you may be concealing an object that your audience knows nothing of, and picking up the wand and waving it might be awkward. There are a lot of points in favour of using a wand – it makes it obvious when the magic happens; you can use the Vernon Wand Spin or David Williamson’s Strike Vanish and create some great magic. You can use all the funny wands on the market, and to some magicians, the laughs are more important than the magic.

Personally, I prefer the freedom of not using a wand. I like to use sleight of hand, and the wand gets in my way. But most Children’s Entertainers

wouldn’t be without their wand.

Another source of the magic could be a magic word or spell. Mainly the province of the Children’s Entertainer

much fun can be had with the choice of a magic word. Sausages, for some reason, is always funny. David Ginn gives lists of possible words in his books. But I don’t like them. How can a word like sausages be magic? Every time you go into the butcher’s and ask for some sausages, magic doesn’t suddenly erupt. The sausages don’t levitate, and dance on their own. The mince doesn’t vanish and re-appear on the ceiling, and the butcher doesn’t cut his assistant in two with the bacon slicer and then put her back together again. Which might make a good act. All rights reserved.

If you are going to use a magic word, I prefer Abracadabra, which has been a word with magic properties for centuries. People at one time used to carry the word on parchment enclosed in a locket. And, as far as I am aware, none of them ever came to any harm. You could combine the two, and wave your wand while saying Abracadabra. With twice as many drawbacks, or advantages.

How about a magic elixir? Perhaps you could play the part of the owner of a Medicine Show, taking a swig from some antique-looking bottle every time something amazing is to happen. You could pretend to be offering the amazing properties of the liquid for sale after your show. The bottle could be empty; full of water; or even gin. Of course, if you use water and are as old as I am, you won’t want your show to last too long. unless you have plenty of toilet breaks built in to your act!

What other possibilities are there? Are you magic? If you are, the magic comes from you, and you have no need of a magic wand or magic words. The magic just happens because you are there. You can, if you like, be amazed that the magic is happening. You don’t know why it is taking place, it just is. Or, perhaps, the magic occurs every time you snap your fingers; twitch your eyebrows; or wiggle your thumbs.

Remember, you are magic, not your volunteers. When they come into the venue they aren’t magic, so when you invite them up to assist you, they still aren’t magic. How do they suddenly perform an act to amaze the rest of the audience? You have to give them a magic wand and/or ask them to say Abracadabra. The same applies to any puppet you may use. It isn’t magic. It has to have a wand. Get your audience to say the magic word when he waves it, and involve them, too.

One thing you mustn’t do is tell your audience how the magic is done. If you always use the wand, they’ll work it out for themselves. If you are magic and the wand is only used by a volunteer, they will, if only subconsciously, realise this. It isn’t even necessary for them to do that; but you have to know where your magic comes from. It helps create a consistent persona for you, and makes you believable.

If people believe you are a magician, if only for the course of your show, then you’ve made a good start to your career.

Card on Ceiling

May 1, 2009

Card on Ceiling

Most magicians know the Card on Ceiling trick. That’s the one where a signed card, lost in the pack, ends up stuck on the ceiling, and, if you’re lucky, stays there while all the visitors to the venue ask, “What’s that card doing on the ceiling?” and the reply is, “We had a great magician here. Ian Lowe, his name was. He put it there.” They then go on to explain how he did it, hopefully exaggerating on the amount of skill that must have been involved. And there you are; free advertising.

Most magicians know Michael Ammar does this trick; often. He visited the Sistine Chapel once and thought about putting a card on God’s hand. Then he thought better of it.

The trick probably has its origins in an earlier effect where the magician would put a stamp on the ceiling. Lick the glued side of the stamp and place it, face down, on a coin. The coin should be slightly damp so the stamp will adhere to it temporarily. You don’t want it slipping off when the coin is thrown in the air. Obviously, the coin needs to be bigger than the stamp.

The coin is balanced on your middle finger, stamp side up, and held by thumb and forefinger. Throw the coin so it remains flat, giving it a spin with the forefinger, and making sure it has enough force to hit the ceiling quite hard. The coin falls back down while the stamp remains stuck to the ceiling.

People will ask, “What’s that stamp doing on the ceiling?” and the reply will be, “We had a great magician here. Ian Lowe his name was…” etc..