All this week, we’re counting down to the opening of MagicFest 2017.
The popular festival returns to Edinburgh this Friday so we caught up with professional magician and MagicFest founder Kevin Quantum to find out everything you need to know about the UK’s largest magic event.
You founded MagicFest back 2010 and it’s now the UK’s largest magic-based event. Why did you decide that Edinburgh was the best place to launch it?
Edinburgh was perfect. JK Rowling was here, and therefore Harry Potter. The whole ‘mysterious Scotland’ thing worked in our favour – the closes, the witches, the wizards… And the biggy… I lived here!
How do you think the festival has evolved over the past seven years?
It constantly evolves. We’re trying to predict the future and work out what people want before they even realise they want it. We’re aware now of the formats that are most popular and we try and play to our strengths – keep it simple and give people amazing magic in cool venues!
How do you decide which acts to book each year?
Over the years, we’ve sloped towards developing more Scottish talent as people like to see local performers doing well. I’m always excited by those that take a risk, and invest in themselves. Magicians that collaborate with other artists or those that go out and book a theatre to put on a show have my admiration and I’m more likely to book them.
For the Gala show, we typically use big international acts, we have a network of contacts around Europe, the Americas and Asia who we share information with. My wife and I also travel globally to watch talent in unusual places. Occasionally I just see someone special that I stay in touch with, they may not have the final act ready but I know they’ll do something special that I can support along the way.
How does MagicFest 2017 differ from previous years?
For a start, we’ve decided to keep our main venues and not move! Seriously – almost every year we’ve changed huge swathes of the festival structure or big venues. This year, we’re building on what we accomplished this year, improving experiences, tweaking formats and, of course, bringing as many new and interesting acts from around the world.
We’ve developed our historical magic shows “The Secret Room” and expanded from Lauriston Castle into Riddle’s Court and the Writers’ Museum – these will be fun!
Our Gala show will be at the Festival Theatre as usual, but we’ve decided to theme the event this year around levitation. Each act will offer a creative interpretation of magical flight. It’s going to be really interesting!
What advice would you give you young magicians hoping to break into the industry?
Take every opportunity you can to work. Tour outside of Scotland as soon as you can. Collaborate and learn from those around you. Make 6 minutes of amazing, then build from there.
Who do you think is the most exciting magician in the UK at the moment?
It’s hard to see past Derren Brown. Just when you think he’s slowing down he decides to conquer America – he’s just brilliant.
I’m also a fan of DMC, an elegant and interesting English magician based in London, he had a series on the Discovery Channel and has a flair for the dramatic. Ben Hart is also on the rise – he’s one of the only magicians I’ve ever seen who’s combined magic and theatrical narrative in a wonderful way.
You’re also a working magician yourself and will perform at MagicFest. What can people expect from your show?
I’ll be compering the Gala this year. Kevin Quantum is a Scientist Magician Hybrid so my act will be focused on presenting the results of my 12-month study into magical levitation. I look at flight from lots of angles – from traditional horizontal assistant levitation, to birds in flight to Scottish mythology. All animated with eye-popping magic and fun.
Before getting involved with magic, you worked as a scientist. Why did you decide to make the switch?
Reality TV, Channel 4 had a show called ‘Faking It’ on at the time. I had four weeks to learn a magic act good enough to fool magic icon Paul Daniels into believing I was a professional magician. It was a wild ride and when I returned to Edinburgh from London and Vegas I changed careers.
You received guidance from Penn and Teller – what was the best lesson they taught you?
Be different. Be good.
What is your biggest achievement to date?
I’m really proud of my recent Australian Tour. The shows there broke all kinds of records and won awards. I met so many amazing performers and had a huge confidence shot in the arm. The Scientist Magician Hybrid character has always been there but to nurture it on stage takes time. But Kevin Quantum definitely found his feet in Adelaide. And they were walking on air for the most part.
MagicFest, Friday 30 – Saturday 8 July, 0131 226 0006, www.magicfest.co.uk
Words: Amy Anderson