Enabling access to the world of magic for sensory impaired and disabled people
Enabling access to the world of magic for sensory impaired and disabled people
This all started in 2004. I was talking to a DeafBlind service user who was telling me that he used to weave baskets for a magician and in return for his work, would get tickets to go and see the magician's show. He was forever mentioning how much he enjoyed the magic and how much he missed it now that he couldn’t see. This got me thinking. I had dabbled in magic before, only in comedy magic, but I had enough skill and knew enough people to see if this was once again an area in which I could do some research. Maybe I could develop some tricks that could be used?
I attend the Blackpool magic convention the worlds largest convention for magicians when I can. I go with my dad and meet up with friends who know the magic world a lot better than I do. We all sit and brainstorm and see what’s new, what can be adapted for the DeafBlind audience and what can be left on the shelf. I also used get regular advice from [the late] Ali Bongo top magical advisor and television magic consultant to Paul Daniels and many others top magic stars from all over the world he knew his stuff extremely well. He was the only magician who seemed to know exactly where I was coming from – everyone else seemed to look at me as if I had 3 heads but Ali understood and was always eager to help.
At first it wasn't easy as everything has to be adapted as I want the service user to be fully involved in a trick that I am showing them so I want them to be able to touch and sense as much of the effect as possible from start to finish. This is a major problem as most magic is to be viewed at a distance and only controlled by the magicians sleight of hand. Although if a gimmick was discovered when they were feeling they would not know that it was a special gimmick, they would just wonder what it was and if they asked I would have to tell them and the effect would fall flat and the magic would have been lost. There are various rope tricks and other comedy effects that work but on the whole its very difficult to find something that they can get full benefit from. As time has moved on it is quite astounding really how much can be done, which is something that i never thought i would say, as in the beginning it was a struggle
The other problem is that no matter how good the magician is as soon as you tell them that the audience cannot see OR hear they are stumped, it's not a skill set they are used to! One man even said to me ” if they can see and cant here then what’s the point”. Other magicians have even suggested that I cheat “it doesn’t matter because they can’t see”, well I’m sorry but that’s not magic, that’s cheating! They need to be totally involved in the trick from start to finish, they need to be able to feel and experience the magic happen, if not then it’s not suitable It is something that has been around for years and a lot of people who have lost their hearing or sight, or both progressively will know magic from years gone by so it is something they can relate to.
I know there are many studies of magic being used as a kind of therapy and I use it as much as I can because they ask me for it. I have held a magic break where DeafBlind people from all over the UK came to where I work and I taught them magic, purely because they wanted to learn.
I am no wizard, i am very basic and simple, i learn whatever magic may work best for the people i perform to. I have not spent 20 years of my life practicing my pinky break, neither can i manipulate coins across my knuckles. but i get by with what i know and learn
There is a deaf magicians society and blind magicians society but as far as I know there is nothing for DeafBlind people so I continue with my small band of friends to research, adapt and put to test new magic tricks for DeafBlind people. Over the years we have developed quite a good selection of magic and now and we put together a small act which we performed at the Sense DeafBlind conference in Denmark. There were approximately one thousand audience members and about twenty of them were completely DeafBlind. Myself and Jimmy, a very good friend of mine who is DeafBlind, performed our act. I also used other members of the audience who were Deaf to assist with various tricks. Afterwards I went round on a one to one basis and performed the tricks to the DeafBlind people. To me this was real magic, as they were gaining access to something brand new. A lot of them were from different countries so they signed differently meaning there was no communication between myself and them - just touch and a magic trick. At first I was scared in case my techniques that I had developed only worked with Jimmy but the magic went down a storm and everyone was truly amazed .
Myself and Jimmy performed for sense up and down the country in 2014 / 2015 attending there training and doing our show
The show is a mix of tricks and slowly I am getting Jimmy to perform more and more on his own. This in itself is something that I never thought would happen. This has since lead to branching out to perform and teaching for other people with severe disabilities. Not all magicians are comfortable with including disabled people, where we are the opposite, we only perform for schools, disability groups and one to ones.
We continue to perform, research and develop with the help of some very good friends plus we have had advice from people such as David Blaine plus donations to fund trips to the Blackpool convention from David Berglas, Derren Brown, Uri Geller, Kaymar Magic and Beard Juggling.
