A beginners guide to the Blackpool Magic Convention by Mark Waddington
So, you have heard about this event that happens every year in February, where thousands upon thousands of magicians descend on a seaside town to exchange tricks – This is the Blackpool Magic Convention. You have never been before, you have looked on the website but it doesn’t make much sense to you – well hopefully this guide will tell you everything you need to know about the convention!
So, when is the convention?
Generally speaking, the convention happens every February, on the weekend of the school half term. Or, you could say it’s the second to last weekend of February. This year, the convention runs from Thursday 16th February to Sunday 19th February 2017. The dates for the following year are usually announced in the programme which is given to you upon arrival – handy to book it into your diary, and rebook your accommodation for next time too!
Where is the convention?
The entire convention is held within the Blackpool Winter Gardens (http://www.wintergardensblackpool.co.uk). It is entirely self-contained with amenities available, so there isn’t too much trailing about to do. The Winter Gardens consists of several exhibition spaces all under one roof.
Where should I stay?
Well, the beauty of Blackpool is that it has literally hundreds of Hotels and B+Bs to chose from! If you want to stay as close to the action as possible, you should try to find a B+B on Albert road. These rooms generally range from £20-40 per night, depending on entirely where you stay. Most magicians try to stay on Albert Road as it is a 5-minute walk from The Winter Gardens (WG), and is where the Convention HQ is situated – The Ruskin (but more about that place later!). The accommodation is cheap and cheerful, and you really do get what you pay for, but usually you get a reasonable bed, a slightly below average shower and a greasy fry up for breakfast.
If you aren’t sure on where to stay, this link will help as a bit of a guide to some of the hotels in the area (but they aren’t necessarily on Albert Road, but they may only be a street or two away)
Great stuff, now tell me about the tickets…
Okay, so there is a couple of ways you can do the convention. You can come just for a day, and buy a ticket for that day. Alternatively, most people buy what is known as the Gold Registration. This option offers the best value for money. You get entry to all three days, and tickets to all three of the evening Gala shows. Make sure you book your tickets in advance! That way you are guaranteed entry. The last thing you want to do is travel all the way to Blackpool and get to the desk and risk there being no tickets available. The earlier you book the better. A good time to book I personally find is about August/September.
Should I book on my own?
It depends really, you will meet loads of people at the convention, but try to book in with a friend. This way you will have someone you know sat next to you during the evening Gala shows. You could also do a room share on your B+B to save money further.
How do I get tickets?
It’s dead simple really, just visit the website www.blackpoolmagic.com – they have made it in recent years so you can pay online, but sometimes it’s nice to ring up Arthur Casson the registration officer and book that way. His contact details are on the website too.
When is the best time to get to Blackpool?
That is down to personal preference really. Personally, I always arrive the day before the convention starts – this gives me chance to get to my accommodation, unpack, arch up with friends and get a bite to eat before it all starts. Usually when it is a three day convention, the Blackpool Magic Club hold a jumbo auction on the Thursday afternoon, which in itself is well worth calling into for a while. This year however, the convention starts at 10am on the Thursdayso if you can, try to get there for Wednesday!
My tickets have turned up, the convention is only a few days away – now what?
Okay, well lets first talk about travel options. Generally people will get the train there, or drive.
If you are catching the train, you should book your train tickets in advance to get the cheeps deal on the seats. There is three train Stations in Blackpool, you want to be aiming for Blackpool North Train Station. This one is only a 5-10 minute walk away from the WG and Albert Street. There are good connections by train to Blackpool from Manchester.