In 2008 for the first time ever the Blackpool convention was attended by my friend Jimmy who is both Deaf and Blind This was an amazing experience and really helped jimmy as everything that i told him about was there for him to feel and access, we could watch a show and then the following day i could take him to the dealers hall and find certain props that was used and he could feel them, this would help him to put the pieces of the puzzle together in his head
What else do we do?
Over the last few years we have done performances, Talks at magic clubs including Q&A sessions about performing for people with disabilities. School visits for special schools, performing and encouraging performance. Assembly school talks about disability - using the magic as an ice breaker. Clowning and magic workshops - teaching and adapting magic. Organising trips to see live performances and shows of magic
We have been running this project since 2002 and it has grown SO much and become very popular and a necessity for many people helping them with there social skills, confidence, Self-esteem and motivation as well as having fun and learning
Our plan is to use funds that are raised in this project to enable us to
1 continue what we do already and also to expand.
2 purchase some new equipment - Certain tricks are suited better to certain disabilities so it would be nice to be able to increase our magic so we can suitable reach out to more people in a way that is accessible to them. maybe even have some bespoke props made especially for our use - more robust or larger
PLUS our equipment is very used and worn out now so it would be really great to replace and also be able to buy our own rather than relying on donations of tricks
3 Continue our free appearances / shows / one to one’s etc. during the year, where they are needed and requested. i do as many as my real work schedule allows We only do performances for disabled people / groups and do not do your everyday children party etc
4 Also part of the money will enable a disabled people to attend a magic convention / Davenports Magic Kingdom, this will pay for accomodation, plus carers - as something like this is too expensive for them to fund on there own
Myself and Jimmy - feeling a David and Dania dress transformation at the Blackpool convention
Jonathon at the Jamie Allan show in Peterborough
Our team consists or myself and simon plus we often call on the help of 3 professional magicians who help with any technicalities It is an honour to be able to bring magic to people who may not know it or have lost access with it and that is our main aim. This is not something that any of us get paid for - it is the love of magic and the smiles that it produces that make this project worth while
Plus several guys who have various disabilities, they help us to re-search what works for them and what dosent
JJ Lucia-Wright – Creative Director Si Howard – Executive Director
Steve Majes – Professional Magician
Oliver Garwood – Professional Magician
Paul Henri – Professional Magician
Matt Howard – Disability researcher
Jimmy O'Hare – Disability researcher
Dan Stevenson – Disability researcher
Zack Jenner – Disability researcher
Jonathan Shaw – Disability researcher
Statements from parents
George is 7 years old and has an undiagnosed neurological condition. He has very complex health needs which include intractable epilepsy, microcephaly, visual impairment, respiratory problems and low muscle tone. He is non verbal, a wheelchair user and is totally tube fed (has a gastrostomy). These things (and many others) make it difficult for George to take part in standard activities. JJ's magic and circus skills not only uses the visual aspect of entertainment but JJ is very calm and he allows George the time he needs to feel safe. He is very descriptive so George is always aware whats going on and tactile so George can feel what the props are. To top it off JJ is a great entertainer and George has loved every project JJ has been involved in. George is notoriously hard to please, he doesnt give smiles to everyone but he always seems to be excited when we mention JJ.
My son Dan is 20 and has Angelman Syndrome. This means he has a severe learning disability and can’t speak. Dan loves drama and entertainment, especially magic and clowning. Because these activities are visual and non-verbal they suit Dan perfectly. He can participate without needing words and because it is about showing, not telling, it includes Dan on his level. Because Extreme Clowning have developed their activities for people with sensory impairments, they have the experience to adapt their activities for people with any ability to join in. Humour is also an important element of engaging with Dan and sessions are always fun which makes Dan feel welcome and want to participate.
At Extreme Clowning sessions Dan has an opportunity to learn new skills, socialise with leaders and participants, and have a really enjoyable day. JJ, the leader, looks out for opportunities to try new activities and develop skills with Dan. Currently they are working on helping Dan to observe and copy, with lots of repetition. The eventual goal is to make a video of Dan performing magic and clowning which will have a public presentation at a large event in October. The sense of achievement this would give Dan will be incredible! And who knows where this will lead next?
Through clowning and magic Dan is showing an ability to learn as he has never done before.
Risks and challenges
The problems we have faced in the past was mostly down to ignorance of fellow magicians.
But the more we continue and carry on our work the more people tend to understand and start to look at things from our perspective
the only problem i can for see is growth but that will be sorted out hopefully by the funding from this projectLearn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (60 days)