If you are driving, you will find Blackpool at the end of M55 and is easy to drive to from most areas of the UK. There is plenty of parking available in Blackpool, some car parks are better than others. Usually you can buy a 3 day parking ticket for £20, or a 4 day ticket for about £30. Most will park in the Houndshill Centre Multi-storey Car Park (although this is a much more expensive option, but by far the most secure option) or they will park in the Coral Island Car Park. This is a great option and is relatively safe, as it is next to the main Blackpool police station which is a great deterrent for crime in that car park, as the police access their compound from the car park.You are bound to need food whilst you are there.For a list of local car parks and the charges, visit this link:
For a list of local car parks and the charges, visit this link:
Blackpool has plenty of fine places to eat which are great to grab a quick bite. It’s well worth checking out restaurant vouchers on the MoneySavingExpert website (http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/deals/cheap-restaurant-deals) they WILL come in really handy for you for places like Pizza Express, Bella Italia, Pizza Hut etc. Print them off, and take them with you. I’ll go into more detail about eating places later on in this guide
One thing that I’ve done this year to coincide with the convention, is sign up for a 90 day trial with TasteCard. It costs £1 for the card, and gives you 2for1 deals on loads of restaurants, both chain and independent. Ideal if you are keeping to a budget. https://www.tastecard.co.uk/purchase/join/promo:PPCWINTER?gclid=Cj0KEQiAh4fEBRCZhriIjLfArrQBEiQArzzDAbQ9Ii8N5zftKIw9IQwIdh7mV2lIUl_lEBv89Vk-t0waAnec8P8HAQ
There are a few things that are well worth taking. First of all, take some kind of rucksack or satchel. This will be essential as somewhere to store your programme of events, and somewhere to put all the goodies that you buy! In your rucksack, you should also carry a pen and notepad, a deck of cards (someone is bound to want to session with you at some point!), a drink, some energy tablets , indigestion tablets and some Paracetamol. The last three will be essentials for survival!
I’m here! Now what do I do?
The simple answer is to head to The Ruskin! The Ruskin (http://ruskinhotel.com) is the convention HQ, and is where most of the big acts will stay – it is also a Hotel with three bars, so plenty of room to get a drink and session. Most people will head here on Thursday evening to catch up with old friends. If you don’t know many people, don’t be afraid to talk to new people there. Magicians are generally a nice group, and you will make new friends pretty quickly. After a few drinks and a bit of sessioning, head back to your hotel for a decent nights sleep – you will need it!
Morning! It’s Thursday, I’m up, have only a little bit of a hangover and I’m ready to start!
Great stuff, get up, get your breakfast and head up to the WG. I generally aim to get there for about 11am to register. Whatever you do, DONT FORGET YOUR REGISTRATION FORM!!! You take this to the registration desk and exchange it for your lanyard. This is your ticket – keep it on you at all times. This is how you get in to the convention. If you don’t have it, with you, they wont let you in, simple as! I personally find 11am is a good time to get there. There will be some morning lectures, and you will be able to grab a coffee before the dealers all opens.
Ooooh, the Dealer Hall, that sounds fun!
It is, its two huge rooms full of magic suppliers from all over the world. Generally they have about 125 different dealers there! TOP TIP – DONT rush in and spend all your money on day one! Just go for a wander round the dealer hall on day one, and maybe just by the essential refills you might need. Save your money, and use your notepad t write down the deals or the things you want to buy, you can then always discuss these things with your magic buddies in the bar and see what they think before committing your money and buying. Also, if you wait until Sunday late afternoon to buy from the suppliers from overseas, they general offer deals to shift stock so they don’t have to fly home with it all! Don’t be afraid to try and haggle a little bit – but don’t push your luck and upset anyone!
What else is there to do today?
Go and see some lectures, go see the close up shows and competitions, enjoy the atmosphere, and importantly try to make some friends! In the evening there will be a Gala show to watch too.
I’m getting hungry – when should I eat?
Okay, there is a certain way to do this. Ideally you should eat your evening meal as early as you can. The restaurants do get full really quickly as everyone wants to eat before the evening show. There are loads of chain restaurants on the shopping precinct, and loads of great independent family run restaurants too. You will find your favourite places to go soon enough, and don’t forget to get your vouchers to see what you can save some money on. Either before you eat of after you eat, you should head back to your hotel to freshen up, leave your bags and maybe have a quick nap. Then, get yourself back for the Gala Show!
Show done, I had great fun! Now what?
Head down to The Ruskin! Have a few beers, and enjoy the social! Be warned though, it will be really busy there!! TOP TIP – order two drinks at once and double-park them. It will save you having to battle to the bar quite as often.
Morning… I have a hangover, but I’m up and I’m ready to go!
Great stuff, do it all again! The programme structure is pretty similar, with lectures and close up shows or competitions during the day, and then an Evening Gala show. Sit down with a coffee each morning and plan your day, there will be clashes in lectures so work out what you really want so see. Repeat on Sunday too!
Food on the sunday night…
Okay, so you can do this one of two ways, you can do as you have done the past couple of nights and eat early on, or do what I do, and go for food whilst Ken Dodd is on! If you have seen Ken before, or you aren’t too much of a fan, you are guaranteed at least an hour to grab something to eat, so use this time wisely whilst is quiet in the eateries!
Well, that’s it – the convention is done for another year – I’m sure you had a great time and cant wait to come back next year!
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